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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The eclectic mix of papers for this first issue in 2006 is intended to reflect the diversity and richness of qualitative research about consumers and organisations within particular market sectors. Appropriately, the first paper on anthropology and consumer research gives us an excellent example of how theory underpins both method and analysis by relating cognitive anthropology to the study of consumers to elicit insights into their thinking and behaviour. The second paper puts theory and method to the test by examining the common use of focus groups and in-depth interviews to ask pertinent questions to get at the heart of crucial underlying issues to help shape marketing research and strategy more effectively. The third and fourth research papers, respectively, take this further afield with focus groups in five South East Asian cities to get at crucial issues underpinning cross-cultural perceptions and structured interviews with consumers engaged in fan activity. The fifth and sixth papers employ other qualitative investigations using different case study approaches. They reflect the diversity in this issue as we move from consumers to stakeholder theory, employee-managerial cooperation and competencies for entrepreneurs and organisations alike.
“Anthropology and consumer research ...” is a paper that is well written by Mark Tadajewski and Sigmund Wagner-Tsukamoto. Against the background of cognitive anthropology it is consumer behaviour that is analysed with regard to thinking and bricolage. Various reprints of the Longman Dictionary remind us that anthropology is the science of the human race particularly, “in relation to distribution, origin and classification, relationship of races, physical characteristics, environmental and social relations, and culture”. The two authors' analyses of their consumers from three sample groups of “British green, German green and British non-green consumers” have enabled them to reflect on “green shopping behaviour” via the use of cognitive anthropology to explain actions and meanings. Practical implications from this study could be further developed as with the suggested employment of a stepwise approach to marketing communications for “potentially green or green consumers”.
“Methodology or Methodolatry ...” is an artful title for the fact that my computer's Thesaurus has no meaning or related words to explain the word, Methodolatry. As explained by the authors, David Stokes and Richard Bergin, it can be “a preoccupation with selecting and defending methods to the exclusion of the actual substance of the story being told” using an interpretation of Denzin and Lincoln's. There are arguments in favour of employing focus groups such as the extrinsic issues of their lower costs compared to doing large-scale surveys. They are easy to observe by both market researchers and clients alike, and results are easier to analyse with a quick turnaround in reporting results to clients. The process is much more easily understood by clients when they can also be invited to view focus groups in action. The quality of research outcomes concerns the two authors who employed such methods in their own study with consumers in the optical market. They argue that while both focus group and depth interviewing have their strengths and weaknesses, there are many marketing-related studies that require such levels of inquiry.
“Identifying likeable attributes ... TV advertisements in Asia” takes on the international dimension as two authors, Kim-Shyan Fam and David Waller, explore a limited gap in research in this market. There are numerous advertising studies reported in journal papers, mostly with quantitative measurements and using Western advertisements with respondents in Western countries. There is a limitation in that the study by these two authors, with two focus group interviews in each city, would be seen by some as not representative, being such a small sample. However, it is the issues and the results which are portrayed, i.e. “informant driven data” that gives this paper a refreshing sense of originality. They look at local variations of “likeability” to television advertising in relation to local cultures and consumer attitudes towards market-related factors, such as consumer confidence and hours of watching television that might or might not be construed as contributing to likeability. Visual images in advertising borrowed from Western cultures are used by the two authors in this qualitative study which includes investigating cross-cultural meanings and their implications for advertisers.
“An exploratory investigation ... of consumer fanaticism” takes the reader on an interesting voyage of discovery about consumers submerged in the different culture of fan dedication in its various forms. The purpose is to provide a qualitative study with hypotheses to prove and disprove. With certainty, there are extremes of fandom within societies, but how does one interpret what fanaticism is? The authors conduct an exploratory investigation with a sample of fans to find out the characteristics inherent in being a fan or being in a state of consumer fanaticism. Scott Thorne and Gordon Bruner state in their Abstract that “marketing professionals may use the identified characteristics as a guide in marketing popular culture to those markets best attuned to accept and embrace it”. This begs the question as to how harmful consumer fanaticism already is if it engages the consumer in an unswerving loyalty to a subject or object of devotion. The authors' argue that there is little research in scholarly marketing concerning “fanaticism and its expression as an aspect of consumer behaviour”. Their discussion takes the reader through different media and film examples. This paper makes a valid contribution because fandom is international, will travel and is highly important in societies, e.g. America, which places entertainment as important in popular culture.
Do “entrepreneurial franchisees have hidden superior marketing systems”? This paper by Bill Merrilees and Lozelle Frazer investigates the variability of performance among franchisees using a multiple case study approach. This is a structured technique to dig into the factors governing franchisee performance in order to get at the deep and practical aspects concerning their patterns and consistencies in performance across this sector. How franchisors evaluate franchisees, based upon the latter's performance specifications is, perhaps not dealt with in as much depth. However, this paper makes a valid contribution to understanding this relationship and to the application of the case study approach. As the authors have identified, there are major contrasts in expectations between high and average franchisees. There are suggestions that entrepreneurial franchisees do, indeed, have superior marketing and management systems that are not readily identifiable. Time will tell when a larger study might give more certainty to this important aspect.
“Mapping and assessing key management issues ...” by Janet Carruthers, Nick Ashill and Michel Rod take us into the realm of public healthcare purchase-provider cooperation. This is a highly topical issue and one that is pertinent to all of us as we get older and thereby, prone to having a growing vested interest in health care. So it is crucial to get the balance right in establishing such relationships between healthcare professionals within the framework of organisational provision. The authors recognise that there are limitations in using a case approach for a study of multiple stakeholders, but practically, their approach is a useful contribution in identifying the particular variables that characterise and enhance purchaser-provider stakeholder cooperation.
This normal issue ends with a book review by Paul Henry and the Internet Section by Rehan ul-Haq featuring Omar Rafiqi's perspectives from the viewpoint of an IT consultant. They have provided enlightened insights into the work of qualitative researchers and thinkers. Finally, a word of appreciation must go to the members of QMRIJ's Editorial Board in conducting the reviews for this issue and in making this a successful journal overall.
Len Tiu Wright