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Cancer Communication Research Center
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We talk a lot about "getting inside the heads" of those people we want to change some behavior, and of not just "pushing" information at them but generating "pull" from them. But this is hard to do as any good marketing researcher knows. It's hard in part because it requires us -- highly educated academics who long have been told that we know a lot of impressive things -- to listen. And that's less about listening to what people think than it is listening to how people feel. That's what the art of consumer research is about. It's learning how to elicit and then recognize affect, how people feel. The very best job I've ever seen of listening and interpreting feelings was done by a consumer marketing research group led by Russell W. Belk at the University of Utah. Belk and his doctoral students studied how people feel about things, and not just any things, but those things -- those possessions -- that they value most of all. How did they do this? They outfitted an RV as a research vehicle and drove across the U.S. visiting flea markets and antique malls. They conducted interviews with everyday collectors about those things that they were hunting for. You know, that specific cobalt blue Roseville vase that they'd never found but gotten oh so close. People care deeply about certain things. Most things, we don't care much about. If you want to understand how to create pull from people you want to help or affect, read Belk's work (Possessions and the extended self, Journal of Consumer Research 15, 1988, pp. 139-168; The sacred and the profane in consumer behavior: Theodicy on the Odyssey, Journal of Consumer Research 16, 1989, pp 1-38). Absolutely terrific research.

Jim Dearing
Director/PI, CCRC
KPCO

Written by CCRC at 13:15

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