Declaring a Discipline: Reflections on Acr's Silver Anniversary

ABSTRACT - This paper reflects on ACR's formative years, on the conditions and people surrounding the association's establishment in 1969. The events which conspired to produce consumer behavior as a discipline are recounted and traced to the ACR ethos which developed over the subsequent 25-year period.


Jerome B. Kernan (1995) ,"Declaring a Discipline: Reflections on Acr's Silver Anniversary", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, eds. Frank R. Kardes and Mita Sujan, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 553-560.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, 1995      Pages 553-560


Jerome B. Kernan, George Mason University


This paper reflects on ACR's formative years, on the conditions and people surrounding the association's establishment in 1969. The events which conspired to produce consumer behavior as a discipline are recounted and traced to the ACR ethos which developed over the subsequent 25-year period.

As we pause to commemorate-indeed, celebrate-the Association for Consumer Research's first twenty-five years, it is useful to reflect on our beginnings. Any worthwhile organization respects its history, for therein lies its heritage and legacy. The origins of this association, which has served as the nexus for so many of our careers, can be traced to a cadre of people who seized the opportunity to declare a new discipline-what we now call consumer research. As one of the surviving dinosaurs of ACR's pre-history, I have been asked to reflect on these early years-to offer some perspective on what happened and why-in an attempt to explain the events that shaped the organization's evolution. It is a privilege to do this, but I must begin with a huge caveat. Several recollections of ACR's origins have been spawned by this period of celebration (e.g., Cohen 1995, Engel 1994, Kassarjian 1995, Wells 1995) which, because they are recollections, do not agree in every detail. Conceivably, these emic versions of the organization's history might yield to a satisfactorily etic amalgamation (to the "truth," in a positivist sense), but we who have offered them are content that they be regarded in the postmodern sense of experienced reality-what that period represented uniquely to each of us. [I want to express my appreciation to Frank Kardes and Mita Sujan for creating this opportunity to reflect on ACR's early years and to Joel Cohen, Hal Kassarjian, and Bill Wells for acting as a sounding board for my unreliable memory. Keith Hunt, as always, served as an additional reality check. However, none of these people should be blamed for any errors in this paper; these are my exclusive responsibility. Finally, I trust that no one mentioned here takes offense at my characterizations, which are well-intentioned and meant to be interpreted in the most charitable sense.] My reflections do not constitute a history of ACR. Owing to my longevity, a benevolent request to reminisce about the organization's formative period was extended and I acceded. My comments might be dangerously effete, of course, and readers should recognize this limitation.


Much as we would like to take all the credit, ACR's founders were helped immeasurably by a heady atmosphere that drove higher education, beginning in the early 1960s. (The political turmoil later in that decade did not seriously disrupt most American business schools, although it had a profound effect on other sectors of higher education.) Prior to that, business schools focused on vocational training. In marketing, for example, one learned about "functions," a euphemism for what practitioners did on a day-to-day basis. Charitably, this was a descriptive approach to the discipline, and students used more picturesque designations. The closest one got to consumer behavior were two functions, "buying" and "selling." Business-school graduates learned in spite of their training, corporate employers became disillusioned with the educational process, and eventually the problem was dumped in the laps of foundations for study. Three major reports emerged-Dahl, Haire and Lazarsfeld (1959) and Gordon and Howell (1959), both sponsored by the Ford Foundation, and Pierson et al. (1959), sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation. Although done independently, each of these reports recommended essentially the same cure for America's business schools-stop teaching descriptive material and start emphasizing theory and research. In particular, they urged that the curriculum and faculty attention be infused with the mathematical and behavioral-science foundations underlying the decision-making process. The charge of these reports to business schools was clear and adamant: Get respectable!

