Category Archives: Ethnography

Is Netnography Just a Synonym for Online Ethnography?

netnography_artAt the risk of turning this blog into an advice column, I want to share an interested letter I just received. This sort of correspondence is actually fairly common, and I think the question and answer may be of wider general interest to the readers of this blog.
“Dear R. Kozinets,

My name is Maria Luisa Malerba and I am a PhD student at the Open University of Catalonia (Barcelona, Spain). I am writing because I am currently writing my PhD thesis after the field work and I have a problem of terminology. Despite having read your book, which I found extremely helpful for my investigation, I am still confused about the correct meaning and the exact difference (if any) existing among the following neologisms:

  • netnography
  • virtual ethnography
  • online ethnography
  • digital ethnography
In my investigation I conduct an analysis of informal second language learners on online communites” designed for language learning, such as Livemocha and Busuu. Being this study about learners’ behaviours, the online aspect plays a fundamental role and this research has a primarily netnographic focus. I conducted participant observation, I submitted an online survey, I interviewed learners online and I analyzed the online interaction occurred through the chat that learners submitted to me.My question is: is there a clear distinction among the aforementioned expressions? If I use the term “netnography”, how do I justify that I do not adopt the other expressions, which to me sound like synonyms?Thank you in advance. Looking forward for your answer.

Maria-Luisa Malerba”

In my answer, I tried to be brief but to the point.

“Dear Maria-Luisa:

Thank you for your question. A lot of people ask this, so I will write more about it.

Online ethnography and digital ethnography are generic terms for doing any sort of ethnographic work using some sort of online or digital method. When you use those terms, it is unclear what you have done in terms of what procedures you used, what the methodology is, such as what ethical guidelines you used for example. The literature base you will cite is also a bit amorphous.

Virtual ethnography is the term coined by Christine Hine, and it refers to a method that sees online work as only partial and incomplete. I would expect that if you called your online ethnography a virtual ethnography, then you would adhere fairly closely to the research attitudes and practices, in fact the methodology of combined research philosophy and actions, of Professor Hine as she demonstrated them in her book.

Netnography refers to a specific set of online ethnographic procedures characterized by a particular methodology, including an epistemological background, analytic frameworks, and a consistent and evolving set of guidelines for entree, observation, data analysis, ethics, and so on.

Does that help?

And at what point is something not a neologism? Ethnography, as I write in the book, was a neologism at one time. Netnography is now 18 years old, old enough to vote, drink, marry, and drive in many nations. Hey, netnography, pass me a beer.


To my mind, you can say you are a healer, or you can say you are a cardiologist, or an acupuncturist, or a chiropractor, or an energetic healer. When you link yourself with a particular practice, you do more than simply adopt a neologism. You link yourself to a rigorous set of practices and a set of related literatures. Certainly, there is room for innovation. But clarity is very important in the social sciences. And clarity is something that has not been particular well-served by the rapidity of change and silos present in the social media research field.
Is that clearer?

Journal of Marketing Appointment Announcement

jm_cover.jpgThis blog is getting some “red hot” editorial news about the State of Marketing Scholarship these days. My last post broke the news about the new editorial team at the Journal of Consumer Research (“JCR”).

And here is a very fresh one about the #1 Journal in the Marketing field.

As many of you are aware Gary Frazier is the editor elect of the Journal of Marketing (or “JM”) and will be taking over in July of 2011 from Ajay Kohli. For a while, Ajay, Gary, and Bob Leone have acted as co-editors of the journal. As with JCR, the manuscripts flows in the main journals in our field have been increasing dramatically, necessitating some editorial action to share the workload.

Gary has decided to change the structure of the Journal of Marketing to one that includes Associate Editors (or “AEs”). I think this is a very smart move. AEs at JM will have considerable latitude to make recommendations, but the final decision will always lie with the Editor-in-Chief, that is, Gary. Gary has appointed 16 AEs, some truly excellent people, and I believe he is looking for a couple more.

marketing_journals_411×211.jpgGary has asked me to be an Associate Editor of JM for his term and I have happily accepted. Thank you for the vote of confidence, Gary.

What this means, I believe, is that the Journal of Marketing is institutionalizing a role and a place for Consumer Culture Theory, cultural, or “qualitative” approaches to practical marketing issues in the field. This is big news. It is something that many of us in the CCT field have been working towards for many years. More top tier options for our publications is important to continuing the institutionalization of CCT work as an important and necessary (albeit minority) component of all Marketing Scholarship, Marketing Education, and Marketing Departments.

At the #1 journal in the Marketing field, we now have, perhaps more than ever before, the promise of a real presence and solidified representation at the top of the field.

I think that a look at the past 7 years of cultural work in JM will show that CCT work is getting more and more applied, and offering increasingly powerful pragmatic insights to the marketing industry.

The move is also presenting  a natural place for all types of social media and social media marketing research. One of my personal goals is to raise the quality and profile of research on social media and social media marketing research.

