Framing a Rainbow, Focusing the Light: Jcr's First Twenty Years

Jerome B. Kernan, George Mason University
ABSTRACT - This paper commemorates the initial years of the Journal of Consumer Research, from the inception of its idea in 1970 through its first twenty years of publication (1974-1994). An unofficial history is recounted-from the perspective of JCR's founding advocates, from that of its policy board, and through the reflections of its first six editors. The journal's unique mission among social-science periodicals is seen as the source of both its developmental problems and its unparalleled success.
[ to cite ]:
Jerome B. Kernan (1995) ,"Framing a Rainbow, Focusing the Light: Jcr's First Twenty Years", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, eds. Frank R. Kardes and Mita Sujan, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 488-496.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, 1995      Pages 488-496


Jerome B. Kernan, George Mason University

[The author is ACR's representative to the JCR Policy Board. He thanks Valerie Folkes for suggesting this commemoration, for spearheading the Board's approval of it, and for supporting its implementation in nonpareil fashion. Frank Kardes and Mita Sujan were most accommodating and their encouragement is much appreciated too. Finally, sincere gratitude is expressed to JCR's editors-to Jim Bettman, Ron Frank, Rich Lutz, Kent Monroe, Brian Sternthal and, in particular, to Hal Kassarjian-for the splendid cooperation which made this commemoration possible. This paper reflects the author's own views; it should not be construed to represent the official position or any policies of the Association for Consumer Research, the Journal of Consumer Research or any of its editors, the JCR Policy Board, JCR, Inc., or the University of Chicago Press. All errors of fact or interpretation are the sole responsibility of the author who, with all the parties involved, wishes that Bob Ferber were here to lend this wisdom and class to this commemoration.]


This paper commemorates the initial years of the Journal of Consumer Research, from the inception of its idea in 1970 through its first twenty years of publication (1974-1994). An unofficial history is recounted-from the perspective of JCR's founding advocates, from that of its policy board, and through the reflections of its first six editors. The journal's unique mission among social-science periodicals is seen as the source of both its developmental problems and its unparalleled success.

The Journal of Consumer Research is the only academic serial devoted exclusively to the field of consumer behavior, broadly construed. Its preeminent status among social-sciences journals is due most apparently to the state-of-the-art papers it publishes, but that success also is attributable to the philosophy which has always underpinned its day-to-day operation, namely that consumer behavior cannot be understood fully except through interdisciplinary research. JCR was conceived and chartered as an outlet which welcomes varying perspectives on what constitutes consumer behavior and of how it should be investigated and that inclusive philosophy has remained intact throughout its 20-year history, guiding the choice of editors (always active researchers themselves) and the implementation of reviewing policy (uncommonly timely, rigorous, and constructive). The journal has benefitted from an unbroken series of renowned and devoted editors, who with their staffs have worked in partnership with talented, caring reviewers to polish contributing authors' ideas (already the best contemporary scholarship) into a corpus that has defined consumer behavior as a recognized, independent discipline. JCR also has been sustained from the outset by its policy board, which selects its editors, establishes broad operating guidelines, and oversees financial matters. Since this board (JCR, Inc.) is composed of representatives of the journal's sponsoring associations, the preservation of multidisciplinary editorial foci has never been in jeopardy.

JCR was launched as and has remained an interdisciplinary enterprise because of a steadfast conviction that understanding from a single perspective (or a few) is inherently limited. Imagine JCR as a rainbow. Just as the white light of understanding is dispersed into the spectrum of colors, each perspective on consumer behavior represents only a small portion of the spectrum's frequencies. We can add or subtract these portions, reflect or refract them, but white light-true understanding-requires that we perceive all the frequencies. We might mix the red light of economics with the green light of psychology to produce the yellow of economic psychology, for example, but even this combination will leave the rest of the spectrum (the remaining antecedents of behavior) invisible to us and our understanding of consumers will be limited. The object of our study--consumer behavior-is inherently combinatorial; that is an ontological fact and it is our challenge. We can ignore this, myopic in the comfort of our respective specialties, but only at the risk of a bluffed vision of the consumer, who is not just an anthropological being, a psychological being, or a sociological being, but all these and more. The consumer thinks, feels, and does, and each of these must be seen in its naturally occurring context. Living is more than TV commercials and brands picked off a supermarket shelf; we consume all manner of material and nonmaterial, commercial and noncommercial entities and all this must be portrayed within the panorama of everyday life. As individual researchers each of us is free to focus on a favorite perspective ("color me purple"), but as a community we must accept the collective responsibility of encouraging all perspectives and integrating them.

JCR has functioned as the nexus for this collective responsibility; it has advocated multidisciplinary perspectives (captured all the hues of the rainbow) and wherever possible fused them into interdisciplinary ones (refracted them into the prism of white light). Every JCR editor has suffered the policy board's pleas for diversity; every author has struggled to articulate ideas for the non-specialist reader. The result has been a catholicity rare among social-science journals and unmatched by any devoted to consumer research. It has not been easy-editors have been obliged to compensate for under-represented perspectives and have presided reluctantly over internecine squabbles, as one or another perspective has imagined inequitable treatment-but the ideal of an interdisciplinary journal has never been abandoned. This steadfast pursuit of "the rainbow" has been the journal's greatest liability-many authors prefer to publish their best research in discipline-specific outlets (one of the colors) and an interdisciplinary journal is considerably more difficult to manage. But diversity has been the journal's greatest asset too-its contents represent the corpus of consumer research as a discipline; to the scientific community, consumer behavior is what JCR prints. This reality played a significant role in the University of Chicago Press' decision to become our publisher, beginning in 1990 with Volume 17.