In response, deans tripped over one another in the rush to perform their institutional penance. Curricula were revised and faculties were transformed, largely by bolstering them with people trained in mathematics, statistics, and the behavioral sciences. The schools were forever changed, for these new people thought and behaved according to an arts-and-science ethos, including the preoccupation with research as the nexus of faculty life. The new faculty took on an elite status, owing to their special skills, short supply, and privileged terms of employment, so there was some resentment; but given the times, there was little dispute about who was wearing the white hats-every dean was happy to parade his bevy of stars before anyone who questioned his leadership. These halcyon days were further enabled by historically-unprecedented large budgets; economic times were good, the mood of the country was positive, benefactors and legislatures were generous, and there was a crop of baby-boom students clamoring for admission to college. And to business programs in particular, as this campus venue (with engineering) was seen as the launching pad to the American dream, even for women. This was a great period of expansion for America's business schools-in budgets, in physical construction, and in enrollments. It also provided the impetus for the phenomenal growth in our Ph.D. programs during the ensuing years.

In large part, the people who started ACR came from this privileged faculty pool. It is wrong to imply that pockets of support for the idea did not exist outside business schools (in psychology departments, in government agencies, and in industry), but the formal move to inaugurate a fledgling organization was made essentially by marketing professors, who shared an out-of-step objection to the managerial cadence of that period. This was the era of 4P-time; Jerry McCarthy was its Sousa and the AMA sought to enforce the credo that marketing is what marketing managers do. All this seemed alien to us, since we wanted to study how and why consumers behave as they do. We had little interest in using that knowledge to increase market share; the challenge-the fun part-was in figuring out how the world works, not in making the world work better. (To the extent that this distinction perseveres today, it explains why appeals to critical theory-e. g., Murray and Ozanne's 1991 JCR piece-have not been embraced by large numbers of ACR members.) We felt the need for a professional association that focused on what we cared about and did. AMA, with all its formality, its increasingly unforgiving size, its unholy alliance with textbook publishers, and its hiring-hall emphasis on recruiting and teaching, was avoiding everything we deemed central. Its conference papers were awful. Even when AMA broke from the Allied Social Sciences (where some 5,000 conferees would fight over hotel space, usually during the Christmas holidays, in some dreadful midwestern venue), to establish the Summer Educators Conference, things got no better. The problem (if not the solution) seemed simple: We didn't want a conference for educators; we needed one for researchers. And that's why we insisted that the term "research" be featured prominently in the new organization's name.

No one should infer that ACR's founding group-ragtag as we were in many ways-was not aware of its contemporary leverage. We were very active people, publishing in the best journals available. We were prominent (if not always beloved) at our universities and had that degree of self-sufficiency which only youth and naivetT can bestow. It is not boasting to say that we were very much full of ourselves, but it is equally true that none of us took himself all that seriously. We were embarking on a lark, which probably would work. But if it didn't, there was a whole life of tomorrows when we could try again. The immediate problem was to stake our claim, quickly and with sufficient credibility to make it stick. The solution resided in AMA. The plan, concocted over some months, was to get its blessing (and some of its money) under the rubric of "a workshop on experimental research in consumer behavior" to be held at Ohio State University in August, 1969. That workshop, shepherded by Jim Engel, has come to be designated as the first meeting of the organization now called ACR. Our cover story to AMA was that certain advanced methodologies were becoming available to consumer researchers and that these were worth investigating in a workshop setting. AMA (although Dick Cardozo may have seen through our scheme entirely) took a paternalistic stance and conferred its imprimatur almost without hesitating. So we were hatched out of AMA-its quasi-bastard child. Yet ACR got the legitimacy it needed and AMA got rid of some noisy complainers. Neither party to this birth is likely to have behaved so cavalierly, however, were it not for the heady times, the unbounded optimism, the prevailing Zeitgeist.


ACR grew out of AMA, but the fledgling organization hardly emerged overnight. We were neither prescient enough nor bold enough simply to plunge our banner into the intellectual terrain. Instead, we took a pragmatic path toward independence, what was then called scientific marketing. By contemporary standards, this may seem desultory, even cowardly, but it seemed efficacious at the time. "Respectability" was reckoned in accordance with logical positivism (the hypothetico-deductive model of science) and marketing was being nominated for scientific status within this context. Since consumer behavior-particularly if it could be quantified-contributed to marketing's ability to predict, our work took on an importance it otherwise lacked and this participation gave us a foot in the door.