Officially, these will be the areas of the Journal of Marketing that I will have Associate Editor authority over:

Primary (substantive) content area

Internet and social media marketing

Secondary content areas

  1. Word-of-mouth marketing;
  2. entertainment marketing;
  3. brand and product management;
  4. retailing


  • Qualitative/ethnographic (e.g., discourse analysis, semiotics, phenomenological interviews, metaphor analysis),
  • Other methodological orientations as necessary (I am trained and versed in a variety of different methods)

If you do social media research using qualitative methods, you can pretty much guess who is going to be shepherding your work though JM.

So starting in July I will be looking forward to seeing all your best managerially-oriented work sent to us at the Journal of Marketing. I will do my very best to make sure it gets treated fairly or even better, and to publish the best work to keep our field of Marketing moving steadily forward.

Is Netnography the Greener Marketing Research?

Revelation, Inc., a Portland, Oregon online marketing research company, has a big name that sets some big expectations.  I somehow got on their email list, and they asked if I wanted to see their latest report. It is called “Avoided Carbon Emissions from Online Immersive Research.

Hmmmm. That’s an interesting angle on online research-that it is good for the environment. They take the positioning pretty far, too. They have commissioned a scientific, math and formula filled paper that was prepared by “Fluid Market Strategies” that looks at the question. Fluid  is a Portland based consulting firm that specializes in energy services and sustainability consulting. You can receive it, too, just by inserting your email address into the appropriate box on their site.

Intriguing. The report compares using traditional in-person focus groups and their own online “immersive” research, which sounds like an online panel, similar to the setup that CommuniSpace has. (Revelation, please reveal the correct answer to me if I am wrong).

They went to some trouble to rigorously estimate the greenhouse gas (or GHG) emissions of the in-person focus group and subtract those from the same research  conducted using their immersive online software approach.

In person, you have things like transporting participants and researchers, using hotel space, using up food and energy moving around. Researcher and client travel accounted for the lion’s share of GHG emissions, 68 percent. With the online method, you have the use of the computer, the servers, the researchers, and participant’s use of energy. A whopping 98 percent of emissions came from the researchers’ use of servers. You can already see the difference.

They found that, with a large focus group (N= 20 participants), the in-person groups create almost 2.5 times as much GHG emissions than the online ones. Per project, they work it out to about one half of a metric ton of CO2 emissions per research project.

 How much is that? It is like:

  • canceling two typical plane trips; 
  • shutting down a typical 10,000 square foot office for one day;
  • or avoiding nine typical business trips (1,100 miles) by car.

Pretty interesting. That is per research project

I see no reason why netnography would be at least as efficient as this, when compared with in-person techniques such as ethnography (researcher travel), surveys (paper use, mail, energy in transportation), or focus groups.

Now, some negations. Of course, picking the number 20 for a focus group is way off. We’re usually talking 8-12 participants in a focus group. And moderators and business people do not always have to travel by air to get where they are going. And some applications (such as using virtual worlds) are very, even ridiculously energy-intensive. So there are some it-depends aspects to the conclusion that online always produces less carbon than offline research. But it is compelling nonetheless.

Think about it-run a major netnography instead of a bank of 20 focus group and you save yourself the carbon of forty plane trips. And, I think, in many cases you probably will end up with different and deeper insights.

Yet another great reason to consider netnography. It’s Green! Or, maybe (cynics, arise….), yet another great excuse for greenwashing…you be the judge.


Spreading the Word: Netnography is 网络志 in Mandarin Chinese

From Word-of-mouth marketing to spreading the word on the method or approach of netnography. I was surprised that there were no comments yet on the marketing versus PR post. Actually, people seem to comment more on my Facebook page postings about these blog postings than they do on the blog itself, which is interesting. Because I know you’re out there…you keep coming up to me, and emailing me, and you show up on my Google Analytics radar pretty clear. And I thank you for your loyalty and interest, and hope to keep on writing for you for a long, long time.

Last post was my 400th blog post, by the way. That’s pretty exciting. To me at least. A bit. Maybe not so much to you. Probably not, actually.

In this post, I wanted to come back to the topic of Netnography that has been a major area of interest lately. I’ll blog more about how I have been presenting the topic in my next post, but for this one I wanted to share an exciting initiative.

Because (1) we have such a global culture, (2) the Internet has attained such global impact, and (3) because my work as an educator makes me very aware of what is happening outside my little North American bubble, it has become obvious to me that Netnography has been written about by me exclusively in the English language. And although English is important, it is certainly not the only game in town (at least, not any more).

And if spreading the word around the world is important, then keeping netnography texts as mainly “English-only” is not only counterproductive and Anglo-centric, it’s downright stupid.

I’ve been seeing a lot of non-English texts written about netnography showing up in Google searches of the term netnography. For the most part, I have no idea what those texts say. I do know that I didn’t write them.

So for the last year or so I have been very “subtly” floating the idea of offering translated versions of some of my writing of Netnography for non-English speakers over the Internet. A few of the languages I’ve considered are  Japanese, German, Spanish, and Portugese.

