One constant desire expressed in marketing discourse is that of wanting to know what consumers really think and feel about a product, and, ideally, how to ascertain their inner most desires before they voice them. Further, marketers may seek mechanisms that induce an irresistible desire to purchase specific goods--the ultimate "buy button" that marketers themselves push. In the quest for this knowledge, marketing researchers have employed qualitative and quantitative techniques, such as focus groups, participant observation and data mining.
There is, however, growing unease about existing marketing techniques and their overall value. Several recent articles in the popular business press have articulated concerns in the marketing community about the effectiveness of advertising in general and of research methods in particular as efficacious in eliciting true knowledge about what consumers really think or desire.
New Age Consumer:
Americans, and much of the rest of the developed and developing world, have a love-hate relationship with food. We love the way it tastes and the social settings in which we eat, but hate the way it makes us look, especially when we are taking in more than we are expending. For centuries, we have sought ways to have our cake and eat it too while maintaining an acceptable figure. In the last few years, we have seen the introduction of such diets as Atkins, the South Beach Diet, and the grapefruit diet. We are inundated with personalities such as Richard Simmons, Body By Jake, and Denise Austin--all looking fit, trim, and happy while advocating the idea that if you are trim you will feel better about yourself. If these approaches do not work, you can always try diet pills, group therapy, or liposuction.
In addition to food and fitness, you are expected to eat safely. Salmonella, e. coli, listeria, camplyobacter, vibrio vulnificus and many other potentially hazardous foodborne pathogens and toxins are lurking in and around our food supply, waiting for an opportunity to attack. For most, contact with such pathogens and toxins means extra time in the restroom and another bottle of Pepto Bismol. For others, however, these can be life-threatening, especially for the young, old, pregnant, and immune compromised.
So, what can be done at a time when fast food restaurants, ready-to-eat meals, and prepackaged goodness are part and parcel of our world? One strategy is to adopt the New Age lifestyle.
A few years ago, frustrated consumer Mark Evanier searched the different Los Angeles grocery stores in vain for a particular brand of orange juice. Stores would carry other products from the same company, but not the orange juice. As he was about to ask one store's manager for assistance, he noticed a sign above the podium saying, "If we don't stock what you want, we will be happy to special-order it for you." But when he asked the manager for a special-order, he was told, "We don't do special-orders. . . .It's just too much hassle." The manager apparently felt it was an adequate explanation to say that he didn't personally put the sign there, though he also admitted that he had been manager of that store for more than six years, had never made any special-orders and had not ever felt compelled to take down the sign (Evanier 2003, p. 124-128).