Category Archives: Marketing Science

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.

Regards,
Rob.”


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?

Blog in the Air after Boğaziçi

To [mis]quote one of my all-time favorite bands, Pink Floyd:

Blog
Blog in the air
Don’t be afraid to care.

Yes, I’m blogging in the air. Turkish Airlines has a great new wifi service on some of their flights, and I am currently flying back to Toronto from Istanbul, Turkey on flight 0017. Right now I am over the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere south of Godthab, Greenland (do you love those inflight map monitors as much as I do?). The Turkish Airlines login page says something like “we are temporarily offering this new service free to customers.” Temporarily free. Which is sort of like offering crack in the schoolyard as “temporarily free.”

When you accept the terms of service they make you explicitly swear you will not use voice over IP protocols, so forget your dreams of Skype calling from the air. Ain’t gonna happen, it seems. Smoking, and VoIP—the two last frontiers of no-nos in the air. And surprising the Captain with a little hello visit. And, so I hear, using the bathroom to (re)assert your membership in the Mile High Club still tends to be frowned upon as well. So four no-nos in all.

Remember when long air flights were a chance to relax, or read a book? Not any more. Now you can return email and catch up on work instead. Of my entire row of 8 people, 7 of us are currently sitting with iPads and open laptops, clearly online. Wifi is provided in an alliance with T-mobile, so I’d expect this is going to be very commonplace on most flights soon.

Kozinets at Bogazici University IstanbulA couple of words might be in order about my presentation yesterday at the beautiful and historic Boğaziçi University in Istanbul (it is pronounced “bo-oz-uh-ji”). It was in a beautiful, wood-lined, seriously academic room with some very important executives from some of Turkey’s top businesses, retailers, agencies, HR firms, and other companies, as well as PhD, Master’s and undergrad students.

I presented an entirely new talk about social media, technology use, and the directions companies must follow. The room was a beautiful old room, and the hosting by  Boğaziçi U’s Dean, Aysegul Toker, a social media and mobile scholar who published a terrific book along with professors Kaan Varnali and Cengiz Yilmaz, was immaculate and eminently Turkish (in case you didn’t know it, Turkish people are world famous for their hospitality and warmth—and yes, I am biased).

Mobile Marketing bookI recommend their book—Mobile Marketing: Fundamentals and Strategy– as a very interesting, empirically-based and thorough scientific look not only at the Turkish mobile market, but also as at how mobile is permeating all sorts of new markets and raising fascinating strategic management and marketing issues. This is one of the most important frontiers of the marketing world, and this book contributes much-needed knowledge and know-how to our understanding. And yes, just in case you were wondering, social media and mobile marketing Professor Kaan Varnali himself was present at my presentation!

My own presentation used some concepts from recent analyses of “Arab Spring” to introduce and develop five new trends to explain where businesses need to go in their use of the Internet and technology. To give you a bit of the flavor of the talk, I opened it up by asking the audience how many of them believe that social media is currently in a “bubble” phase, with a lot of overblown hype about how they need to be out there investing their dollars in social media marketing campaigns.

What do you think? I would like to hear your opinions. And I will be happy to share some of my own thinking and to continue developing my ideas through this blog and in my other social media communications.

Hmmmm. Now the baby behind me is screaming its head off. This actually is not my office after all. Well, at least it’s not like the last flight back from Istanbul, where I was seated next to a guy who was having a 10-hour long gas attack. But this is definitely verging on sonic warfare.

Stay tuned. Everything in the world of social media marketing right now is, like me, up. And up in the air.

Making Triangles: Marketing Positioning for the Social Media Age

ValknutA lot has changed about marketing  in the last decade. And therefore a lot has changed about marketing strategy in the last decade.

But our theories of  marketing strategy have stayed strangely the same.

I have been waiting for a reasonable solution the these challenges for over a decade. And while I have been waiting, I have also been working on a solution of my own.

I have cobbled together what I consider to be the best of existing theory and thinking, and tested it through MBA classrooms around the world with some of the best students in the world. And now I have tried to unify it into one theory, a theory that balances accuracy with elegance to try to answer the following question:

How Should We Analyze Marketing Positioning in this New, Complex, and Multifaceted Age of Many Media (traditional, new, and social)?