A review of contemporary marketing books-e.g., Alderson 1957, Banks 1965, Bliss 1965, Boyd and Levy 1967, Ferber 1949, Frank and Green 1967, Frank, Kuehn and Massy 1962, Frank, Massy and Wind 1972, Green and Rao 1972, Green and Tull 1966, Green and Wind 1973, Howard 1963, l965, Oxenfeldt, Miller, Schuchman and Winick 1961, Robertson 1971, Wells 1974, Zaltman 1965-reveals that the overwhelming majority of them had a quantitative bent, in keeping with the "scientific" imperative of the time. Recall that this was the period during which Scott Paper's Tom McCabe engineered the establishment of the Marketing Science Institute (1962 at the Wharton School, later moved to Cambridge) and throughout which there was a serious debate over marketing's scientific status. In retrospect, that argument contained more rhetoric than reason, but its mere existence testifies to the tone of the times. The prevalent feeling among ACR's organizers was that we should move systematically, yet gradually, away from marketing toward our distinct identity. We wanted our own home but saw little profit in burning bridges along the way. This sentiment was especially strong among those from business and government, whose future with ACR depended on a marketing connection.

Those of us in university posts brought plenty of raw material to our marketing jobs-e.g., Berelson and Steiner 1964, Edwards 1957, Festinger 1957, Fishbein 1967, Handy and Kurtz 1964, Heider 1958, Karlins and Abelson 1959, Katona 1951, Katz and Lazarsfeld 1955, Kuhn 1963, Mills 1959, Osgood, Suci and Tannenbaum 1957, Rogers 1962, Shannon and Weaver 1949, Thurstone 1959-and we sought to infuse our work with these foundations. In addition, we had some prototypical consumer-behavior sources available, thanks largely to marketing practitioners-e.g., Dichter 1964, Ferber and Wales 1958, Foote 1961, Katona 1961, Newman 1957, Smith 1954, Wulfeck and Bennett 1954. Out of this conglomeration the early library of consumer behavior emerged-e.g., Arndt 1968, Bennett and Kassarjian 1972, Britt 1966, 1970a, 1970b, Cohen 1972, Cox 1967, Engel 1968, Farley, Howard and Ring 1974, Ferber 1977, Hansen 1972, Kassarjian and Robertson 1968, McNeal 1965, Myers and Reynolds 1967, Newman 1966, Nicosia 1966, Sheth 1974, Sommers and Kernan 1967, Tucker 1967, Ward and Robertson 1973, Zaltman, Pinson and Angelmar 1973. This array includes genuine textbooks, compilations of previously- published journal articles, and proceedings of workshops on various topics. The books everyone remembers from this period are Howard and Sheth (1969) and Engel, Kollat and Blackwell (1968)-the former because it represented the first comprehensive theory of consumer behavior that had been subjected to systematic empirical testing and the latter, accompanied by Blackwell, Engel and Kollat (1969) and Kollat, Blackwell, and Engel (1970), because it obviated what had been a pedagogical nightmare for us. We complained about the marketing orientation to consumer behavior but did little to change it. In the manner of spoiled children, most of us took from our host discipline while we cursed it. Similarly, some of us were aware of metaphysical alternatives to the received view of knowledge, yet we played along with the epistemological dicta of modernism in our teaching, research, and reviewing. This was disingenuous, but scientific marketing afforded us a bridge to the disciplinary turf where ultimately we could proclaim a new, realistic set of rules. We are only now coming to that realization and we may never have got here were it not for the courage of some people not among us at the outset. The most we "founders"can claim is the good sense not to have suffocated these people as they pleaded for realism in our discipline.