The JCR we recognize today grew out of a particular set of circumstances that prevailed in the United States during the 1960s, particularly as they converged on America's business schools. These forces prompted the founding of the Association for Consumer Research, and a journal "for" ACR seemed a natural concomitant (see Kernan 1995 for an elaboration). The organization and the journal in this sense being so inextricably intertwined has given rise to a persistent error that ACR owns JCR. It does not. ACR is a nonprofit organization registered in the state of Georgia. JCR, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation registered in the state of California, which is owned by its sponsoring-association members (one of which is the Association for Consumer Research) and governed by a policy board of those members. (At this writing, JCR's CEO is Valerie Folkes, who sits on the policy board as the representative of APA's Division 8, one of JCR's twelve sponsoring associations.) Legal distinctions notwithstanding, however, it is difficult to dissuade most ACR people (as well as some others, it seems) from the association's proprietary claim on JCR. (It is ACR, not any other of the journal's sponsoring associations, which commemorates this twentieth anniversary.) Indeed, the idea for a journal devoted exclusively to consumer behavior was an integral part of the thinking that led to the formation of an association devoted exclusively to consumer behavior.

American business schools were overhauled during the early 1960s (Kernan 1995), with the result that quantitative analysis, the behavioral sciences, and theory (cf. simple description) came to be idolized. Research supplanted teaching as the de rigueur faculty activity, as the professional-school mentality gave way to one associated with the familiar arts-and-sciences model. Burgeoning enrollments were driving haphazard expansion, but messianic faculties were interested only in their developing doctoral programs and research grants. Marketing departments were being influenced by professors not, or only tangentially, trained in the discipline (e. g., Alderson, Bauer, Britt, Engel, Green, Howard, Kassarjian, Kernan, Kotler, Nicosia, Tucker) and the best marketing literature often came from "outside" sources (e. g., Banks, Ferber, Jacoby, Katona, Levy, Ramond, Rogers, Wells). Compared with the immediately-preceding period, there was a groundswell of papers being written but relatively few apposite outlets in which to publish the work. Fortunately, "scientific marketing" came along as an umbrella under which most anything nontraditional could be justified, hence published, particularly if it could be made to appear mathematical. AMA capitalized on this surfeit when it launched the Journal of Marketing Research, in February 1964, with Bob Ferber as editor. JMR was an instant success, partly because it inherited a ready market of readers and contributors, but also because of Ferber's acumen as an editor. (He had an uncanny ability to tease the very best out of each author, to make every published article as potent as possible, even though many of us did not understand the metamorphosis as he shaped it.) That outlet quickly became the journal of choice for consumer researchers and a perusal of its early volumes testifies to the success we had in getting our work published there. Indeed, there were some complaints after a few years that JMR had become too "behaviorally oriented."

The founders of ACR were aware that JMR was under some pressure to resist our "takeover" when we convened in 1969 at Ohio State. It was by no means just to outflank the JMR problem, however, that the idea of "our own" journal was broached. That notion had been alive for some time, for reasons quite apart from JMR (which editorship had just passed from Ferber, who had been elected AMA President, to Ralph Day, who was hardly an enemy of behavioral research). The problem with any existing journal was twofold: control and focus. We wanted to maintain the former and direct the latter, and no established journal was likely to yield on either point. A new journal was the obvious, and only, solution. Starting one, however, was another matter and we all realized it. So the idea remained a goal (but see Engel 1994) until our next annual meeting, in 1970, at Amherst, where a committee of Joel Cohen, Jack Jacoby and Bill Wells was appointed to investigate the particulars of inaugurating what was four years hence to be called the Journal of Consumer Research.

Good ideas are difficult to conceal and it turns out that ACR was not alone in its perception of the need for a consumer-behavior journal. Over the next year several expressions of interest occurred (likely reflecting as many motivations) and, shortly after the ACR conference at College Park, a group of organizers was convened in Chicago at the O'Hare Hilton (see Kassarjian 1991). This October 23 meeting was organized by Bob Ferber, since AMA now supported the idea of a new journal. Among the attendees were Jack Jacoby, nominally representing Division 23 of the American Psychological Association (which also by now had declared its interest), and Cohen, Kassarjian and Wells, officially representing ACR. The essential characteristics of the new journal were established at that meeting-its concentration on consumer behavior, broadly construed, its interdisciplinary perspective, and its governance by a policy board composed of the representatives of its sponsoring associations-although the details would require some months to clarify. The main title originally was Research on Consumer Behavior (changed for some tangled reasons to the Journal of Consumer Research before the inaugural issue), but the subtitle has always been An Interdisciplinary Quarterly. Ferber used his AMA clout to get that organization to handle the business end of the new operation and to pony up a $50,000 loan to cover its operating expenses. (ACR and APA Division 23 also made nominal pledges.) In due course, the initial policy board was formed, representing the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the American Council on Consumer Interests (ACCI), the American Economic Association (AEA), the American Home Economics Association (AHEA), AMA (Ferber, acting as chair), APA 23 (Jacoby), the American Sociological Association (ASocA), the American Statistical Association (AStatA), ACR (Wells), and The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS). Ron Frank at the Wharton School was named Editor, and a 25-person editorial review board was appointed (including people well-known in ACR circles, such as Jim Bettman, Marty Fishbein, Monty Friedman, Paul Green, Marsh Greenberg, Jack Jacoby, Hal Kassarjian, Mike Ray, Bill Wells, Bill Wilkie, and Peter Wright). As we know, Volume 1, Number 1 was issued in June 1974, with a lead article by George Katona. The annual subscription rate for an ACR member was $12.50.