The Answer, It Turns out, Is In The Interlacing Tri-Triangular Shape of an Ancient Norse Symbol: The Valknut.

The Shocking Truth About Business Schools

Bill Clinton at NYU CommencementIn his address to NYU’s graduating class at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, former President Bill Clinton took square aim against one of the great evils of our time: business schools.  Here is a quote from his speech (the entire speech can be found on YouTube):

“I was probably the last generation of Americans until the present day who could have gotten an MBA, if I went to business school instead of law school, with the prevailing theory being that American corporations had obligations primarily to their stakeholders. Ever since then we’ve been teaching our young people that your primary obligation is only to the shareholder. The problem is that if you do that you ignore the other stakeholders.”

It sounds plausible to blame business schools. After all, we know that business and the financial industry are to blame for the major economic meltdown of the last several years. And we know that those businesses had to learn their bad economic and management theory from somewhere. When there is a lack of morality and integrity in the practitioners of management, why not blame the places that teach managers to manage. Blame the b-schools.

What I find so startling about this statement is that the 42nd President of the United States is speaking in such totalizing terms that he is actually ignoring a fundamental shift in business schools. In fact, the “stakeholder” model that he talks about as an inspired solution is a product of the very business schools that he is pointing towards as the problem. This stakeholder model has been taught as a part of understanding management issues since the mid-1980s at the Schulich School of Business where I work which, according to Dean Horvath, our long-standing Dean, was one of the first schools to implement it.

“Ever since then we’ve been teaching our young people that your primary obligation is only to the shareholder,” said Clinton. But reading his speech, I cannot help but wonder if President Clinton has heard of the “triple bottom line” approach that has become a common element of many business school’s curricula. The triple bottom line concretizes stakeholder theory by providing a system of measuring the 3 Ps of people, planet and profit, and managing by measuring how well each are being accounted for in the management of an organization. The system has not been perfected, but it is widespread and widely taught. As a marketing professor, I have always used stakeholder theory to discuss marketing ethics in my classes at Kellogg, University of Wisconsin, and of course at Schulich.

Clinton said that this profit-above-all viewpoint of MBAs and business schools “could be why wages have been virtually stagnant for the past 30 years”  because it misses the fact that “workers are stakeholders.” That bad b-school perspective could be behind communal stagnation, “because communities are stakeholders” and behind consumer apathy.

Humbug, I say.

I would like to invite Bill Clinton to learn more about (and perhaps even participate in) the work of the Aspen Institute, a foundation that is dedicated to fostering values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. Every 2 years, the institute gives out an award called “Beyond Grey Pinstripes” to business schools. It ranks the top 100 MBA programs in the world for how well they are equipping future business leaders with a comprehensive and integrated understanding of social and environmental issues impacting business – everything from increased consumer activism and climate change to corporate social responsibility. Here are the current top 10 global business schools, according to this important ranking.

  1. York University (Schulich School of Business)
  2. U. of Michigan (Ross)
  3. Yale School of Management
  4. Stanford Graduate School of Business
  5. Notre Dame (Mendoza)
  6. UC Berkeley (Haas)
  7. RSM Erasmus
  8. NYU (Stern)
  9. IE Business
  10. Columbia Business School

Seven of the top 10 business schools in this ranking are in the USA. Who is on top? It happens to be my own (shameless plug here…) Schulich School. Oh, and Mr. Former President, you were actually addressing the graduating class from the 8th ranked  business school in the world on these stakeholder matters. The MBA class, to be exact. Is it just me, or does anyone else find that fact that he overlooked that incredible fact incredibly ignorant?

Bill Clinton, in his speech, seems to be missing all the wonderful work done by business schools, business school Deans, business school leaders, devoted b-school professors, alumni, and students. Instead, painting with a broad and stereotyping brush, they are villainized as The Source and Fount of The Great Evil: the Spreaders of Bad Ideology. How absurd. How negative. Charging $100,000 per speech, Mr. President, you really need to be more careful to do your homework.

I’d give that part of your speech an F.

The astonishing and surprising truth that former President Clinton’s speech ignores is that, although some business schools may have at one time been a part of the problem, many of them today are building the solutions to social and organizational problems. They are far from perfect. But they are definitely not the unidimensional Profit-as-Monotheistic Religion institutions that Bill Clinton’s speech makes them out to be. 