The 1969 workshop at Ohio State was a signal event in ACR's history, but it is wrong to imagine that this enterprise emerged out of nothing. Prior to our convening in Columbus there was no formal organization of consumer researchers, but there was a good deal of informal contact among us. As with most disciplines, we had hidden colleges; everyone knew who was doing what, who had the best ideas, who was a good sounding board. Indeed, several workshops occurred prior to the gathering arranged by Jim Engel. For example, NYU had hosted seminars since the early 1950s (Clark 1954, 1955, 1958); Joe Newman drew an impressive group together at Stanford in 1964 (Newman 1966); and Monty Sommers and I hosted a similar workshop at Austin in 1966 (Sommers and Kernan 1967). The following year saw the first of the Columbia conferences on buyer behavior (Arndt 1968) and John Howard's group followed this with another one in 1969 (Sheth 1974). In addition, people like the late Ray Bauer at Harvard (the only person I've ever encountered who could write finished manuscripts while watching NFL telecasts), after having stunned the 1960 AMA conference with his "Consumer Behavior as Risk Taking" paper, had placed many of his perceived-risk doctoral students in a network around the country-e.g., Johny Arndt at Columbia, Jeff Barach at Tulane, Don Cox at Coca Cola, Charlie King at the Krannert School, Stu Rich at Oregon, and Larry Wortzel at BU (see Cox 1967). This backdrop should suggest that there was nothing revolutionary about the Ohio State meeting; indeed, Jim and his colleagues faced no mystery about whom to invite-it was an evolutionary event for which they had merely to "round up the usual suspects." None of this is to detract from the importance of that gathering in August 1969, however, for it differed from all the previous ones in a most fundamental way. After all the casual alliances, all the ad hoc get-togethers, and all the ruminations about our confused professional identity, the Columbus enclave resolved to change things, and to do so with permanence. No one knew exactly what this meant (it was as much aspiration as understanding), but we were resolved to strike out on our own, to run up our flag, to declare consumer behavior as a discipline unto itself. Much remained to be done, but that commitment in 1969 is what makes the Ohio State meeting the de facto beginning of ACR. And what a time to begin! No one had yet proclaimed the world postmodern, but we converged on Columbus amidst a bewildering array of contemporaneous events-the country was abuzz about Ted Kennedy's account of his weekend at Chappaquiddick, everyone was celebrating Neil Armstrong's Apollo walk on the moon, hurricane Camille had just killed hundreds of Gulf-Coast residents, gay activists at the Stonewall Cafe alerted us to the future as they refused to accept the brutality of "New York's finest" passively, and there was this happening called Woodstock. That we were able to focus on consumer research within this cacophony says something about us, but whatever that may be is not clear even to this day. What is clear from the shards of August 1969 (now something of a collectors' item) is that Jim's group was thinking presciently, for there-big as life and exactly as we know it today-was the ACR logo, emblazoned on our workshop binders.


I suppose there are as many versions of that gathering in Columbus (also, perhaps, of its antecedents) as there were people in attendance. My own recollection is not all that clear (Bill Wells, to no one's surprise, gave the most interesting paper), but I am struck by how it seems, in retrospect, to age us. Can you imagine Marvin Goldberg as a graduate student? How about Cohen as an untenured assistant professor? Such reflections make those of us whose status hasn't changed since then feel positively ancient. The important part of that meeting, however, occurred just before we dispersed (many to the AMA meetings in Cincinnati). Beginning only half seriously, but eventually in a most considered context (we each pitched in some money), it was decided to move ahead with the idea of a new professional association. Jim, Joel, and Hal Kassarjian took the money and ran-ostensibly to cover their expenses while they investigated what needed to be done (at the now famous bar in Newport, Kentucky). Jim (see Engel 1994) would have you believe that only the three of them crossed the Ohio River that fateful night in the service of ACR's higher objectives, but those of us chasing our money-in familiar territory, no less-know better. In any case, out of that and numerous subsequent conversations evolved a set of initial objectives for our new organization and these were reported formally at our next gathering, Amherst, in 1970.


