Some Recollections From a Quarter Century Ago

Harold H. Kassarjian, UCLA
[ to cite ]:
Harold H. Kassarjian (1995) ,"Some Recollections From a Quarter Century Ago", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, eds. Frank R. Kardes and Mita Sujan, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 550-552.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, 1995      Pages 550-552

SOME RECOLLECTIONS FROM A QUARTER CENTURY AGO

Harold H. Kassarjian, UCLA

[Portions of this paper were written while the author was a Visiting Professor and Interim Dean at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan, Armenia. For a more complete presentation of this material, see Harold H. Kassarjian, "Scholarly Traditions and European Roots of American Consumer Behavior," In G. Laurent, G. L. Lilien, and B. Pras (eds.), Research Traditions in Marketing, Boston: Klewer, 1994, pp. 265-279; Harold H. Kassarjian and James R. Bettman, "Tenth Anniversary Editorial," Journal of Consumer Research, 10, March 1984, v-vi; Harold H. Kassarjian, "In Memoriam: Robert Ferber, Journal of Consumer Research, 8 (December 1981), vi-viii (Reprinted from A. Mitchell (ed.), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol IX, iii-iv). Obviously the interested reader should turn to the papers presented in this session by Jerry Kernan, bill Wells, and Joel Cohen, as well as Kernan's paper presented in the session on the 20th Anniversary of the Journal of Consumer Research also found in this volume. Jim Engel presents his recollections in an engaging article presented in the June 1994 ACR Newsletter.]

It was a different world ... 25 years ago. In Spring 1970, Professor Venkatesan sent out the preliminary schedule of the first true Association for Consumer Research meeting in Amherst. Not unlike today, it was to start Friday morning and go through Sunday noon. Ven wrote:

The total cost of the sessions will be $65.00. This includes transportation from and to Bradley Airport (in Hartford-Springfield), two nights (lodging) in Amherst, all meals starting from lunch on Friday through lunch on Sunday (as well as refreshments and other conference materials.)

A year later, for the 1971 meetings the registration fee was reduced to $45.00. From the first volume of the Newsletter we see:

The registration fee of $45.00 includes all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinners for the three days as well as coffee breaks), registration materials, and a copy of the conference proceedings.

However it did not include the "hotel" charges. Room rates were $8.00 for a single and $12.00 for double occupancy. The following year in Chicago the registration including lunches and dinners stayed the same $45.00 but room rates jumped to $9.50 per person per night, and for those who came by car, parking was an exorbitant fifty cents per entry.

Indeed, it was a different time. It academia, the cognitive revolution had started in psychology. Universities were in a growth spurt and we were headed for the moon to everyone's disbelief and amazement. The Ford and Carnegie reports criticizing the state of business schools was beginning to have an effect.

Little by little, thinking and ideas from scientific disciplines began to infiltrate into marketing. New names had appeared and were making an impact: Bob Ferber, Paul Green, Al Kuehn, Al Silk, Everett Rogers, Bob Holloway, Jag Sheth, and of course, Joel Cohen, Bill Wells and Jerry Kernan. New ideas and weird approaches were being introduced to marketing: laboratory research, mathematical models, empiricism, simulation, and positivism ... the era of data analysis had arrived.

But it was also a difficult time in academia. The country soon found itself in another war. Campuses, at times, looked more like a war zone with helmeted troops, rifles, and tear gas, rather than a quiet sanctuary. Marketing was perceived as the hand maiden of the military-industrial complex. Enrollment in classes dropped precipitously. Academic jobs dried up. The Young Turks-today's old-geezers-vainly tried to distance themselves from the establishment. Led by the likes of Kotler and Levy we broadened the marketing concept to include not only sellers of coffee and tooth paste, but also hospitals, charities, universities, social causes, and of course, the government with the help of the likes of Mary Gardner Jones and the Federal Trade Commission. Many of us were loudly proclaiming that consumer research could be used for the good as well as the evils of trade-that we could be relevant to the protection of consumers as well as their exploitation. We proclaimed that we are not the hand-maidens of industry.

In those days, some of us were in academia, for example, Bill Wells; others stayed in industry, for example, Joel Cohen; and still others of us went to Washington behind Bill Wilkie and Dave Gardner to work for the government: The Federal Trade Commission, the White House, The Postal Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration. It was exciting times, and our goals were more or less similar, modeler and behaviorist alike, academic, industry and government types alike. And so, the Association for Consumer Research emerged, an interdisciplinary group of ragtag psychologists, home economists, government regulators, advertising and marketing practitioners, operations researchers, marketing professors, and assorted others interested in the behavior of the consumer.