And that is something not only to be surprised about, but to celebrate.

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

Methods: 

  • 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.

JCR Gets a New Editor–Three New Editors, To Be Exact

I have been on the JCR Policy Board for about a year, representing the American Anthropological Association.This has been my first time going through the process of electing a new Editor, or Editorial Team.

In this case, I want to say that we had two team running for the Editorship and both teams were really outstanding. It was extremely difficult to choose one team as better than the other. What I can say is that I am very happy with this choice. I think the new editors will do an extremely good job, be very fair, very devoted, and very enthusiastic. If you like the way JCR is running right now, I think you are going to be pleased with the way it will continue running.

Here is the full official announcement going over the communications transom right now. I’ve been authorized to spread the word, so here goes…

“The Journal of Consumer Research Policy Board is pleased to announce that Mary Frances Luce, Ann L. McGill, and Laura Peracchio have been named coeditor-designates of the Journal of Consumer Research.  The new team, whose three-year term begins July 1, 2011, replaces John Deighton, who has served as editor-in-chief since July 2005.   We gratefully acknowledge John’s service, as well as his team of editors for the last three years-Deborah MacInnis, Ann McGill, and Baba Shiv.

Mary Frances Luce is the Thomas A. Finch Jr. Professor of Marketing at The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs.  Professor Luce’s expertise is in consumer behavior, medical decision-making, and the effects of negative emotion on decision behavior. Her teaching interests center on health care marketing.  Luce received her Ph.D. in Business Administration from Duke University and has held previous appointments at the Wharton School of Business.  Luce’s research has appeared in such publications as Journal of Consumer Research, Health Psychology, Management Science, and Marketing Science.  She also co-authored Emotional Decisions:  Tradeoff Difficulty and Coping in Consumer Choice. In 2003, she was Co-Chair of the Association for Consumer Research Conference, and she currently serves as an associate editor of the Journal of Consumer Research.  She has received research grants from the National Science Foundation and the Marketing Science Institute.

Ann L. McGill is the Sears Roebuck Professor of General Management, Marketing, and Behavior Science at the Booth School of Business, University of Chicago.   Professor McGill’s research focus is consumer and manager decision making, with special emphasis on causal reasoning, consumer evaluations of products and services consumed alone or with others, the influence of freedom of choice on outcome satisfaction, and product and brand anthropomorphism.  McGill has held teaching positions at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and New York University.   Besides teaching and advising several PhD candidates, McGill is an editor of the Journal of Consumer Research and in 2008, she was Co-Chair of the Association for Consumer Research Conference.  McGill won the 2005 McKinsey Award for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Chicago.   She received a BBA with high distinction from the University of Michigan, and an MBA and a PhD from Chicago Booth.

Laura Peracchio is Professor of Marketing at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Professor Peracchio received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University and a dual BA and BSE from the Wharton School and the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.  Peracchio’s areas of research interest are focused on consumer information processing including food and nutrition issues, visual persuasion, and language and culture. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, and Journal of Advertising. Peracchio is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Consumer Research and the Journal of Consumer Psychology and has served as President of the Society for Consumer Psychology. She was awarded the Society for Consumer Psychology’s Inaugural Distinguished Service Award and research awards from the American Marketing Association, the Marketing Science Institute, and the Journal of Consumer Research. Peracchio’s teaching focuses on nonprofit marketing, social and public policy issues, and consumer behavior.

The Policy Board was very impressed with the proposal submitted by Professors Luce, McGill, and Peracchio.  They are all highly respected scholars and long-time contributors to JCR and to the consumer research community more broadly.  Ann is currently an editor of JCR, and all three have served as area-editors and members of the JCR editorial review board.  The team brings great energy to the editorial position, and under their direction we expect to see JCR’s influence broaden and strengthen among researchers interested in all aspects of consumption behavior.  In addition, the team has excellent ideas for promoting interdisciplinary research within JCR.   The field of consumer research will continue to develop in important ways under this team’s scholarly leadership.