Although the AMA loan was repaid within a year and the journal has never missed publishing an issue on time, no one should get the impression that JCR's success has come easily, that the road has been smooth, or that a whole series of obstacles did not threaten its very existence over the years (see Kassarjian and Bettman 1984). Any of its editors can relate a gaggle of horror stories and the policy board has winced more than occasionally. As an example, Ron Frank was obliged to confront a wavering AMA board at the eleventh hour of JCR's birth-as Volume 1, Number 1 was about to go to press. With the aid of some accounting wizardry by Wayne Lemburg (AMA's executive editor), he was able to sustain the financial backing for the new journal, but only by the narrowest of margins. So dedication and luck have somehow seen us through our problems. Yet the question remains: did ACR strike a good bargain when it cast its lot with JCR? Was there abetter option? We cannot ignore the historical backdrop out of which ACR aligned itself with JCR.


There was little question at the time that consumer research could support, and in that sense needed, a journal. But the form this might take was anything but clear. We in ACR were the most vociferous advocates of the idea, but others claimed an interest too. And there was the additional complication of means-among the would-be sponsors, only AMA had the wherewithal to launch such a serial. ACR's realistic option, then, was to forge ahead on its own-to gamble that we might eventually produce a satisfactory journal-or to seek support from other parties interested in forming a coalition which could begin publishing in the immediate future. The first option afforded both the control and focus we wanted, but it required money that we did not have. The second one was risky (our interests might be coopted by a coalition), but it seemed workable-worth the risk, as it were. And there was another factor no one could ignore as this decision was framed. We had no assurance that AMA would not strike preemptively. Ron Frank has made the astute observation that, had AMA's leadership chosen to keep pace with developments in marketing at the time, it could easily have launched its own journals (or expanded JMR into a sectioned monthly, after the fashion of JPSP), and thereby forestalled serials such as JCR and Marketing Science. Fortunately for us, the practitioner faction of AMA (then as now) was not interested in sponsoring "yet another academic journal," and the opportunity for JCR remained open.

This is hindsight, however; none of the parties to JCR's formation dared assume that AMA would be satisfied with a passive stake in the new journal. So when Bob Ferber outlined AMA's offer in 1971 we perceived it with a minimum of skepticism; it provided the needed start-up money, it came without an egregious demand for control, and it signaled that AMA was not interested in competing head-on with the new journal. (Some numbers help to underscore the seriousness with which an AMA threat had to be taken. As we convened in Columbus for the initial ACR gathering, JMR already had a circulation of some 12,000. That is to be contrasted with JCR's current circulation of some 3,000.) Only time will determine whether ACR made the best choice in 1971. To suggest that aligning ourselves with several other organizations amounted to a Faustian bargain, however, is to ignore the reality within which that decision was made.


JCR's founding coalition reflected more than expediency, although that certainly was a consideration. The group of sponsoring organizations served a defensive purpose for ACR, to be sure, but it also facilitated two very positive goals, neither of which was within our immediate reach were we to strike out with our own journal. Most obviously, the affiliation conferred a professional credibility on the discipline we were spearheading-if all these established organizations recognized consumer behavior, there must be something to it and to this new journal. But more importantly, each of these sponsoring organizations represented a separate discipline, a particular way of studying consumer behavior, and that idea was at the core of ACR's founding philosophy. Consumer research was not marketing research, or public-opinion research, or psychological research, or sociological research, but ail of these-and more. It was not a discipline only of discovery, but of application as well-in both the private and public sectors, for the benefit of both buyers and sellers. ACR's founders welcomed all these perspectives, but we were not so naive as to assume that our ranks would or could produce the variegated approaches we knew were essential to the discipline's development. Thus the founding premise of JCR was very much akin to that of ACR; both entities grew out of a multidisciplinary (if not interdisciplinary) imperative. And because of this identity (at least harmony) of interests it is not clear how "an ACR journal" would differ in any substantive way from JCR.

The steadfast pursuit of an interdisciplinary goal has distinguished JCR from virtually every social-science journal, just as ACR's inclusive membership criteria (some would argue whether there are criteria) set it apart from otherwise-comparable professional organizations. Being interdisciplinary "isn't easy," as every JCR editor and every ACR president has discovered. Specialization (the more, the better) makes the world tidy and comfortable, whereas its opposite breeds unruliness and a collective angst. Yet there has never been a suggestion from any serious quarter of either ACR's or JCR's constituency that the interdisciplinary imperative be abandoned as a hopeless ideal. Perhaps we've been pig-headed, but the pursuit of this unique identity has persisted, in spite of all the baggage it packs.


Ron Frank was charged with the initial responsibility of making the journal's lofty ideals happen and his inaugural editorial (Frank 1974) indicates that he understood the challenge. Referring to JCR as an anomaly in the house of intellect, he outlined its unusual, integrative objectives and compared these to the imperatives which drive individual disciplines. He was quite aware that specialists were wont to publish their best work in their respective disciplines' journals, yet he urged researchers to address a larger audience in the interest of interdisciplinary understanding.

Easier said than done, of course, but JCR's first three volumes do contain some unmistakable shards of interdisciplinary content. (Ron would suggest a less sanguine interpretation, but he is notoriously self-critical.) Those initial volumes hardly reflect the sort of interdisciplinary content found in, say, Behavioral Science, but they established a policy that has remained in place since-namely, that research in one discipline must be intelligible to investigators in other disciplines. So while JCR did not (and still does not) attract truly interdisciplinary research, it positioned itself firmly as the venue for multidisciplinary attention to and understanding of consumer behavior. (See Ferber 1976a for an excellent example.) Less obviously, yet perhaps more importantly, this period saw the establishment of the journal as the principal archive for consumer behavior research-as we have come to agree, consumer research is what JCR publishes.


