Magic Towns: Creating the Consumer Fetish in Market Research Test Sites

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


    Purpose: This chapter investigates how researchers assemble market research test towns as hybrid sociotechnical arrangements. Researchers use various strategies in order to purify such hybrids into simplified representations of a fetishized imaginary, namely the average consumer.
    Methodology/approach: The chapter is based on an analysis of secondary sources such as company documents. Theoretically, it draws on the concept of consumption assemblages and on anthropological theories of fetish.
    Findings: Fetishization is a powerful way for both researchers and their clients to purify the hybrid assemblages they are part of into easily digestible categories such as “the real” and “the average.” In that process, the test town and its consumers emerge as a fetish that allows corporate clients to alleviate decision-making anxiety. Because of the nature of fetish, purification as a process remains incomplete.
    Research Implications: These findings call for more social studies of market research as a set of practices that shape the identities of those who do the testing and forecasting. This chapter thus opens up test marketing and so-called test towns in particular as a field for consumer culture theory research. Originality/value: This chapter provides insights into how market research creates test sites to simulate purchase behavior and pre-test consumer products. This chapter maps how different groups of actors and different technologies are enrolled in order to enact an ideal-type consumer averageness on an ongoing basis in a particular test town.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationConsumer Culture Theory
    EditorsDomen Bajde, Dannie Kjeldgaard, Russell W. Belk
    Number of pages15
    Place of PublicationBingley
    PublisherEmerald Group Publishing
    Publication date2019
    ISBN (Print)978187542860
    ISBN (Electronic)9781787542853
    Publication statusPublished - 2019
    SeriesResearch in Consumer Behavior


    • Test markets
    • Simulation
    • Consumption assemblage
    • Fetish
    • Purification

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