By the late 1960's there were more and more consumer behavior types coming into the field. Some were newly minted doctoral students and others were stepping over from sister disciplines. The Journal of Marketing Research, edited by Ferber, had recently begun publication was being overwhelmed by behavioral articles. For us, who were doing the research, it was getting harder and harder to find outlets for our work. In addition, the American Marketing Association in its usual conservative ways had been preventing too many behavioral articles from appearing in their program, in their proceedings, and in the Journal of Marketing Research. We had started to overwhelm the traditional marketing type articles of the era-a condition that the establishment at AMA considered unacceptable. Where ever behavioral types got together, there was talk of a new association and a new journal. Both were needed.

As you have heard over and over again, some time in early 1969, Jim Engel and the Ohio State Consumer Behavior group got a small seed grant, ironically from the AMA, for a workshop to be held at Ohio State. I don't know how the list of participants was selected but it included most everyone at the time in the field of consumer behavior. From bits and pieces and from failing memory, I recall a few events.

I had presented my study on the role of Blacks in Advertising. I shall never forget it. That Summer I was taking a trip to the Soviet Union. I had not finished the data processing or writing up the paper for the meeting so I took along computer output, and one day sat in a hotel and tried to finish writing the paper. It was mostly done that day except and I put all my handwritten yellow sheets of paper, tables, computer output, and scribblings in my new Samsonite brief case. A few days later when I was leaving, problems started. It was the time of the cold war, the Berlin wall, sabre rattling, Cuba, and both sides wary of the other.

So along comes Kassarjian trying to get out of the Soviet Union with a brief case crammed with numbers on computer paper, tables about Negroes (it was Negroes then, and not yet Blacks or African-Americans), and Jews and Mexicans and Chinese, and who knows what else. I had tables and tables of numbers. I had a hellova time explaining to Soviet officials in English what my notes on yellow pads were about. And what all the numbers meant. I feebly tried to explain that it was the percentages of blacks in ads in Goodhousekeeping and TIME and had absolutely nothing to do with the Soviet Union. I don't remember much anymore, I don't remember what was said and what stupid answers I gave, but I do remember being put into a car in a most unfriendly manner, taken to the plane that was awaiting me on the field, assured my baggage would arrive, wished a good trip and an invitation to return to Mother Russia.

Upon landing in Germany my next task was to get the paper typed up. A day more of writing, and the two days of typing with the help of my wife, Traute, on an ancient typewriter with a German Keyboard led to the final paper. Next a trip to the Post Office and my paper was off to Ohio State. A few days later (maybe it was a week or more), I was off to Ohio State. The conference papers had been duplicated and distributed, mine with all the typing errors and German characters.

All of the materials at the conference had on them the ACR logo. Ever wonder where that logo came from? It was created and designed by one of the staff people at the Ohio State extension programs to fill white space on the program. It has stayed substantially the same since. In a way the creation of that logo neatly represents ACR, in my opinion. Unlike other organizations, we did not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars designing a logo, ... it just sort of happened.

Housing at Ohio State was on campus. It may have been in executive program housing. I don't remember. But I do remember that it had a charm to it. There was more of a comraderie than one can find at a Marriott Palace or a Hilton Castle. Most of our meals were on campus, the student union or the faculty club or something. There was a bus from the meeting room to the dorms, but it was within walking distance. I remember walking back one late afternoon with several others: Stu Bither from Penn State for sure, perhaps Venkatesan and Joel Cohen, and perhaps Jerry Kernan. It was a hot day and we stopped at a little cafe for a beer, sitting at a creaky old table in front. The reaction of all of us was that this was a wonderful fantastic, fabulous meeting and that we simply must continue. We must meet again. There was an electricity in the air. Consumer Researchers had met together and talked for three days about studies and about research and about each-other's work.

That topic of conversation was being held in other places and that evening it was the common belief that we would continue. The next day, Saturday, we listened to more papers and that afternoon, one of the session was entitled something like, " a wrap-up" or "summary" or "future". Engel, I thought, but maybe it was Kollat, suggested at that session that we organize into a new organization. When it was over, I remember seeing Jim smile. His eyes proclaimed, we pulled it off, a great conference, and now a new association has been formed. I figured that Jim and his associates had the same idea that other clumps of attendees had. That we wanted it to continue. I remember saying that we needed money for mailings and to get started. Jim passed a hat around. I think it was Flemming Hansen who suggested that faculty should toss in $10 and students $5. ACR dues stayed at that level for many years. We all went away from that session very excited and that evening at cocktails and dinner the one consistent topic of conversation was the new association, the next meeting, a chair for the following year, and those sorts of issues. Jim Engel agreed to be the chairman of the new group until the following year when we could organize with a constitution and all those sorts of finery.

