Imagined Images, Surveyed Consumers: Market Research as a Means of Consumer Engineering, 1950s–1980s
The road diffusion of marketing and market research in the second half of the twentieth century is generally considered to indicate a rapid paradigm shift in business practices from a producer-centered orientation to a new sensibility toward consumers. By examining how market research influenced business strategies on the micro-level, this chapter calls this interpretation into question. Case studies from German and American carmakers show that there was no “marketing revolution” but instead an incremental process in which long-established ideas about consumer engineering hindered management modernization. The professionalization of marketing research did not take hold not until the 1970s, when truly consumer-driven marketing methods became much-needed tools for crisis management in the automobile industry.