But the first one to come through is Mandarin Chinese. Did you know that about 23% of all Internet use takes place in Chinese (versus about 28% in English) according to recent stats by the excellent and helpful Internet World Stats?

A smart and kind Ph.D. student at our school, Yikun Zhao, generously offered to translate my work into Chinese. We decided to use the White Paper I recently wrote for NetBase, as that document is clearly written, accessible, aimed at academics and business audiences, and it is current and not yet outdated.

I’d like to thank NetBase for agreeing to allow us to do this with that paper. They asked me to note that the NetBase semantic search engine does not read and analyze Chinese at this point. It is currently an English-only search and analysis tool.

So here, without further ado, is the Mandarin Chinese version of the Netnography: The Marketer’s Secret Weapon White Paper. Netnography White Paper in Mandarin Chinese. It is presented as a pdf file. I hope that our Chinese readers and those who are interested in Netnography find it useful. Thank you once again, Yikun and Michael O.

Netnography White Paper in Mandarin Chinese

Upcoming Social Media Ph.D. Course in Bergen, Norway–August 23-27, 2010

social-media.jpgI just got back from a Europe and have some things to recap and share with you about some interesting experiences there. But first I wanted to share some exciting news about a course on Social Media Marketing and Marketing Research that I will be teaching/facilitating in beautiful Bergen, Norway, at the NHH School, next month.

The course will run from Monday, August 23 to Friday, August 27. It a one week intensive, and students should expect to put in some long days, as there will be full days of discussion and instruction followed by full evenings of research homework. Expect to be fully immersed in social media theory, practice, and action.

The course is a combination of readings, intense discussion, and hands-on research research experience. It it aimed at beginners and those with intermediate abilities and interests.  The goal is to have a dedicated and fully up-to-date Ph.D. course on these important matters for students from around the world to take.

nhh_logo.jpgIngeborg Kleppe at NHH initiated the course, and the school has been extremely generous in that they are providing the course for free to interested Ph.D. students. Students will be required to bring their own laptop computers to work on. And, believe me, they will be using them a lot. This is a course about doing netnography, not just talking about it.

The catch is that to provide the optimal experience we are limiting enrollment to 15 students. We currently have about 20, I believe, so there are 5 slots currently available.

Interested Ph.D. students should write to Ingeborg Kleppe as soon as possible. Her email is

Instructors, students, and others might be interested in the syllabus for the course, so I include it here in its entirety (although please note that there will likely be updates and substitutions in the actual course as this material is part of a rapidly growing and rapidly changing body of work).

Course title: Social Media Marketing– Web 2.0

Program of study:PhD

Course responsible Professor Robert Kozinets, Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto

Associate professor Ingeborg Astrid Kleppe, NHH

Semester Fall 2010 Teaching language English

Objective/ course outline

Online communities, social networking sites, blogging, and other interactive uses of information technology are changing the way people communicate and understand their world. Social media is changing society, and changing the nature of marketing.

An understanding of online communities and online WOM are critical for the marketers of today and tomorrow, who are trying to be heard in a mediascape cluttered with advertisements and drenched in consumer distrust. Companies are trying to discover how to speak to consumers in a way that is more authentic, and social media marketing are being tried as an alternative to traditional marketing tactics. But how should it best be used? What are the rules for success? It’s all brand new and uncertain.

The purpose of this course is to introduce PhD students to research in social media marketing and social media marketing research. In several classroom discussions led by the professor, students will learn about the theories and practices that inform this new set of marketing techniques, and will study actual and ongoing social media marketing campaigns.

Specific topics include (subject to adaptation and revision):

  • Terminology issues: distinguishing the different types of social media and social media marketing campaigns
  • Similarities and differences between new and traditional media, and between organic and amplified WOM
  • Overview of useful theories about social media and word-of-mouth
  • How networks of social influence work
  • Marketing Metrics: Tracking online and offline word-of-mouth and influence
  • Building social media marketing into strategy and tactics
  • Ethical aspects and codes of the industry


We will be using a reading package and online materials to conduct a ‘real-time’ learning experience that blends theory and practice and talk and action, as well as school and business.


The course is designed to help students answer the following important questions about social media marketing and research:

1. What is social media? What are its key characteristics?

2. What are the underlying characteristics of social media? How is it consumed? What principles underlie its consumption? Why do people use it? What is its historical basis? How can we better understand it?

3. How can we research social media? What methods are available and how do they work?

4. What characterizes a good or successful social media communications campaign? How can we create one? What are the keys to its planning and implementation?

5. What are the underlying principles regarding the production and consumption of social media? How do they inform our theoretical understanding?

