Accepted Paper:

Making good respondents: market researchers' practices of valuation and elimination  
Johan Nilsson (Stockholm University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores how market researchers are generating and determining valuable consumer subjectivities, by focusing on the recruitment and study of research subjects. Evaluation of the appropriate respondent is studied as a case of market/knowledge-making and market research as epistemic culture.

Paper long abstract:

Market research is an industry that engages makers, buyers, subjects and sellers of information about markets. This paper discusses how market researchers are producing consumer knowledge out of respondents and interview persons. More specifically it deals with local practices and ideas about evaluating appropriate research subjects, drawing on artefacts like screening forms, as well as other ethnographic material from on-going fieldwork with one of Sweden's large market research firms (see also Lien, 1997).

The paper contributes to new anthropological perspectives on consumers that stress their status as objects of knowledge (Cetina, 1999) and marketing action (Knorr Cetina, 2010; Lien, 2004), created by, among others, market researchers (Grandclément, 2011). My own focus is on the tools they use to be able to speak about, and on behalf of, consumers and markets. While techniques of surveillance such as CRM databases, and tracking of online behaviour is increasingly important, market research still heavily relies on the post-war promise of Motivational research: To get the marketer, advertiser or businessman a view of how consumers act or think (Berghoff, Scranton, & Spiekermann, 2012).

This access into consumer subjectivity relies on market researchers locating people who can offer appropriate views, suiting the needs for consumer representation (Lezaun, 2007). Market researchers take great care to enrol good subjects of study and to alternately then dismiss them (in much qualitative research) or keep them enrolled (in online panels). This paper is interested in the processes and principles of selection, connecting selection practices to the local epistemology of market research.

Panel P017
Generating value and valuation as collaborative practice