As Ron's term as editor came to a close the policy board was forced to assess the fledgling journal's accomplishments. Unfortunately, three years of hoping did not prove sufficient; the interdisciplinary goal remained a long way off, in spite of a sound beginning. Accordingly, a nine-point action plan was enunciated and Bob Ferber (who had just completed a stint as editor of JASA) was given the editorial reins of JCR. This plan (see Wind 1977) sought to implement specific steps designed to move the journal toward its interdisciplinary goal. (One of them was what is now called the Ferber award, for interdisciplinary research based on a doctoral dissertation.) The board was concerned that JCR was too oriented toward marketing and social psychology, that other perspectives of consumer behavior were under represented in its pages. The new editor and the board agreed to solicit manuscripts from scholars outside these disciplines, to encourage comments on articles written in one discipline from researchers in another, to sponsor topical issues of the journal (e. g., on decision making) which were likely to attract and could profit by an interdisciplinary focus, etc. The initial experience of JCR had made it abundantly clear that one could not simply will that a journal be interdisciplinary; one had to do something to counteract the entrenched ethos of the social sciences.

The new editor used his considerable influence to implement the policy board's marching orders (see Ferber 1976b). This was the period during which JCR published several special-topic issues and in which we were treated to Bob's seductive homilies (Ferber 1977a, 1977b, 1979, 1981). His skill as an editor is legendary and need not be repeated here, except to note that JCR's growth, development, its indelible position among social-science journals owes much to him. One wonders how he accomplished so much without apparent effort. One wonders how many clickety-clacks punctuated the Illinois-Central commutes between his Champaign-Urbana and Chicago offices. Whatever was the case, there is little question that JCR established its foothold under Bob Ferber's editorship-henceforth, the journal was here to stay.

The unthinkable happened on September 8, 1981, when Bob died unexpectedly at the age of 59. He left a vast legacy, but it would take some time for everyone to realize its dimensions (see Kassarjian 1981, 1991). At the moment, we were just paralyzed by the shock of his passing. Then it occurred to us that JCR needed immediate attention. Fortunately, Audrey Young (Bob's managing editor) kept a cool head throughout the turmoil and a transition team was put into place to keep the journal running until a permanent editorial office could be reestablished. Seymour Sudman stepped forward and agreed to edit the remaining two issues of Volume 8, which went to press essentially on time. He carried out this responsibility with characteristic grace and effectiveness, without the remotest concern for recognition or thanks. But that is Seymour, whose many contributions to JCR have gone largely unheralded over the years. Meanwhile, the policy board was busy picking up the pieces, getting the journal back to "normal." Ferber's successor was to be a team-Hal Kassarjian and Jim Bettman--effective January 1, 1982.


The JCR inherited by Hal and Jim was an established journal, but it arrived at its new home in Los Angeles with many loose ends. There was the ordinary confusion that accompanies any editorial transition, but now there was much more. This was no ordinary transition. It had not been planned. In a flash, the journal had lost its famous helmsman. Bob Ferber was a hard act to follow under the best of circumstances and these were hardly the best. There was concern that public confidence in JCR might erode. Kassarjian and Bettman were highly-respected researchers, but could they sustain the journal at the level Bob had achieved for it? This was a scary juncture in the life of JCR.

Happily, the fears were unfounded. With characteristic aplomb (and endless hours of ad hoc learning), Hal and Jim set about the task of calming JCR's many constituencies. (Bettman's imminent move across the country to the Fuqua School was accommodated alongside all the other start-up details.) Quietly, but firmly, these co-editors trotted out administrative and leadership talents that few of us imagined they possessed. More reviewers were enlisted and authors were figuratively caressed as the volume of submitted papers increased dramatically. JCR was not only to be safe in its new hands, it was to grow. We had survived the trauma of Bob's loss. The journal was moving forward in a post-Ferber era.

The Kassarjian-Bettman team set out to make JCR still better, yet not to forego its interdisciplinary goal. Toward this end, they initiated many changes-the appointment of seven advisory editors, a great expansion of the editorial board, and a double-blind manuscript- review process-ail of which were announced in the first issue under their watch (see Kassarjian and Bettman 1982). With the exception of an advisory-editor scheme (abandoned by 1985), these new mechanisms worked well (see Kassarjian and Bettman 1988) and the increasingly large flow of manuscripts received prompt and thorough reviews. (It was during the UCLA period that JCR's manuscript submission totals first crossed the 200-per-year level. Subsequent editors have been pleased to maintain that stability.) This was also the period during which the interpretivist (aka postmodem) paradigm began to challenge the dominant positivist thinking in JCR circles, and it would be remiss to ignore the risk assumed by Hal and Jim as they encouraged every plausible attempt by submitting authors to breathe fresh air into the discipline. The pluralism we now take for granted was hotly contested during those years and it is fortunate that the journal was being run by editors with an eye to the future, yet an ear to the ground. These were heady times; we were feeling our oats, as it were, convinced that the discipline was robust enough to sustain internecine squabbles.

Overall, the Kassarjian-Bettman period in the journal's history was marked by a good deal of growth-issues were becoming thicker and their contents reflected increasing diversity. We were not seeing the sort of interdisciplinary work the founders had envisioned (contents then, as now, were driven from the bottom up, by submissions), but authorial voices were not in unison either. We were not without problems (and Hal and Jim were by now exhausted), but the outlook for the discipline and the journal was decidedly optimistic. The immediate problem confronting Rich Lutz, as he assumed the editorship in 1988, was to build on these strengths and, as always, to move us a bit more toward that evasive interdisciplinary goal.