Requirements for course approval 

In order to complete this course successfully, students must meet the following minimum criteria:

  • Do the readings
  • Participate in class discussions
  • Come to class prepared and with an open mind
  • Work hard on the in-class and out-of-class assignments
  • Take Feedback
  • Submit final paper on time
  • Take your Learning to the Next Level

Individual Terms Papers

  • * First outline of paper due August 25, 2010
  • * Presentation and initial research presentation due August 27, 2010
  • * Final paper: Due on September 3, 2010

 Other remarks

Course aims

By the end of this course you should:

  • Be familiar with all of the key authors readings in the field of social marketing
  • Be able to use key concepts in social media marketing
  • Be able to reflect on the practical business and marketing implications of social media marketing across a wide set of industries
  • Be able to identify current gaps and opportunities for future research in the current theoretical domain of social media marketing studies

Learning and teaching activities

* This is a highly interactive, workshop-oriented and discussion-oriented class that depends upon student involvement

* Therefore, assigned readings should be read prior to attending class each week

* Lecture style presentations will introduce topics and develop ideas

* In-class discussion require active participation by all students

* Workshops in class will be highly engaging and require intense student involvement

* Professor’s blog and other blogs may be helpful additions to course material (brandthroposophy:

Required Course Readings

* Kozinets, Robert V. (2010), Doing Ethnographic Research Online, Sage: London.

* Course Package readings

* Many course readings and, especially, cases, are available online


* There are no exams in this course.

Final Grades will be based on the following assessments, weighted as indicated:

*Class Participation and Contribution -25%

Social Media Project –Stage 1, Presentation and Summary -25%

Social Media Project—Stage 2, Final Paper -50%

Final grades in this class will follow the usual distribution for electives.

Class Participation and Contribution

Your Class Participation and Contribution Grade will be based on your attendance, contributions to in-class discussions, and awareness of issues in required readings. Your participation grade will be assigned by the instructor based on these factors.

Social Media Marketing Research Project

As the major deliverable from the course, you will engage in a multi-stage social media marketing research project. Your project will be directed at one of two goals. Either you will research a social media marketing campaign and its response, formulating refined principles for marketing practice. Or you will examine a marketing or consumer research topic or site of interest, formulating refined theoretical insights to enable enhanced understanding. The two goals can also be combined, but this is a more challenging endeavor.

Marketing Practice Project: For this project you will use netnography to investigate, report upon, and analyze the online environment, which may include company’s and competitors existing online initiatives, and will include social media activity related to a particular campaign.

What communities and cultures exist in this online social space? What sort of presence does the focal company or client have in the social media arena? What general brands are being promoted? What intelligence is being gathered? Are campaigns successful or not? Why or why not? You will use your netnographic research and analysis skills in order to examine and benchmark consumer activity and marketing responses in this field and to suggest guidelines for marketing practice that are grounded in sound research. A 15-20 page written report on your specific research findings, with a data appendix of up to 10 extra pages—is your Stage 1 project deliverable. You will submit it in hardcopy, double-spaced, in 12 point New Times Roman font. It is due by email softcopy one week after the end of class.

Marketing Theory Project: For this project you will use netnography to develop our conceptual understanding of a site or topic. Beginning with a concentrated field investigation, you will circle into theory development based, at least initially, upon relevant and related course readings. You will follow sound theory development and theoretical positioning practices in order to craft a paper that could potentially be submitted to a research journal.

A 15-20 page written report on your specific research findings, with a data appendix of up to 10 extra pages—is your Stage 1 project deliverable. You will submit it in hardcopy, double-spaced, in 12 point New Times Roman font. It is due by email softcopy one week after the end of class. This will be your Stage 2 project deliverable.

On Friday, August 27, a full report will be made to the class in a 10-15 minute PowerPoint presentation, followed by a Q&A/comment session. The presentation—consisting of the PowerPoint deck with 1-page executive summary—is your Stage 1 project deliverable.


 * Note: Because of the rapidly changing nature of this course’s topic matter, new, updated, online material will likely supplement some of the readings for the course.

CLASS 1: The Cultural Foundations of Social Media—MONDAY, AUGUST 23, 2010

1. Dichter, Ernest (1966), “How Word-of-Mouth Advertising Works,” Harvard Business Review, 16, 147-66.

2. Whyte, William H., Jr. (1954), “The Web of Word of Mouth,” Fortune, 50 (November), 140-143.

3. Feick, Lawrence F. and Linda L. Price (1987), “The Market Maven: A Diffuser of Marketplace Information,” Journal of Marketing, 51(1), 83-97.

4. Cova, Bernard (1997), “Community and Consumption: Towards a Definition of the Linking Value of Products or Services,” European Journal of Marketing, 31 (3/4), 297-316.

5. Levine, et al. (2009), The Cluetrain Manifesto, Revised Edition, Chapter 1

6. Kozinets, Robert V. (1999), “E-Tribalized Marketing?: “The Strategic Implications of Virtual Communities of Consumption”, European Management Journal, Vol. 17, No. 3, 252-64.

7. Cova, Bernard and Cova, Véronique (2002), “Tribal marketing. The tribalisation of society and its impact on the conduct of marketing,” European Journal of Marketing, 36 (5/6), 595-20.

8. Muñiz, Albert M. and Thomas C. O’Guinn (2001), “Brand Community,” Journal of Consumer Research, 27(4) 412-432.

9. McAlexander, James H., John W. Schouten, and Harold F. Koenig (2002), “Building Brand Community,” Journal of Marketing, 66 (January), 38-54.

