© 2019

Consumer Engineering, 1920s–1970s

Marketing between Expert Planning and Consumer Responsiveness

  • Jan Logemann
  • Gary Cross
  • Ingo Köhler


  • Reassesses the concept of consumer engineering in a comparative, transnational framework, moving beyond the familiar narrative of consumer manipulation

  • Considers the history of consumer engineering in the context of mid-century developments such as social engineering, modernist planning and design, and the professionalization of various fields

  • Appeals to scholars of marketing and business history, consumer culture, social engineering, social movements, transnational history, and the history of capitalism


Part of the Worlds of Consumption book series (WC)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Twentieth Century Marketing—Aspirations and Limits, Costs and Benefits

  3. Consumer Engineers and Transatlantic Exchanges at Mid-Century

  4. Consumer Engineering Practices in Postwar Europe

  5. Consumer Engineering and Consumer Movements

  6. Back Matter
    Pages 287-296

About this book


In the middle of the twentieth century, a new class of marketing expert emerged beyond the familiar ad men of Madison Avenue. Working as commercial designers, consumer psychologists, sales managers, and market researchers, these professionals were self-defined “consumer engineers,” and their rise heralded a new era of marketing. To what extent did these efforts to engineer consumers shape consumption practices? And to what extent was the phenomenon itself a product of broader social and cultural forces? This collection considers consumer engineering in the context of the longer history of transatlantic marketing. Contributors offer case studies on the roles of individual consumer engineers on both sides of the Atlantic, the impact of such marketing practices on European economies during World War II and after, and the conflicted relationship between consumer activists and the ideas of consumer engineering. By connecting consumer engineering to a web of social processes in the twentieth century, this volume contributes to a reassessment of consumer history more broadly.


Marketing management marketing practices history of consumer marketing marketing in the twentieth century history of capitalism transnational marketing history consumer engineering social engineering mass consumption U.S. business history history of design fast capitalism consumer goods Victor Gruen German business history Americanization consumer credit Walter Landor consumer research consumer activism

Editors and affiliations

  • Jan Logemann
    • 1
  • Gary Cross
    • 2
  • Ingo Köhler
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Economic and Social HistoryUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of HistoryPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Economic and Social HistoryUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany

About the editors

Jan Logemann is Assistant Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Göttingen, Germany.

Gary Cross is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at Pennsylvania State University, USA.

Ingo Köhler is Assistant Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Göttingen, Germany.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Consumer Engineering, 1920s–1970s
  • Book Subtitle Marketing between Expert Planning and Consumer Responsiveness
  • Editors Jan Logemann
    Gary Cross
    Ingo Köhler
  • Series Title Worlds of Consumption
  • Series Abbreviated Title Worlds of Consumption
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-14563-7
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-14566-8
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-14564-4
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XI, 296
  • Number of Illustrations 16 b/w illustrations, 8 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Modern History
    US History
    World History, Global and Transnational History
    Social History
    Consumer Behavior
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