If JCR began under Ron Frank, established its foothold under Bob Ferber, and stabilized under Hal Kassarjian and Jim Bettman, it came of age under the editorship of Rich Lutz at the University of Florida, beginning in 1988. In part, Rich (as have all the journal's editors) benefitted from the gains of his predecessors, which needed merely to be consolidated. Beyond that, however, he initiated several things that mark the JCR we recognize today. With characteristic vigor, Rich outlined many of these in an editorial at the outset of his watch (Lutz 1988)--an expanded editorial board (particularly to include post-positivist expertise), the reinstitution of an advisory-editor system, and the now-famous statement of editorial philosophy (complete with a revised style sheet). All these changes were designed to ensure JCR's impact on the discipline, particularly its growing position as the interdisciplinary repository of consumer-behavior research, and by virtually any standard they proved very (some would suggest wildly) effective. "Those amazing JCR reviews" can be traced to this period simply because Rich rode such close herd on the editorial board (whose best were now being recognized with annual awards), on the ad hoc reviewers and, most of all, on himself. We were publishing more pages and these reflected increasing diversity. (On the latter point, it is reasonable to characterize this period as the inflection during which "post-modern" perspectives shed their weird-science connotation within JCR circles. Lutz would not tolerate intellectual arrogance; he insisted on paradigmatic diversity.) The journal was approaching the point where it had no real competition for first place among consumer-behavior scholars and it was beginning to show up respectably in citation indices. None of this satisfied Rich's never enough standards, of course (see Lutz 1991), but a fair reading of this period would conclude that it was virtually all positive.

This was also the period during which JCR came of age in a business-operations sense. For some years it had been clear that our editors and their staffs were spending altogether too much time on non-editorial, yet essential, matters. Good editors may have no taste or talent for things such as subscription fulfillment and printing contracts, yet these matters require careful attention if a journal is to survive, let alone prosper, and they become more complicated with growth. Although Keith Hunt had served us well during a previous period of near chaos, it was becoming clear that even he could no longer manage everything our large operation required.

Perversely, however, our problems constituted a bargaining strength, as commercial publishers began to court us. The highly successful JCR had become a valuable asset, a takeover target of sorts. Over the ensuing months a flurry of negotiating with several publishers occurred, with the result that we struck an agreement with the University of Chicago Press, which began publishing JCR with Volume 17, in June, 1990. Essentially, this agreement (since renewed) calls for UCP to fund the operating costs of the journal in return for a share of any profits. JCR is guaranteed a percentage of subscription revenue, controls subscription rates, and is freed from all responsibility except that of editorial content. (Which is to say it benefits from the long-established facilities and reputation of UCP.) The arrangement has unshackled our editorial office from some onerous responsibilities (placing those in high] y-experienced hands) and thereby cleared the desk, properly, for matters of editorial policy. In addition, the contract has provided a degree of financial stability to the journal, which would be unavailable to us were we to have remained the sole venture capitalist. Hence Rich Lutz should be recognized not only for the editorial achievements accrued during his stint but also for bringing JCR into "the big time" in a business sense.

On that score, it would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge the singular effort of Michelle Miller Hannon who, in addition to her other JCR duties, spearheaded the initial negotiating with UCP, in all its laborious detail. (As policy-board president during that period, this writer observed her skill and dedication firsthand.) We take nothing away from Rich when we affirm that JCR's deal with UCP would not be so swell were it not for Michelle's incredible enthusiasm and persistence. She is an extraordinary professional, yet another in the long line of staff people who have refused to regard their JCR responsibilities as merely a job. As we concluded Volume 17, then, the journal was something of a high-flying enterprise. It had developed on a variety of fronts and these gains needed to be consolidated. Its next editor would need a steady hand. Since no one manifests this quality better than Kent Monroe, he was appointed by the policy board.


More than any of his predecessors, Kent Monroe inherited a successful JCR in 1991. Lest it be inferred that he was handed a piece of cake, however, we should recognize that his assignment was fraught with downside risk-we had a lot to lose were the journal to be mismanaged. Based on his presentation to the policy board in 1989 (see Monroe 1990, 1991), it was apparent that Kent realized this. Moreover, his suggested strategy of "nudging JCR along" seemed just the delicate hand required for the time. He would need extraordinary patience because, in addition to the usual turmoil accompanying the editorial-office transition (Gainesville to Blacksburg), the business-operations transition to the University of Chicago Press had yet to be completed. That would seem to be a very full plate, yet still another complication intervened as he decided to move to the University of Illinois only months after his editorial stint began. (We began to wonder about the possibility of a Bettman bacterium.)

Kent was very sensitive to JCR's original interdisciplinary objective and to the limited success experienced in attaining it. After the sort of careful analysis one associates with him, he concluded that the journal was very (too?) full of empiricism, bred largely out of psychological theory. We were not publishing many review papers and, in general, there was little that could be called theory development. Our ideas and methodologies were essentially borrowed ones and we were not really defining, describing, or explaining consumer behavior as an entity unto itself. Too many of us were taking an expedient, "cherry-picking" approach to research, rather than grounding our work in its proper (but developmentally difficult) perspective. Kent sought to correct all this with several gentle moves, using some principles of signaling theory. He expanded the editorial board, particularly to include more female scholars and those constituencies historically under-represented. He commissioned think pieces by some of our senior scholars (e. g., Wells 1993) in an effort to sensitize everyone to our heritage and legacy. And he encouraged papers (both theoretical and applications-oriented) whose conceptual underpinnings differed from the usual. All these moves were in the cause of promoting greater diversity, with the hope that, ultimately, they would encourage interdisciplinary thinking.

That goal was not realized (see Monroe 1993a, 1993b), but neither was it thwarted. JCR reached new heights of pluralism under Kent's watch and it continued to grow-the quarterly issues expanded to whatever size necessary to accommodate all the acceptable manuscripts (with some spillover for his successor). Kent would be the first to admit to an unfulfilled agenda (see Monroe 1994), but there can be no question that he accomplished all that was expected of him and more. The JCR he passed on had all the momentum of and more diversity than the journal he inherited. As Brian Sternthal prepared to chart a course for the future, therefore, any question of the journal's credibility was moot. The new editor's attention, perhaps for the first time in JCR's short history, could focus on issues at the forefront of consumer research.