10. Schau, Hope Jensen, Albert M. Muñiz, Jr., and Eric Arnould (2009), “How Brand Community Practices Create Value,” Journal of Marketing, 73 (September), 30-51.

11. Fournier, Susan and Lara Lee (2009), “Getting Brand Communities Right,” Harvard Business Review, April, 105-111.

12. Kane, Gerald, et al. (2009), Community Relations 2.0, Harvard Business Review, November, 45-50.


CLASS 2: Principles of Online Social Behavior and Social Media—TUESDAY, AUGUST 24, 2010

1. Adam, T. L. and S. Smith (2008), “A Tribe by any Other Name,” in Adam, T. L. and S. Smith (eds.), Electronic tribes. The Virtual Worlds of Geeks, Gamers, and Scammers, University of Texas Press, Austin, USA, 11-20

2. The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler, Chapter 1-2.

3. Sunstein, C. Infotopia, Chapter 1

4. Simmons, Geoff (2008), Marketing to postmodern consumers: introducing the internet chameleon,” European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 42 No. 3/4, pp. 299-310.

5. Brown, Jo, Broderick, Amanda and Lee, Nick, (2007) “Extending Social Network Theory to Conceptualise On-Line Word-of-Mouth Communication,” Journal of Interactive Marketing, 21 (3), 2-19.

6. Kozinets, Robert V., Hemetsberger, Andrea and Hope Schau (2008), “The Wisdom of Consumer Crowds: Collective Innovation in the Age of Networked Marketing,” Journal of Macromarketing, 28 (December), 339-354.

7. Molesworth, Mike, and Janice Denegri-Knott (2007), “Digital Play and the Actualization of the Consumer Imagination,” Games and Culture, Vol. 2, No. 2, 114-133.

8. Jenkins, Henry (2007), Convergence Culture: When Old and New Media Collide, Chapter 1.

9. Jayanthi, Rama K. And Jagdip Singh (2010), “Pragmatic Learning Theory: An Inquiry-Action Framework for Distributed Consumer Learning in Online Communities,” Journal of Consumer Research, 36 (April), 1058-1081.

10. Tsai, Jessica (2009), “Everyone’s Social (Already),” Customer Relationship Management, June, 34-38.

11. Rettberg, Jill Walker (2009), “‘Freshly Generated for You, and Barack Obama’ : How Social Media Represent Your Life,” European Journal of Communication, (24), 451-466.

12. Kaplan, Andreas M. and Michael Haenlein (2009), “The fairyland of Second Life: Virtual social worlds and how to use them,” Business Horizons, 52, 563—572

* CLASS EXERCISE: Finding, describing, and evaluating social media marketing campaigns

* Case Study: Burger King’s Subservient Chicken, from


CLASS 3: Applied Netnography: Social Media Marketing Research —WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25, 2010

1. Kozinets, Robert V. (2010), Netnography: Doing Ethnographic Research Online, Chapters 1-7

2. Kozinets, Robert V. (2002), “The Field Behind the Screen: Using Netnography for Marketing Research in Online Communities,” Journal of Marketing Research, 39 (February), 61-72.

3. Kozinets, Robert V. (2006), “Click to Connect: Netnography and Tribal Advertising,” Journal of Advertising Research, 46 (September), 279-288.

4. Brown, Stephen, Robert V. Kozinets, and John F. Sherry, Jr. (2003) “Teaching Old Brands New Tricks: Retro Branding and the Revival of Brand Meaning,” Journal of Marketing, 67 (July) 19-33.

5. Muñiz, Albert M., Jr. and Hope Jensen Schau (2005), “Religiosity in the Abandoned Apple Newton Brand Community,” Journal of Consumer Research. 31(4), 737–747.

6. Nelson, Michelle R. and Cele C. Otnes (2005), “Exploring Cross-Cultural Ambivalence: a Netnography of Intercultural Wedding Message Boards,” Journal of Business Research, 58, 89-95.

7. Annamma Joy, John Sherry Jr., Alladi Venkatesh and Jonathan Deschenes (2009), “Perceiving Images and Telling Tales: A Visual and Verbal Analysis of the Meaning of the Internet, Journal of Consumer Psychology, 19, 556– 566.

8. Locke, Karen and Karen Golden-Biddle (1997), “Constructing opportunities for contribution: Structuring intertextual coherence and ‘problematizing’ in organizational studies,” Academy of Management Journal, 40 (October), 1023-1062.

9. P. N. Limerick (1993), “Dancing with Professors: The Trouble with Academic Prose,” New York Times Book Review, 31 October.

* Case Analysis: Communispace, published by New Communications Review

* Case Analysis: NetBase Solutions, Inc.