The 1970 AMA meetings were in Boston and UMASS had recently completed a new student center/conference facility, so Ven Venkatesan was prevailed upon to host the soon-to-be ACR gathering at Amherst. If you are familiar with New England, you realize that it is not the most convenient place to fly. Commonly, the airlines (the real ones) serve Boston and "other." The most convenient other for Amherst was Hartford/Springfield, accompanied by a forever van ride through western Massachusetts. I relate this because it punctuates our contemporary mentality about conference sites; these were the times before Keith Hunt roamed the globe in search of the most sybaritic venue available. We were not just cheap. Indeed, part of our reasoning was that a dreadful site would encourage people to concentrate on the conference business at hand. (What else was there?) Another objective of our fledgling organization that emerged at this conference was that paper sessions were to be true dialogues-not the numbing lectures we seem to have backslid into in recent years. All our sessions were full, the halls were empty, and we yelled at one another during presentations. And we learned. Like other organizations, we probably put too much emphasis on conferences, but that seemed important at the time. We were especially concerned that the dialogue be informed by other-than-academic-marketing considerations so we welcomed people different from ourselves to the sessions. (In fact, a perusal of ACR's membership or conference attendance during the early years will show that we attracted substantial numbers of nonmarketing academics and of people from both the business and public sectors. Somehow, we have lost much of this support in the intervening years.) These dialogues were variegated, but always lively and constructive-from a concern for content (mostly from business and government people) to one of methodology. (One recalls Joel's favorite comment: "This is awful!") We were reminded more than occasionally that our theories were either bankrupt or the product of larceny. And we resolved to correct all these shortcomings by devising Ph.D. programs for our progeny that would package for them the intellectual foundations we had been obliged to ferret out on our own. Moreover, these students would be brought on board as soon as they were ready, meaning that doctoral candidates would be welcomed at conferences, where they could benefit from the largest possible sounding board for their work. (From time to time, it has been suggested that ACR sponsor a doctoral consortium, after the fashion of AMA, but this idea has never come to fruition.) One more thing emerged concerning these students. It was decided-rather adamantly-that ACR conferences would not feature displays by textbook publishers and that we would not encourage them to sponsor cocktail parties, both in reaction to the hated AMA practices of the sort. In addition, there was to be no hiring-hall recruiting at our conferences; if students were to be interviewed, it was to be on an informal basis-a practice which prevails even to this day. In retrospect, these policies reflect our objective to distance ACR from the teaching-dominated tone of AMA and its conferences. In our organization, research was to be the focus-even to the point of including that word in the association's name. Regarding the name, incidentally, the A was never intended to stand for American. We were aware from the outset that our colleagues around the world had ideas from which everyone could benefit. It is therefore unfortunate, in spite of the long-term prodding of members like Fred van Raaij, that we waited until 1985 to sponsor a conference in Singapore (Tan and Sheth 1985), and until 1992 to sponsor one on the European continent (van Raaij and Bamossy 1993).

All these objectives emerged, more or less formally, at the Amherst conference. But ACR did not yet exist as an entity. That detail had to await our next conference, at College Park, a year hence. In the meantime, we were moving along at the behest of a committee, with Jim Engel serving as chair. So Ven arranged for the site, Joel handled the program (no proceedings), and everyone just pitched in, doing whatever needed doing. That operating mode pretty much characterized our early years, and it likely is the source of the organization's initial success. (Dumb luck also deserves a healthy share of the credit.) Those who wonder how we survived financially should not look askance at our paltry dues. Instead, they should realize that we took very much a proprietary interest in this association (there is no other word to describe it). It was commonplace, for example, to pay for things out of one's own funds, rather than charge the association. (At the extreme, Joel once pledged a goodly portion of his annual salary in order to secure our conference facilities.) Many others carried the organization in similar ways. For instance, the practice of program chairs billing the association for their expenses is something that never occurred to us during the early years. We did not regard ACR as a faceless entity, something with which we struck a bookkeeping balance. Rather, it was an extension of ourselves-to be nurtured, to be supported, to be celebrated. So we left Amherst-I in an ambulance, because it was the only conveyance available to connect with my flight out of HartfordCencouraged that things were falling into place. In a year, we would be official.


Both AMA and APA met in Washington in 1971, so we decided to sandwich our conference between them, on September 1,2, and 3, at the College Park campus of the University of Maryland. (We were still deferential to other organizations and to site costs.) Phil Kuehl did the arrangements, Dave Gardner handled the program, and Bob Perloff succeeded Jim Engel as our chair (subsequently to be called president). This conference was distinctive in at least two respects. First, it was the occasion for the approval of the constitution that had been being crafted for the past year or so-the instrument that officially designated us as the Association for Consumer Research. Second, this was the meeting out of which our first volume of proceedings emerged (Gardner 1971) and that publication made a reality of one of our initial objectives-to disseminate research about consumer behavior.

