Milieu Models and Milieu Instruments in Market Research
In the case of social milieu research, the practical, non-scientific context of market research can create problems for practical social research. Some of these problems are examined in this paper. Social milieu research can be seen as a new approach to social structure. It can also be seen as a paradigm for the combination of quantitative and qualitative research techniques and research strategies. Two important and influential milieu models are presented here: the milieu model of Gerhard SCHULZE and the milieu model of Sinus Sociovision. In this paper two important concepts are differentiated: the milieu model and the milieu instrument. The milieu model (the "milieu map") represents the social structure of a society as an organized set of social milieus. The milieu instrument consists of quantitative and qualitative techniques for measuring and interpreting the social milieus of the milieu model. In the context of market research, the milieu instrument enables the milieu-researcher to relate the customer's product to the social milieus in an interpretative and also quantifying way. However, there are two main problems: 1. Social milieu research in the context of market research is theoretically and methodologically highly sophisticated. Therefore the acceptance of milieu-thinking and milieu-theorizing must be created and distributed in the field of market research, namely to the customer of commercial milieu research. The distribution of milieu-theory has to be realized through the whole process of consulting and the customer has to be integrated in the process of qualitative interpretation. 2. In using the concept of social field of Pierre BOURDIEU, a problematic strategy of market research companies is analyzed. On one hand, market research companies are interested in distributing the knowledge and in maximizing the acceptance of their milieu-model in the field of market research, so that it becomes a prevailing standard, a "currency" in the field. On the other hand, market research companies try to monopolize the milieu-instrument (i.e. to monopolize the technical knowledge for measuring and interpreting the milieus) for the exclusive control of the commercialization of the milieu-model. This strategy is problematic for social science research because the loss of insight in the stages of milieu-research questions validity as a criterion for research quality. This can impede the scientific reception of advanced commercial milieu models and the results of advanced commercial milieu research.
social structure research; social milieus; milieu models; criteria for the quality of social research; contextual logic of market research; problems of applied social research; combination of quantitative and qualitative methods; Sinus-Milieus; Schulze-Mi