* Deliverable and Discussion: Social Media Marketing Research Plan


CLASS 4: Overviewing Strategies and Tactics in a Social/WOM World—THURSDAY, AUGUST 24, 2010

1. Mike Molesworth, Janice Denegri-Knott, (2004) “An exploratory study of the failure of online organisational communication”, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 9 Iss: 4, pp.302 – 316

2. Godes, David, Mayzlin, Dina, Chen, Yubo, Das, Sanjiv Dellarocas, Chrysanthos, Pfeffer, Bruce , Libai, Barak Sen, Subrata, Shi, Mengze and Verlegh, Peeter (2005), “The Firm’s Management of Social Interactions,” Marketing Letters, 6 (3/4), 415–28.

3. Pitt, Leyland F., Watson, Richard T., Berthon, Pierre, Wynn, Donald and George Zinkhan (2006), “The Penguin’s Window: Corporate Brands From an Open-Source Perspective,” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 34 (2), 115-127.

4. Kozinets, Robert V. (forthcoming), “Brand Fans: When Entertainment + Marketing Intersect on the Net,” in Tracey Tuten, ed. Enterprise 2.0: How Technology, E-Commerce, and Web 2.0 Are Transforming Business Virtually, Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin.

5. Wang, Youcheng and Daniel R. Fesenmaier (2003), “Assessing Motivation of Contribution in Online Communities: An Empirical Investigation of an Online Travel Community,” Electronic Markets, 13 (January), 33 – 45.

6. Kozinets, Robert V., Kristine de Valck, Andrea Wojnicki and Sarah Wilner (2010), “Networked Narratives: Understanding Word-of-mouth Marketing in Online Communities,” Journal of Marketing, 74 (March), 71-89.

7. Avery, Jill J., Protecting the Markers of Hegemonic Masculinity: Consumer Resistance to Gender-Bending Brand Extensions (May 2008). Available at SSRN:

8. Füller, Johann, Gregor Jawecki, and Hans Mühlbacher (2006), “Innovation Creation by Online Basketball Communities,” Journal of Business Research, 60 (1), 60-71

* Case Analysis: Fiskateers


* Discussion: Initial Findings–Social Media Marketing Research


CLASS 5: Practices and Projects: Metrics, Ethics, and Research—FRIDAY, AUGUST 27, 2010

1. Kozinets (2010), Netnography, Chapters 8, 9 and 10

2. Kozinets, Robert V., Frank-Martin Belz, and Pierre McDonagh (forthcoming), “Social Media for Social Change,” in David Glen Mick, Simone Pettigrew, Cornelia Pechmann, and Julie L. Ozanne, eds. Transformative Consumer Research to Benefit Global Welfare. Rokka, Joonas (2010), “Netnographic inquiry and new translocal sites of the social,” International Journal of Consumer Studies, 34 (4), 381-387.

3. Rokka, Joonas and Johanna Moisander (2009), “Environmental dialogue in online communities: negotiating ecological citizenship among global travelers,” International Journal of Consumer Studies, 33 (2), 199-205.

4. Tsai, Jessica (2009), “Taking the Measure of Social Media,” Customer Relationship Management, July, 17-18.

5. Clemons, Eric K. (2009), “The complex problem of monetizing virtual electronic social networks,” Decision Support Systems, 48, 46–56.

6. Social Media: 20 free e-books about social media: (scan and read at will)

7. Social Media: Research, see: 80/SNSResearch.html, a bibliography from communication, information science, anthropology, sociology, economics, political science, cultural studies, computer science, etc. (scan and read at will)



Reflections on CCT2010: The Final Posting

I had hoped to do a long, detailed, involved set of postings on CCT 2010. But that’s not going to happen.Time just keeps marching on, and this is busy season for academic conferences. It’s already almost time for the next one.I’ll be presenting virtually in Marseilles on the weekend at ICAR/NACRE, the Symposium dedicated to anti-consumption issues. And I’ll be in London next week for the 2010 European ACR Conference. And after that I will be presenting at the workshop and New Research Methods Festival in Oxford England on July 5 and 6.

To close off my entries on CCT, I would like to offer some impressionistic jottings about some wonderful sessions.  I enjoyed the session on Consumer Resistance during which Tim Dewhirst and I presented some of our new anti-smoking culture jamming research. Holland Wilde presented a wild bit of “cultural farming” a type of critical commentary montage of video clips from ads, movies and the news about the BP oil disaster. Sofia Ulver-Sneistrup, Soren Askegaard, and Dorthe Brogard Kristensen presented a fascinating and complex model about how we could rethink brand resistance.

The posters were very high quality, too. And on Saturday there was a magnificent session about “place” in consumer culture theory which presented three wonderful studies of our “hobbit holes” and what we do with them. Jeppe Linnet of the U of Southern Denmark led off with a detailed explanation of the complex Danish social-place concept of “hygge” (did I spell that right?).  Yesim Ozalp presented her work on the gentrification of Toronto’s retail spaces. And Zeynep Arsel and Jonathan Bean finished off this very stimulating session by talking about “Apartment Therapy” and online and media narrative of fashioning space and place.

