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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Volume 13, Issue 2
This international collection of papers includes the importance of theory building and the use of narrative in giving voice to respondents in various research contexts. For theory building the issue starts with a thought-provoking discussion on discourse analysis from Sweden followed by a joint Canadian and UK paper that takes a critical ethnographic approach to the branding process. The theme of consumer reports in narrative or reported quotes in qualitative research serves people well through demonstrating its relevance as in a UK paper on the outcomes of tourism research. Consumer reports are also used to quote consumer concerns in the financial services industry in a paper from Australia. Consumer responses or quotes for reporting in-depth interviews in the retail setting concerning Wal-Mart are adopted in a Canadian paper and in the use of browsing as a consumer format in a paper from the USA. The issue ends with the “Practitioner perspectives section” about a workshop that takes new meanings and stances from discussions of words, such as those in asking questions of others in interviews.
The commentary paper by Per Skålén starts with the assumption that “marketing research is little influenced by discourse analysis”. Others may disagree with this point of view for there are in qualitative market researches apt examples of application and relevance. However, the inclusion of this paper lies in its ability to propose a discourse analytical framework for qualitative marketers. The definitions of discourse are followed by discussions of perspectives adopted, actions followed and behaviour mediated, all argued by the author to be appropriate in discursive, cognitive or social marketing research practices. The paper makes a contribution in conceptualising “key notions of the suggested discourse analytical framework” that postulates “turning points” with their occurrences, changes or problems and their inherent new meanings appropriate for marketing discourse.
In the first paper on “Visitor narratives”, Cathy Guthrie and Alistair Anderson put forward a persuasive case that more rewarding information about visitors’ experiences at their destinations is generated from consumer narratives about their consumption experiences. This has the advantage over that of or adding to the value of the short standardised questionnaires placed at tourist destination sites with the occasional interviews of tourists that are the familiar methods used by managers of such sites to gauge their tourists’ sense of satisfaction with facilities and their enjoyment. The symbolic depths of peoples’ destination experiences are illustrated in the paper generated from the sense making and sense giving processes of their consumption experiences, supported by the authors’ field researches in Edinburgh and Greenwich.
The second paper about hedonic and utilitarian shoppers’ perceptions concerning Wal-Mart’s Canadian Guelph destination is by a team of researchers: Moira Teed, Christopher Norman, May Aung, Doug Adlam, Sameer Goswami, Brae Surgeoner and BiChen Zhu. Through analyses of media commentaries, participant observations, in-depth interviews and narratives from consumers the authors compared positive and negative feedbacks. The case is supported for taking account of the broader community contexts and the application of consumers’ value dimensions in order to gain greater insights into consumers’ hedonic and utilitarian values. The authors put forth the view that using more than one method of data collection is preferable in a study, which they claim to be “a first to assess consumer responses before a store’s construction”. This claim could appear to be a limitation in the paper as the evidence for it has yet to be collected in a “future study”.
The theme of consumer research and narrative in a retail setting is continued in the third paper examining consumer browsing behaviours by Lan Xia. Browsing is an activity commonly shared by shoppers, but what distinguishes the salient factors in browsing that could have direct influences on purchasing activities? The author draws attention to a variety of sources for the literature from different areas to support her case that browsing as a marketing research activity is limited in literature publications. As a consumer information acquisition activity the research results revealed that consumer browsing has both desired and undesired consequences for retail marketers. For consumers there are various coping strategies that are explored.
Consumers purchase financial services for assurance to reduce risks and uncertainties. The fourth paper on “Consumer retirement planning” by Debra Grace, Scott Weaven and Mitchell Ross covers a broad range of issues pertaining to buying into superannuated financial products and ensuing gender differences in making life choices. Superannuation planning is not without its many complexities, but for many, given the limited choices available it is an important consideration. However, as the authors have perceived, despite superannuation’s “life course and cumulative advantage perspectives, little research has been contained within the theories of consumer behavior”. The paper helps to fill this gap through research with male and female consumers and use their narratives to report their perceptions of retirement planning.
Ayman El-Amir and Steve Burt in the fifth paper attempt to develop a dialectical approach to modeling for the branding process in order to demonstrate ethnography’s potential for managerial and social relevance. This is a theory building paper that takes as its building block, “Bourdieu’s ethnographic modeling technique of ‘participant objectification’” updated and added to with findings from modern day customers in the grocery retailing context. The intention of the authors is to develop from this a multi-faceted view of the branding process. The authors argue that there is a detachment in the traditional approaches to modeling in marketing so that a dialectical approach would help by putting the critical orientation back to theory building in marketing generally and branding in particular. This is envisaged within a branding process of cultural construction leading from textual via participant observation to dialectical via participant objectification.
The rethinking of how we do things and what we say in the doing of them is brought to us vividly by Sheila Keegan in her “Practitioner perspectives” article. Organisers and attendees in a workshop she attended found themselves united in efforts to analyse meanings in words and inflections of language. Through their inductive means of reasoning the outcomes would serve to find a way forward for common descriptions that could be inherently understood and therefore subscribed to by all. A practical issue of managerial and marketing relevance would be to reduce costs in consumer studies by adopting the appropriate language.
Finally, my thanks go to all the reviewers and authors as well as the Emerald staff who have contributed to making this issue a success.
Len Tiu Wright