Although it would be rash to characterize JCR's first twenty years as an unqualified success, it is fair to say that most academic journals envy our position. As Brian Sternthal took the helm of JCR in 1994, he had the luxury of options largely unknown to his predecessors. Brian's problem is not a struggle to achieve respectability, but the slippery challenge of staying on top, of keeping intact JCR's preeminent position among social -science journal s, of satisfying the strict expectations associated with a leader. Since he deals from a position of strength he can afford to take certain chances, but a poor choice--because we are so conspicuous in the research community-can bear severe consequences.

Brian realizes all this, and has been astute enough to surround himself with a cadre of associate editors with whom he can pool his judgment. 'Me collective wisdom of Brian, Joe Alba, John Lynch, Bob Meyer, Marsha Richins, Debbie Roedder John, John Sherry, and Russ Winer is not likely to be led astray, so we should not fear being run aground by JCR's new crew. Only time will tell where and how far we will be taken, of course, but it is already clear that they plan to run a tight ship (see Sternthal 1994). A smart guess would be to expect diversity, a genuine concern for conceptual and methodological rigor, and no tolerance for indolence in any form things JCR has always stood for, only more so, since the whole world now has a spyglass trained on us. Will this mean impossible acceptance standards for contributing authors? Tougher ones, to be sure; but certainly not anything beyond our potential. And that, after al i, is what the journal has always sought to squeeze out of each one of us.


JCR's unarguable success over these twenty years, like that of any journal, is due most palpably to the papers it has published. Of course those state-of-the-art pieces would not have appeared under its imprint had not their authors been convinced that the journal was the most suitable and prestigious outlet for their work. That so many consumer researchers have regarded JCR as the place to publish might be dismissed as luck or attributed to matters of happy circumstance (being in the right place at the right time), but it more likely reflects how the journal has operated. Specifically, a tripartate harmony of editors (and their staffs), the editorial board, and the policy board has always resonated a welcome theme to contributors-JCR welcomes your work (even if it is "different"), our review process is aimed at heightening its impact and, if it meets our standards, it will be published without unreasonable delay-and there is no reason to suppose that this chant will not continue into the foreseeable future. Achieving this harmony has not been easy and there is nothing automatic about maintaining it. Since it has been the key to JCR's success, however, it would be foolish to change things--we should look to the journal's past to anticipate its future.

A contour of JCR's contents has been the subject of several analyses (see Cote, Leong and Cote 1991, Hoffman and Holbrook 1993, Leong 1989, Zinkhan, Roth and Saxton 1992). While there are many ways to interpret these findings, a fair conclusion would be that the journal cites, more than it is cited by, comparable social-science serials. That JCR has a surplus of such outdegree likely reflects its historical subject-concentration on marketing and psychology. It has published comparatively few papers of the sort most likely to be cited by cognate disciplines (e. g., integrative reviews, novel methodologies, unique conceptualizations) and this relative dearth-along with "the interdisciplinary tightrope"-has been a source of concern for many years. (Everyone recognizes the situation and its antecedents. The problem, notwithstanding some attenuation in recent years, is what to do about it.) Recognizing the inherent limitations in such a tack, we have traditionally dumped this imbalance in the already-overloaded lap of JCR's editors, whom we expect to be superhuman.

JCR's Editors-Only the Best Need Apply

Since JCR's editor plays such a pivotal role in the journal's well-being, a great deal of care has marked the editor-selection process. Editors are appointed for three-year terms, beginning with the calendar year, but their editorial responsibility begins with the volume year (in June). For example, Brian Sternthal's first issue was Volume 21, Number 1 (June 1994), even though his term of office dates from January 1, 1994. Choosing a new editor takes almost two years' lead time. (The search which culminated in Brian's selection began in the Spring of 1992; he was appointed on December 13 of that year and, with Kent, spent all of 1993 effecting an orderly, Champaign- Urbana-to-Evanston transition.) The policy board advertises the position widely and consults with JCR's editorial board. The received applications are evaluated and a few (usually three) finalist-candidates are invited to prepare presentations for the board. Each finalist submits an extensive written document, which the board studies for some weeks and uses as the basis for discussion when each finalist appears personally before the board. The presentations afford candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of JCR, as well as their aptitude for achieving its goals. (Until recently, each candidate also was required to bring institutional support to the office, but that issue is no longer a significant consideration.) The would-be editor must be smart, but not arrogant. S/he (thus far, every editor has been "he") must have a respectable bibliography, for reasons of credibility and to assure empathy for contributing authors' concerns. Knowledge of the discipline-past, present, and likely future-is essential, otherwise there is little to guide the selection of acceptable manuscripts. An editor must have interpersonal skills, because most of what s/he must tell people is bad news. Perhaps most of all, however, a successful editor must want the job and be willing to give it the enormous time and energy it requires. (It is a rule--every editor's personal life and private ambitions suffer during the term of office.)

Given these stringent criteria, it is a wonder that JCR has been able to corral such an unbroken string of wise and dedicated editors. We must assume that these people, apart from their obvious qualities, are researchers who care not only about their own work, but also about the discipline, per se, and who have perceived the latter concern as a responsibility. If there is such a thing as professional noblesse oblige, all JCR's editors have demonstrated it and we all have benefitted. For their part, each of our editors would insist that, while a contribution has been made, much also has been received. Indeed, the most consistent theme shared by former editors is how much they learned, how much they grew as a consequence of editing JCR. Every one of them experienced some disappointment and frustration but, in retrospect, these pale in comparison with the accrued personal development. All of them allow that they did not publish as broad a variety of papers as they would have liked and that they never enjoyed the luxury of a top down editorial strategy, but each of them just as quickly admits how his understanding of and appreciation for the discipline grew as a result of the editorship experience.