The JCR Policy Board is comprised of representatives of eleven organizations.  Current members of the Policy Board are Itamar Simonson (American Marketing Association), Rob Kozinets (American Anthropological Association), Linda L. Price (American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences), Barbara Bickart (American Association for Public Opinion Research), Juliet Schor (American Sociological Association), Michel Wedel (American Statistical Association), John Lynch (Association for Consumer Research), Leigh McAlister (INFORMS), Ronald Faber (International Communication Association), Durairaj Maheswaran (Society for Consumer Psychology), and Norbert Schwarz (Society for Personality and Social Psychology).

 

 

 

People-Centered Marketing: An Introduction

people_kozinets.gifThe latest phase of my career is taking an interesting new direction. I am trying to get a more holistic look at “marketing” as a discipline and a practice, and analyze how all the elements of “marketing”, such as marketing research and brand management, fit together with management as a field. I’ve been thinking about this for over a year, and last year wrote an editorial for Canada’s national business newspaper, The National Post, on the topic. I originally titled it rather dramatically as “The End of Marketing” but they published it more positively as “Marketing’s Evolution.” Here is the original article, if you are interested.

Talking with the brilliant and insightful marketing researcher, consultant, professor, and author Shira Nayman about some mutual interests about six weeks ago, I was struggling with a term for what I was trying to say. “Consumer-centered marketing” was clumsy, but it was all I had. Wordsmith that she is, she suggested the term “People-Centered Marketing” and it really fit.

So when Ruth Bolton and the Marketing Science Institute came calling and asked me to present to their Annual Trustee’s meeting in San Francisco, this topic of “People-Centered Marketing” came to mind immediately as something I definitely wanted to introduce to their high-level group of academics and practitioners, in order to get their feedback and have them help me develop it.

The presentation was great, and the comments I received were extremely helpful. I thought I would share the introduction to the presentation with you, my beloved blog audience, in order to give you a flavor of this work and share some of what is to come.

consumer_knowledge.jpgFollowing is the introduction to the presentation, where I lay out the idea of People-Centered Marketing in basic form, and give the essential outline of the talk.

As an anthropologist, I am drawn to the history of marketing-which likes in face-to-face, interpersonal exchange. It’s an aspect that lives on in service encounters and in marketing throughout much of the developing world, accounting for perhaps eighty percent of all exchanges.

Modern marketing, marketing as we know it, has moved away from face-to-face encounters, of course. That has happened for very good reasons of scale. But in this move away from the face of the consumer, something has been lost. Something vitally important. Marketing as a field has become increasing distanced form the consumer and her world.

The consumer has become less and less of a person, and more and more of an abstraction. An object, if you will.

In this presentation, I will propose that marketing as a field is in a state of slow decline. I will speculate that an important reason for this deterioration is because we have been following almost exclusively one somewhat limited model of understanding the consumer. This is a model which abstract, distances, and objectifies not only the consumer, but the marketer and the very act of marketing.

Acting as a bit of an agent provacateur, I will provoke more questions rather than propose answers to this dilemma.

Overall, I will suggest that we need to rethink how we think about consumer understanding. How will we seek to know our consumers? In our difficult and dynamic environment, that intensely philosophical examination is actually an extremely urgent question with immensely practical ramifications for how we do marketing and how we do business.

So, using and proposing the term “People-Centered Marketing” for the very first time, here, I will propose a more relational, conversational, lifeworld-centered style of both understanding and interacting with consumers as we go forward in these changing, challenging times.

dehumanized_2.jpgHere is how I will frame this view:

  1. I will begin with a high-level look at the field of marketing as it currently stands
  2. Then, drawing on my own experiences as the founder of a new marketing research approach, I will reflect on why I think marketing must deal with these issues
  3. Then, the presentation takes a turn into philosophical terrains—into phenomenology and the “conservative wing of Heideggerian hermeneutics” to be exact—in order to unpack the meaning of understanding in relation to “understanding the consumer”
  4. From there, I explain three ways of understanding consumers which show how we need to refucos and balance what we do as marketers and marketing researchers
  5. Finally, I offer a few examples and some very cursory ideas about first steps towards strategically implementing these changes in the practice of day-to-day marketing and management.

 And, yes, I did it all in a 35 minute presentation! I can’t quite believe that myself.

And if you want more, as *they* say, “Ya gotta buy the book.” Except it isn’t written yet… Comments from you, Gentle Readers, are always welcome. Thanks for listening, and for “understanding”….(see how subtle my patented fractal-segue-conclusions can be?….).