I don't remember much about the papers that were presented. On my session I think Tom Robertson and Jim Myers presented their stuff on diffusion. Doug Tigert introduced his work on psychographics.

Paul Green had a paper on multidimensional scaling. He was hot on that topic at that time. Ven was doing a lot of experimental work running subjects and he was on the program. It was here that Cohen and Goldberg presented their paper on instant coffee and cognitive dissonance that we had all worked on in 1968 at Illinois. Wells presented his paper on life style with the irreverent title, "It's Very Important for People to Wash Their Hands Before Eating Each Meal." Jim Engel, in his endearing article in the June 1994 ACR Newsletter presents more detail on what really happened, or at least what he thinks really happened.

During the rest of that year there was lots of phone calls and letters written back and forth. The next meeting was to be in 1970 at the University of Massachusetts, partially because Venkatesan was there and he agreed to be in charge of arrangements. The program chairman was Joel Cohen. I do know that Cohen had to pledge his soul, or at least a large amount of money to the "hotel" or to somebody, since the association did not have a track record and there was no reason why it should be believed that we could pay our bills. What gall Cohen had in those days.

I remember that Bettman was at Amherst at that first true ACR meeting, as was Bill Wilkie. Bob Ferber was there, Also, Jerry Kernan, Bill Wells, and I think Flemming Hansen-program chair of the 1995 ACR Europe conference. Jim Engel was there. Wilkie has a wonderful story on how the program chair for the following year was selected. Please ask him about it. It is hilarious and sort of true, although I think it must have been embellished a bit making it even funnier.

I had volunteered to be the editor of the Newsletter. In the first issue of the Newsletter (January 1971) I wrote:

"The first meeting of the Association for Consumer Research was held in Amherst, at the University of Massachusetts, on August 28-30, 1970. A great deal of enthusiasm, along with (some) hesitation, lead to the formation of the Association. About 120 people attended the first meeting under the directorship of M. Venkatesan. The university types were from Marketing, Psychology, Home Economics, Sociology, Agricultural Economics, and assorted others.

Since the meetings were held just prior to the American Marketing Association meetings in Boston, naturally the greatest representation came from marketing departments, although the response from other (academic departments), government and industry was not insignificant.

At the various formal and informal business meetings, the purposes of the organization began to emerge. Clearly, the overwhelming desire was to make the membership interdisciplinary. Hence we decided that the 1971 meetings would be held just before the American Psychological Association Convention in Washington. It was planned that in future years, we will meet in proximity to other associations, to make it convenient for all of us.

The Newsletter continues,

A new journal to be published on a quarterly basis is also now much more than merely a vision to be argued about. At a spontaneous advisory board meeting held in December, Joel Cohen was railroaded into investigating the possibility of housing the journal at the University of Illinois. He has been furiously gathering information, cost figures, negotiating with commercial publishers and such. At the 1971 meetings he will present a report and request approval of our amazing publishing venture. It is quite possible that the first issue of a new journal can emerge by early 1972. Full details will be presented at the 1971 meetings ... .

It was, indeed, a different time. We had formed a new association-an interdisciplinary group that was not beholden to the establishment or the military-industrial complex so maligned at that time. It was fun, the conferences tended toward the irreverent and people worked together to get things done because it was fun. I remember in 1977 our conference hotel, just shortly before we were to meet, pushed us out because they had a larger group with more clout that wanted the hotel that weekend. Keith Hunt and I, as program chair and president, flew to Chicago and that afternoon selected a new hotel, the O'Hare Hilton. In just days, everything was reorganized and changed to fit the new venue. Well, almost everything. Disaster struck when we realized that Hunt had forgotten to bring the ACR football for the annual ACR football game. Keith Hunt, as only Keith Hunt can do, managed to persuade the hotel manager to run from O'Hare to downtown Chicago to buy us a football. Somehow, playing football in front of the O'Hare Airport with planes landing and taking off, traffic, noise, and amazed travelers looking on, has to be a major highlight of that year.

There are many other highlights that you have heard about and will hear more about in these three days. To me, the most exciting of all those events was first, the start of this organization. And second, the start of our amazing publishing venture-the birth of the Journal of Consumer Research. But that is another story to be told at another time-in fact, tomorrow evening.

We, ... well at least I, will not be here twenty-five years from now for the celebration of our 50th Anniversary. Others will take our place on this podium to talk about the previous 25 years. I hope they will be able to tell a generation of consumer researchers who are today yet in diapers, that they too had fun. I hope they will say that at the end of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first century consumer research continued to be as exciting and as interesting as ever, but most of all, it continued to be irreverent and fun!

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