The Editorial Review Process-JCR's Guiding light

A similar chorus of hosannas is due JCR's editorial review board which, over the past twenty years, has been an exemplar of expertise, efficiency, and civility. (If there is a more constructive, more dedicated set of reviewers, this writer would like to be introduced to them.) The exceptional thing about a JCR review is not that it is thorough, not that it is timely, not that it is professionally helpful, or not that it is written in a constructive fashion, but that it is all of these. The quality of JCR reviews is legendary, as are the skill and dedication of those responsible for them. None of this is by chance; reviewers are selected with great care, they are widely experienced, and each agrees to abide by JCR's editorial philosophy. Submitting authors therefore do not encounter a bunch of hired guns, eager to find every conceivable error in a manuscript, relishing the prospect of embarrassing yet another would-be researcher. Rather, manuscripts are treated with respect and, when possible, improved cooperatively to the point where they satisfy JCR's acceptance standards. Although most manuscripts do not have the potential to meet these standards (over the years, about 85 percent of all submissions have been rejected), their authors are not dismissed as incompetent. Instead, the good in each paper is highlighted and suggestions are made for developing it.

This policy places a significant burden on our reviewers and editors (truly spectacular papers are the easiest to review), but it has remained in place for some time. As a consequence, a number of papers is published every year in other journals, based on what their authors learned in the process of being rejected by JCR. This is good human relations, of course, but it also has proved to be smart editorial policy-many successful JCR contributors learned how to do and present acceptable work as a result of previous, unsuccessful attempts. No author likes rejection letters, but one from JCR always manages to convey a tone of hope, the sense that one should not be discouraged, a challenge to persevere. Because these rejections are always devoid of enmity, they commonly are received-after the initial shock-in the constructive spirit in which they are sent. More than one researcher's career has been salvaged by this policy and the discipline has benefitted as a consequence. All this because our ad hoc reviewers, our editorial board, and our editors have regarded manuscript assessment as an act of stewardship, a process where the scarce resource of ideas must be handled with utmost care. Surely mistakes have been made, but JCR has not come by its enviable reputation among authors because it treats them badly. Perhaps John Sherry best captures the spirit of it all when he asserts JCR's reviewing process to be an integral part of the gift economy that sustains our academic enterprise.

The Policy Board-JCR's Invisible Hand

The policy board is the remaining element that contributes to JCR's successful operation. Few people understand what this "board of directors" actually- does, but its functions impinge directly on how and how well the journal satisfies its authors and audience. Most obviously, this board selects JCR's editors. It also promulgates broad editorial policy. Beyond diversity and the interdisciplinary imperative, however,what the journal publishes is left to the discretion of the editor; the board has never been interested in micromanagement. Editors serve at the pleasure of the board and it has questioned them frequently, but such queries are more in the nature of explanations than confrontations. In turn, editors often have asked the board for counsel on problems they encounter or ideas they are considering. The board thinks of the editor as the journal's chief operating officer-someone to be selected with great care, to be supported, but to be left free to do the job, unencumbered by a group of doting overseers.

Board members are appointed by their respective organizations (JCR's sponsoring associations), typically for three-year terms. Presently, the board consists of twelve members-one each for the original ten sponsors (less ACCI, which dropped its affiliation, but which was replaced by ICA) plus two others, representing APA Division 8 and AAA, which associations since have become sponsors. (At this writing, three other associations have petitioned for sponsorship.) These members, like JCR's editors, serve without remuneration or apparent perquisites. (They pay the same subscription rates, receive their copies of the journal in the same mail, and are otherwise treated identically to other JCR subscribers. As authors, they receive the same rejection letters as everyone else.)

From the perspective of ACR, the board's diversity is both good and bad. Good because it naturally brings a wide range of perspective to the table, and that keeps JCR on its toes, so to speak. But bad because ACR gets just one of twelve votes when ballots arc cast. Before anyone gets the impression that ACR's (or any other sponsor's) interests have been sacrificed on an altar of diversity, however, it is instructive to look at an issue of the journal to see just how alien these eleven votes are likely to be. The majority of policy board members are not strangers to ACR and they don't vote as enemies. Indeed, the board has a tradition of doing what is best for JCR and, since its and ACR's interests have always been virtually identical, we have been well served. (Having observed board behavior for some years, it is not clear to this writer how an all-ACR board might have acted differently.) One should not get the impression from any of this that the board has no internal problems, however. Any group of twelve will find some things on which disagreement is inevitable. But in fairness, nothing in this writer's recollection has ever been such a bone of contention that the journal suffered as a consequence of gridlock. The board's most difficult problem over the years has been the dedication (more explicitly, lack of it) of some very few of its members. To ACR people, this may seem strange. After all, the board's principal meeting is held in conjunction with the annual ACR conference. What seems so convenient to us, however, is not so to those very few board members who are not active in ACR. Their attendance represents a real chore. Although we have taken several steps to alleviate this problem, it is not yet resolved and we continue to wrestle with it.

Subscription rates are a board decision; so was the agreement with the University of Chicago Press. And so is a myriad of details that affects the journal's solvency and liquidity. We are a not-for-profit organization with a conservative bent. By almost any reasonable comparison,JCR's subscription rates are low. That is by design. Our financial position is very solid-to the point where we felt it prudent to place our investments in the hands of a longstanding financial-management house. That is boring stuff until one realizes that, because of the board's careful policies, JCR's editors have been free to publish all the acceptable papers they get. (Those fat issues are very expensive.) Similarly, we have been confronting the dawn of electronic publishing. Everyone comments when the appearance of the journal changes, but we must consider the possibility that journals as we know them may soon become an anachronism. It is already easier and cheaper to retrieve an article through a computer bulletin board than to buy a reprint. The first twenty of JCR's volumes take up some 2,400 cubic inches of shelf space (more if they are bound), yet these contents would fit easily on a single 5-inch CD/ROM-which can be indexed better and doesn't fail prey to the razor blades of selfish library patrons.