Jim's modesty is showing when he suggests that our constitution and by-laws were just lifted from those of AAPOR (see Engel 1994). In fact, he (and others) poured over a lot of sources and tailored the conglomeration to our unique requirements and circumstances. The "ratification" was anything but perfunctory, but Jim managed to steer the document through all our objections with a minimum of shouting, convincing people of the need for an advisory council, for instance. So ACR became a de jure entity in 1971, even though it would be 1976 before Ken Bernhardt engineered our incorporation as a nonprofit organization (in Georgia). Our tax-exempt status from the IRS was received the following year, in 1977.

Those new to ACR might be surprised at the catholicity of topics addressed at this conference (at all the early ones, for that matter). We were much more than a group of academics looking for yet another line-item to add to our CVs; there was overt attention to theory development, research standards and ethics, and to the use of research findings-for both the public and private interest. There were several rap sessions scheduled as a part of the College Park conference and one of them turned out to have profound consequences. Mary Gardiner Jones, an FTC commissioner, spoke to us about the need of the Commission for valid social-science research in its deliberations and rule-making. You might imagine how aghast we were as she matter-of-factly told us of the "ammunition" needed to set public policy properly. This advocacy mentality seemed to fly in the face of everything we had come to believe about science and the search for truth and she had to field some very hostile questions. Over the next several months, however, both she and we came to understand one another's position and a rapprochement set in. The story is a long one but its upshot is that, as a result of this rap session, a whole string of ACR researchers-Alan Andreasen, Ken Bernhardt, Joel Cohen, Gary Ford, Dave Gardner, Keith Hunt, Jack Jacoby, Hal Kassarjian, Mike Mazis, Dick Mizerski, Kent Monroe, Ivan Preston, Debbie Roedder-John, Terry Shimp, Scott Ward, and Bill Wilkie, to name just those who spring to mind-came into contact with the federal regulatory system. As a consequence of their work (and surely that of others, whose contributions regrettably are not salient as I write this), laws affecting consumers no longer are influenced just by economists and lawyers. ACR truly has made a difference in this context and it is a pity that this contribution is not recognized more widely.

We have never been a tidy group and it is perhaps fitting that our proceedings volumes reflect this disdain for order. For the uninitiated, ACR's first volume of proceedings (Gardner 1971) contains papers from our second annual conference. Our first annual conference (Amherst, 1970) had no proceedings and it wasn't really our first conference (Ohio State in 1969 was; otherwise, 1994 doesn't add up to a silver anniversary). And that is just the beginning of the adventure in the numbering of ACR's proceedings volumes, more about which below.


Our next conference was in Chicago. It is easy for me to remember because, as a member of the program committee, I was obliged to visit the site-the continuing education center at the University of Chicago-in January of 1972. With Bill Wells as our host, we surveyed the meeting place until about dusk and then proceeded across the Midway to the university campus where, as a faculty member (prior to his agency days), Bill had his office. We were on foot. Never joke about Chicago being the "windy" city. Both my ears were frostbitten in a matter of ten minutes.

We convened on November 3-5, presumably to benefit from Chicago's balmy autumn climate. Some of us went to the site two days early, however, to participate in a workshop devoted to information processing. (Yes, the topic was popular even then.) This affair was organized by George Haines, Dave Hughes, and Mike Ray and it resulted in a book (Hughes and Ray 1974)-the first of many publications (excluding our conference proceedings volumes) spawned by an ACR gathering. Joel (by now working for National Analysts with Marsh Greenberg) was then our president-the first, since his pre-constitution predecessors were called chairmen-and he scolded us all (appropriately) in his presidential address. Unfortunately, his remarks do not appear in that conference's proceedings volume (Ventakesan 1972). My other recollection of this conference is the insight offered us by NSF's George Brosseau, who served during the early years as ACR's "man in Washington," regarding federal research funding possibilities.


