Theoretical Foundations of Contemporary Qualitative Market Research—An Overview and an Integrative Perspective

Dirk Frank, Peter Riedl


The economic importance of qualitative research has been growing consistently during the last decades. Being one of the major streams in the "research industry" it provides not only a valuable tool box for generating basic consumer insights, but it is also an essential part of the annual revenue of most research companies. As a consequence it is of utmost importance for providers of qualitative research to differentiate their own services from those of their competitors. While theoretical thinking is often not a beloved daily business, the importance of a theory-driven thinking and acting—as a potential commercial and intellectual (USP) ("unique selling proposition")—has been discovered by many of the leading players in qualitative market research. A neutral observer might come to the conclusion that many claims of "unique approaches" are part of the usual public relation battles between institutes; nevertheless it is a worthwhile enterprise to work out basic common ground, but also the fundamental differences of the various "schools of thinking". It seems to be a matter of intellectual honesty and clarity to provide buyers of qualitative research, who are often trained in marketing but not in social sciences, with a clear cut picture of what they can expect or not expect from a specific theoretical approach. The current paper aims to give a synopsis on different psychological and ethnological theories which are currently used to support practical research, their explanation patterns for understanding consumer behaviour and their shared, but also their unique assumptions. The authors will also present an action-orientated model with an emotional (world of meaning) and a cognitive (world of probability) sub-system and describe the interaction of both systems for behavioural control which is integrating some of the basic assumptions made by other schools of thought. Finally, the paper points to a number of methodological implications of the model including the "unconscious clustering" method.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0402307


qualitative market research; models of consumer behaviour; world of meaning; world of probability; unconscious clustering method; cybernetics

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Copyright (c) 2004 Dirk Frank, Peter Riedl

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