'Selling Mary Douglas' or 'Admiring Darth Vader': How Theoretical Knowledge is Commercialized in Market Research Projects in Turkey

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Onder GUNES, Concordia University, Canada
In all over the world, corporations from various sectors increasingly tend to work together with market research companies or market researchers in order to increase the sales of their products in a competitive market conditions and try to determine the future of their companies. In that sense, market research companies have emerged as a response to a certain necessity and they produce “useful” and “effective” knowledge in accordance with this necessity. The main function of market research companies is to give a satisfying answer to “why” questions in order to explain the consumer behavior, predict the future actions and make projections to reduce uncertainty and unpredictability. Thus, the value of a market research depends on to what extend it provides, insights and workable solutions to the problems of the client corporations. Especially in ethnographic market researches, client companies demand “actionable insights” which should exceed the limitations of raw statistical data. Market researchers who conduct mostly qualitative methods, such as participant observations and in-depth interviews, push themselves to translate their findings into marketing language in order to “sell” the project. In this endeavor, what they often take advantage of is their “theoretical knowledge” in social sciences. In this presentation, I want to discuss how they use and “jazz up” their findings by the means of theoretical knowledge in researches. Based on a ten-month active participant observation in an ethnographic market research company in Istanbul/Turkey and in-depth interviews conducted with researchers who works in “qualitative departments” of various market research companies, this presentation will try to show 1) how social theory is transformed into a marketable and commercialized commodity in marketing research and 2) how market researchers, who are broadly graduates of social sciences, feel about this process.