It is an interesting thing being a marketing researcher. One of the idiosyncrasies of the industry is being asked if you are more “qual or quant”. How many of you have been asked, or asked others that question? This is a classic example of question bias.  The very setup of that “qual vs. quant” construct suggests that there are only two ways of looking at MR … qualitatively or quantitatively.

My brief and incomplete review of the MR industry has uncovered one unifying theme … the focus on the individual.  The vast majority of research are studies of individuals. Even when we aggregate and average we are aggregating and averaging individuals.  This focus on individuals may be because the roots of our industry have come largely from economics and psychology.  Both of these fields study how individuals make decisions and why.

So what is missing?

If the title of this post didn’t give it away already…the missing piece is culture. We are all living in the context of our culture.  I think it is something that we take for granted, but it is all around us.  We cannot truly be understood without understanding the culture in which we operate.

What is culture then? According to our trusted friend Wikipedia:

  1. the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols, and to act imaginatively and creatively; and
  2. the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively.

Well, if this culture thing is so important why hasn’t anyone figured out how to measure it?  Someone has.  There is an entire field of study called Consumer Culture Theory or CCT.

CCT is…

“This approach basically considers consumption and its involved behavioural choices and practices as social and cultural phenomena – as opposed to psychological or purely economic phenomena. CCT, in the words of one of the summarising articles about the field, “refers to a family of theoretical perspectives that address the dynamic relationship between consumer actions, the marketplace, and cultural meanings.”

CCT researchers have developed a broad array of methods to understand and measure culture.

I believe that this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Does anyone out there study and measure culture?  If so,how?  I would love to hear how you are engaging in understanding this critical but illusive force.

Please comment away!