Bryant Simon, our plenary guest speaker historian, gave a very intriguing talk about work policies, race, and branding in the Starbucks chain. After lunch there was another great session on co-creation, culture and consumption(Matthias Bode’s work on created Danish Christmas beer rituals; Robert Harrison on Black Friday and its internal role in helping form corporate rituals; and of course Daiane Scaraboto’s work on the geocaching subculture and its grassroots opportunism; all were outstanding).

The afternoon session on The Mediatized Body and Healthism also gave me plenty to think about. Can you hear how breathless I am recounting all of this to you? It was 2 weeks ago and I”m still incredibly enthusiastic about it.

That evening was extremely memorable to me because of our poetry reading session. John Sherry, Hilary Downey, and Sidney Levy, among others, read some wonderful poems. And then, thanks to the openness of the CCT organizers (thanks Craig and Dave), and the incredibly helpful work of dub-master Risto Roman from Helsinki, Finland, I was able to perform my poem Marketing Life 101 to the CCT group. I had such a great time, and I was so pleased with how the entire poetry session went this year. It was even collected and published in a book called “Canaries Coalmines Thunderstones” by Roel Wijland.

I am hoping to have a video of the poem performance up on YouTube at some point soon. When I do, I’ll flag it and maybe expand on it in this blog. For now, if you are interested you can listen to this earlier production of the  Marketing Life 101 poem I created in GarageBand. If you are interested in seeing the written version of the poem too, leave a comment and I’ll post it.

I hope to see many of you in Europe this coming week. If we haven’t met yet, don’t be shy, come on up and introduce yourself.

State of the Craft: Reflections on the 2010 CCT Conference, Part 2

cct_logo.jpgSo where we left off was in the CCT’s Future presentation that was the middle of the kick-off session of CCT5 2010′s conference on cultural consumer research

The presenter called for “please no more stand alone case studies.”

John Deighton, the editor of our flagship journal the Journal of Consumer Research, JCR, said in the session that he thought that statement was “provocative” and asked for other opinions in the room.

I asked for a clarification. I was wondering if the statement meant that we needed more integrative conceptual thought work that integrated across multiple domains. This is something John Deighton has called for recently, and it’s a great move because it is big thought pieces-of the kind that Russ Belk is known to write, or which Susan Fournier has done-that move the field to a new and more integrative level.

reconciliation_web.jpgSo, for example, if we were to write about contemporary consumer’s relationships with nature, we might integrate individual empirical research articles and pieces on river-rafting, camping, sky-diving, hiking, scuba diving, gardening, surfing, Mountain Man rendezvous and even Burning Man into a conceptual piece that looks at the various contexts and meanings that surround the contemporary “consumption” of nature. No extra empirical research needed. Just add deep though. Integrate. Build theory.

Eric used the American Girl research written by Nina Diamond, Stefania Borhini, Mary Ann McGrath, Al Muniz, john Sherry, and myself as an example. He talked about how it didn’t simply study the American Girl Place retail store and leave it at that, but also did the ethnography out on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, in people’s homes, in some other American Girl stores, online in the web store and through analysis of the books, printed magazine, and the catalogs. That makes great sense to me. And it also seems like it studies a single phenomenon, but does it in a relatively sophisticated way.

  • This is actually a pretty minor controversy, I think, based more on statement that needed some elaboration than any genuine conflict in the field. Eric’s statement makes this clear, and I second his call for more quality ethnographies.

So we can see that a sharing of different opinions in the field is certainly not always bad. Questioning assumptions and having a bold oppositional vision can move a field forward. If there really is something seriously wrong with the field that needs fixing, pragmatic considerations need to be weighed against how much potential there is in the new vision. The weight of the past shouldn’t keep us back from changing if there is great potential in changing or great error in continuing.

But change of this type can also have the effect of creating the appearance that people in a field have unclear or shifting standards. That certainly does not inspire confidence, especially for junior people who need clear guidelines so that they can get their careers going with some confidence that their work will be published.kumbayah.jpg

  • So I want to use this blog entry to assure junior people that I think, for the time being, nothing about ethnographic acceptance in CCT has changed. And for the foreseeable future nothing will change. The standards we enjoyed, and that you probably toil under very diligently right now are, at least if I have anything to say about it, very much intact.

This was not a discussion about ethnography so much as it was about case study it seems, as Eric, in his “Popeye” persona (see comment) offers.

One big confusion was between “stand alone case studies” and “single site ethnographies.” So I will go on a little bit of a tangent here, and talk about why there are at least six reasons why I think doing away with individual ethnographic studies as discrete empirical journal article contributions would be a very bad idea. And, conversely, why we should continue on our present course. This may not have been what Eric said, or meant, but there was enough confusion in the room and beyond it into other venues and sites that I think it is worth defusing that ticking bomb in public. And here are my points.

