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Edited by Russell W. Belk
18 Using oral history methods in consumer research Richard Elliott and Andrea Davies This chapter introduces oral history methods and positions oral history as a useful but neglected approach and demonstrates how oral history can provide consumer researchers with a means to examine critically their theories, knowledge and assumptions about consumers and their consumption. As an example of the method in use, we present a case study of oral history applied to the evolution of brand consciousness in 1918–65. Both are characteristic of consumer culture and are deeply implicated in our theories of symbolic consumption, branding and brand theory. Perhaps understandably, empirical evidence of early mass-consumer culture is limited principally to documents of production ﬂows, shopping inventories and other market technologies such as advertisements of branded goods. These form the basis of an analysis which largely omits the voice of the consumer. Oral history brings back to our analysis of early mass-consumer culture the voices of ordinary consumers. Focused on generating and archiving consumer (life) histories this approach takes the ordinary and everyday remembered experiences of shopping to collate consumption biographies that can be used to inform a critical (re-)analysis of the development of consumer culture. Oral history identiﬁes the meaning ordinary people have given to brands and brand choices throughout their lives. It also records the impacts and inﬂuence of brand consciousness on their lives in terms of their changing expectations, desires and behaviours. While historical methods have been used in consumer research, Smith and...
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