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Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods in Marketing

Edited by Russell W. Belk

The Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods in Marketing offers both basic and advanced treatments intended to serve academics, students, and marketing research professionals. The 42 chapters begin with a history of qualitative methods in marketing by Sidney Levy and continue with detailed discussions of current thought and practice in: research paradigms such as grounded theory and semiotics; research contexts such as advertising and brands; data collection methods such as projectives and netnography; data analysis methods such as metaphoric and visual analyses; presentation topics such as videography and reflexivity; applications such as ZMET applied to Broadway plays and depth interviews with executives; and special issues such as multi-sited ethnography and research on sensitive topics.
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Chapter 8: Researching Brands Ethnographically: An Interpretive Community Approach

Steven M. Kates


Steven M. Kates Researching brands ethnographically Brands are co-created by the efforts of both consumers and marketers, for consumers process brands and promotions for meaning as well as for information (Fournier, 1998; Kates and Shaw-Garlock, 1999; McCracken, 1987; Mick and Buhl, 1992; Ritson and Elliott, 1999; Scott, 1994). Yet, in postmodern conditions of fragmentation, decentering and ambiguity (see Firat and Venkatesh, 1995; Firat and Shultz, 1997), interpretation of brands and marketing promotions is a problematic issue for both consumers and marketers. Consumers construct different meanings from what brand sponsors may have intended, and different social types of consumers construct multiple meanings, depending on personal background, contexts of consumption and multiple frames of reference (e.g., see Elliot and Ritson, 1997; Grier and Brumbaugh, 1999; Kates and Shaw-Garlock, 1999; Ritson and Elliott, 1999). This issue of brands possessing several potential meanings – what we might label the ‘problem of polysemy’ (see Gottdiener, 1995) – has significant implications for consumer theory. Traditionally, positioning has been conceptualized as a relatively stable set of intended consumer perceptions (or meanings) toward a brand, in relation to competitive alternatives. However, in postmodern social conditions characterized by a plenitude of meaning, and in everyday social practice, brands may often come to signify associations other than the dominant (or preferred) meaning or intended positioning desired by marketers (see Hall, 1980, 1997). Further, segmenting a market into non-overlapping groups of consumers vis-à-vis differential responses to promotional efforts becomes an increasingly problematic task in a commercial...

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