Finally, the board is just as aware as everyone else that JCR is not as user-friendly as it might be, particularly to people whose jobs require the use of consumer research. Toward this end, we are examining ways by which we might give practitioners better access to the journal's contents. Around most commercial research departments, for example, JCR is called a top-of-the-shelf journal-not for its prestige but for where it is housed-and it would help our cause if we deciphered some of the journal's arcana for such would-be users. (Talking to ourselves may be fun, but it isn't the only way to develop the discipline.) Overall, the policy board is continuing the long tradition of supporting the public aspects of JCR. That most people do not "see" the board's actions does not matter, so long as the consequences are apparent. Like JCR's editors and reviewers, the policy board has a history of dedication to the journal's goals and well-being. Indeed, for those wont to diminish the board's significance, it is well to remember that it came first.


Although this commemoration has been written from an ACR perspective, anyone remotely familiar with JCR would conclude that-in spite of all its successes-it has thus far failed to achieve its goal of being a truly interdisciplinary journal. Its contents have been very lopsided in favor of experimentation, inspired by psychology and housed in a marketing-like context. We have seen very few conceptual or methodological breakthroughs and we still are waiting for the long-sought theory of consumer behavior-the one not pieced together from other disciplines. We have rarely paused sufficiently to summarize what we do know about various facets of consumer behavior and to integrate this information. It is as though we haven't had a master plan for accumulating a corpus of knowledge, much less one for applying it to the world's problems. Among our ranks we have some perfectly brilliant thinkers; yet even they seem to have been more concerned with specialized research than with the orderly development of disciplinary understanding. Distressing. Frustrating.

Before we leap to weary forecasts that JCR and the discipline are doomed to a desultory future, it is useful to consider these problems in perspective. It is altogether possible that our close proximity to these disappointments jades our perception of them. We have become our worst critics. Our impatience has clouded our ability to judge progress objectively. JCR has existed for twenty years and we fret that its every issue is not replete with the quantum leap chapters of consumer behavior's history. In our frustration, we fail to recognize two critical things. First, the horizon involved is but a speck of time; no discipline evolves, much less matures, in so few years. Second, no epic unfolds recursively; there are always false starts, excessive considerations of trivialities, and ontological bickerings. So instead of flagellating ourselves over the paltry accomplishments of the past, we should focus on the future-on our ability to recognize the myriad facets of the consume r-behavior mosaic and to weave them into the epic story everyone will understand. That raincheck is what all JCR's editors have issued to us. That promissory note is what influences their behavior-how they evaluate submitted papers, why they commission invited ones, and when they promulgate those oh-so-carefully-worded editorials. Their job is to accumulate all the pieces of the story that one day (but not prematurely) will be composed. To belabor the cliche, they truly must be able to see the forest for the trees.

Like all journals, JCR has been a product of its time. It has reflected the currents within consumer research,even as it has given shape to them. It captured a dramatic upheaval and legitimized it, proclaiming an editorial mandate for the emerging discipline of consumer behavior. It provided a forum for this scholarly tradition, giving voice to new ideas and approaches, but never privileging one perspective over others. Ontological roots have been planted and a corpus of knowledge has emerged. But we delude ourselves if we regard all this as anything more than a beginning. We are still in a groping stage, trying to sort the wheat from the chaff and struggling to overcome our insular way of thinking (that unwritten rhetorical calculus which we deny publicly, but which conspires against fresh, integrative contemplation). Most of us are adept at (and happier) doing studies within the inner sanctum of a specialty, no matter how arcane, how tortured the connection with sensible theory, or how removed the apposition to consumers' everyday lives. Not to worry, however, for the safety of such cocoons is under increasing threat. With every passing day, our review process insists-beyond facts stated articulately-that JCR papers make a significant contribution, that they add something worthwhile to the corpus of consumer-behavior literature. But this ratcheting takes time; we must be patient while it takes effect. We cannot expect JCR miraculously to transcend the era of which it is but a product.

As we consider the development of consumer behavior, it seems reasonable that (like all disciplines) it should follow the familiar Hegelian pattern of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. Thus far, JCR's pages have been skewed toward thesis, with some incidence of antithesis. Ali this has been in the cause of assembling the facets of the consumer-behavior mosaic, while analyzing them for authenticity. There have been few attempts actually to construct the mosaic for the sensible reason that neither its components nor their pattern of fit is sufficiently clear. Eventually that blueprint will be revealed but, until it is, we must remain watchful.

On the occasion of JCR's tenth anniversary, its editors lamented the mix of papers that had been published, expressing a particular concern for the specialized direction in which the journal then seemed to be headed (see Kassarjian and Bettman 1984). Although they did not use the term, Hal and Jim were distressed that JCR had been able to feature so little synthesis over the course of ten volumes. While we can identify with their chagrin, it seems unwarranted historically-there was very little to synthesize. Indeed the early "integrative" papers in JCR and the molar problems they addressed reflect more an agenda for the discipline and journal than a synthesis of consumer-behavior knowledge. That agenda is what attracted so many researchers and it has never been abandoned although, to the consternation of everyone, we seem to be taking forever getting through it. The synthesis (or syntheses) will happen in due course, but we must not let impetuosity distract or dissuade us from our original goal. No one has ever demonstrated (even claimed) that an interdisciplinary approach to consumer behavior is wrong-headed. Difficult, to be sure, but not stupid. We have had many opportunities over the years to abandon that goal, to take an easier path. Yet we have never succumbed to the temptation. Perhaps that is because the journal was founded on a note of optimism and we have continued tilting at windmills. Call us incorrigible romantics, but we believe in happy endings. So while our critics chuckle, we will stay busy-framing JCR's multidisciplinary rainbow, focusing its interdisciplinary light.


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