  1. First, context is good, going deep into a single context is also good, and ethnography leave unclear what the difference is between “single” and “not-single”. Context is our business-that’s what we do and do best. And “single-sited” does not have a very precise meaning. I think the American Girl piece was still single-sited. It dealt with a single, albeit very complex, brand. We just followed it around and noticed where it went. The same with my work on Burning Man (online and offline, at the airport, at stores, in different cities along the way, at regional meetings), and Star Trek (conventions, fan clubs, Star Trek parties, Halloween, people’s homes, and so on). Culture lives in many locations, that is why it can be borne. Good ethnographies rarely stay in one GPS location—this is part of the translocal consumer culture phenomenon that our colleague Joonas Rokka is writing about.
  2. Second, people are always going to label ethnographic pieces by their context. Who cares? As long as we actually do a good job of developing theory and building on it when you read the articles, should we focus on what the people who only read the titles call them? Did I write the Burning Man ethnography? Yep. And if you read it you know I developed some theory from it, too.
  3. Third, and most importantly, it’s very very difficult to do a good ethnography across many different sites or phenomena. It is hard enough, time-consuming enough, and challenging enough to do a good ethnography that looks in a focused way at only one cogently defined phenomenon. Will it be seen as more generalizable if we look at three sites? I seriously doubt someone trained in generalizability would see an N = 3 as really more significant than an N = 1. What if we just said, as I have been wont to do, that we talked to 5,231 Star Trek fans across 26 countries. Doesn’t that have a better ring to it?
  4. Fourth, we need to stay the course. We have gotten where we are as a field largely on the strength of ethnography as we have been doing it. That’s why ethnography is recognized as the gold standard of consumer research by designers and by many forward-thinking firms like Intel and P&G. Why would we abandon the techniques that have gotten us, and our colleagues in industry like Grant McCracken and Rita Denny, so far?
  5. Fifth, who is going to teach these new forms of ethnography? If this is an emerging trend, then let it emerge with powerful examples that illustrate the benefits. Perhaps, as Eric’s comment suggests, examples are already emerging (I also thank him for suggesting that my work is exemplary in this regard). If so, junior scholars should attend to this work by staying tuned with it, but, I think, no changes in the immediate present are required. Keep the discussion in mind, and continue to watch as quality standards becomes clearer and evolve, gradually, as they always do.
  6. Finally, and just as importantly, the strength of complex cultural work is never to verify its own theories in other sites. Never had been and never will be. We are not equipped in the scientific rhetoric knowledge game that way. Let me explain.

 Ethnographies are great for generating theories from the field, from real life. Real life is highly complex, requiring us to look at and consider many different possible constructs, categories, and relationships before we settle on a greatly reduced set that we find to be important.

 We should not do things like social psychology, which deals with micro-individual processes, using cultural methods. Sample sizes are for counting individuals-we don’t focus on the study of individuals. We look at meanings, rituals, and cultures. Sample sizes of sites does not make sense to me, since sites are social construction and, if we are to note and understand the networked nature of social reality, they are all interconnected in complex ways.

  • If we go back to ontology and epistemology, the root level of philosophy of science and ask about what kinds of knowledge we are after and whether we are working inductively or deductively, for the most part, the answers become clearer.
  • Are we focused on the dynamism, complexity, and multifaceted nature of actual human cultural reality, or are we seeking universally generalizable propositions and then verifying them? The former, of course. That’s our ontology and it guides our epistemology.

How many discrete, separate, ethnographies do we need to do to be seen as theoretically relevant? One, I would say. One good one. One good one with rich, thick, theoretical ideas.

Could they be with strange, odd, marginal groups? Definitely. Stuff that I found studying Star Trek fans and Burning Man burners is becoming increasingly mainstream now. I found phenomena sketched out in high relief in these “weird” field sites that help me to understand the emerging mainstream. And they are fun to study, to boot. How they look to others as “weird science” actually doesn’t bother me much. It may be bad P.R., but it’s perfectly fine as science.

Similarly, we could get great theory from interviewing one single person, if it was a real good interview. Recall what Susan Fournier did with brand relationship theory (based on a sample of N=3). How many of Craig Thompson’s masterpieces were written based on samples of three? My Ideology of Technology article in JCR last year used a sample of six. But all of them had, I think, big, valuable, intriguing, useful theoretical ideas. The field will sort the value of the theory out. It sure doesn’t come from the sample size. Reading Eric’s comments, his point seems directed more at the quality and attentiveness of the ethnography (vs. “case study”)—a point I wholeheartedly embrace. Maybe we need more clear delineations of the differences between case studies and ethnographies, then.

  • As Denzin, Lincoln and Guba have all written extensively about, if we can be persuasive and novel and suggest new things then what we contribute has the potential to be valuable and useful to other scholars, other writers, and people in general.
  •  We are theory generators. Not theory testers. Not theory verifiers. Quantity is not a quality of quality ethnography.

 Now, having written this, I am grateful for the provocation, because it is an opportunity for discussion and clarification. I wanted to write this blog post to assure everyone involved that there is no lasting confusion. The ground is not shifting. I believe completely that ethnographies of single phenomena are here to stay in our field and beyond.

I welcome comment and continuing commentary from anyone, including of course all those involved at the conference and interested in it, using this blog or through other means. And my coverage of the intriguing events and presentations of CCT 2010 will continue in the next blog posting…