Imagined Images, Surveyed Consumers: Market Research as a Means of Consumer Engineering, 1950s–1980s

  • Ingo Köhler
Part of the Worlds of Consumption book series (WC)


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.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ingo Köhler
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Economic and Social HistoryUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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