The Consumer as 'Voter', 'Judge' and 'Jury': Historical Origins and Political Consequences of a Marketing Myth

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Abstract

This article discusses the origins of the idea that a consumer’s choice is equivalent to a citizen’s vote or a juror’s verdict and that markets therefore resemble the political process of a democracy. The idea of the consumer as sovereign driver of the marketplace emerged during the enlightenment. It was, however, the development of market research methods during the 1930s and 1940s, which provided the crucial backdrop for the sudden rise to prominence of an idea that assumes that consumers dictate what is produced through their ‘‘votes,’’ that is, daily choices. Innovations in the measurement of consumer preferences, such as consumer juries, panel surveys, and the program analyzer technique, provided the final touch of scientific credibility to this idea. An understanding of the historical origins and political—philosophical implications of the equation of consumer markets and democracies is of importance for the study of macromarketing because it helped legitimize specific industries that today have come under closer scrutiny for their potentially detrimental impact on the social welfare of consumers, such as the advertising and the entertainment industries. This equation also provided—and still provides—a theoretical underpinning for the marketing concept as a marketing management philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Macromarketing
Volume31
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)8-18
ISSN0276-1467
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

Keywords

  • marketing History
  • Marketing Concept
  • Market Research
  • Democracy
  • Consumer Sovereignty

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