Our fifth conference represented a watershed in many ways; it was the inflection, from finding-our-way gatherings to the annual-conference model we recognize today. To meet in Boston was an act of maturation; we could now afford a big city and a real hotel. People talked about diversions like the Combat Zone. Bob Pratt (then of General Electric) was already reflecting on ACR's past and future in his presidential address. Everyone referred to the organization as though it had always existed. (And our west-coast contingent was complaining about the inequity of having to "fly the hump.") The conference program was quite good but, except for a knock-em-dead talk by Dan Yankelovich, it already showed unmistakable signs of a drift into papers by professors. Jerry Zaltman chaired an excellent session about broadening the concept of consumer behavior and this led eventually to yet another ACR publication (Zaltman and Sternthal 1975). Of perhaps greatest historical significance, however, is that Scott Ward and Peter Wright decided to designate the conference proceedings Advances in Consumer Research, which became volume one of the series people know today (Ward and Wright 1974). Keep in mind that Boston was the fifth of our conferences and the third for which a proceedings volume was issued. (Perhaps we should have a Julian/Gregorian face-off, so that everyone can count from the same origin.) It would take ten more years for these volumes to bear the Provo, UT designation (Kinnear 1984).


From an historical perspective there is nothing especially noteworthy about the next three conferences; the organization clearly had a foothold, it was becoming more popular, and we were sliding into patterns (some of which exist even to this day). Only personal memories of these gatherings prompt me to allude to them briefly. We returned to Chicago in 1974, this time to the O'Hare Inn (not to be confused with the O'Hare Hilton). If such a quick return to that city seems strange, one needs to realize the players involved-a group some of us regarded as the Chicago Mafia. Bill Wells (now at work at Needham) was our president, and the conference was chaired by Joe Plummer (then at Burnett) and our sorely-missed Mary Jane Schlinger-assisted by what appeared to be a goodly portion of Burnett's Chicago office staff. That we do not have a record of Bill's presidential address (which to this day stands unchallenged for its brevity) testifies to the no-paper-trail modus operandi of this group.

Cincinnati was next and is memorable for several reasons. Stan Shores (of Procter and Gamble) and I ran the program (which is to say our secretaries ran it), Bev Anderson edited the proceedings volume, and Jack Jacoby was ACR's president. There were several notables on the program-e.g., Leo Bogart, Martin Lipset, Nate Maccoby-and this was the occasion of Jack's famous "telling it like it is" presidential address (Jacoby 1976). As past-president, it was Wells' duty to introduce Jack, and Bill prepared for this task by conducting some interesting man-on-the-street interviews. (He would be delighted to elaborate, given the appropriate incentive.) Another highlight of this conference-albeit one appreciated only by certain victims-was the beginning of an elaborate manual on how to run a conference. We decided that, for purposes of both arrangements and programs, it was foolish to reinvent the wheel each year. But the highlight of Cincinnati was the first ACR football game, otherwise known as the mud bowl, played in a rain-soaked Nippert Stadium. As reported contemporaneously by Messrs. Bettman and Lehmann, the stars of this Saturday afternoon contest were Jim Bettman and Don Lehmann. (I still have the official game ball.)

The following year we went to Atlanta, where Doug Egan arranged for us to bunk at Dunfey's (?) something-or-other hotel (on Peachtree Street, of course, but a zillion miles from the city center). Dave Gardner was president, the late Fred Reynolds and Roy Stout (Coca Cola) chaired the conference, and Bill Perrault edited the proceedings. But that's not the memorable part. There was another football game. A bunch of us vs. a bunch of us at Grant Park. On my team, Rick Staelin (he of the collegiate fame) was the quarterback and I was a wideout. (Everyone except Bill Wilkie was a wideout. Wilkie blocked.) I headed for a zone defended by Brian Sternthal. "Easy pickings," I reassured myself. I made my cut according to the elaborate play Rick had called ("Everybody go out"), just as he threw the perfect spiral. I jumped. Brian jumped. The pass tipped past both of us. Brian leaped either higher or sooner than I because he broke his fall on me-specifically, his elbow made a lasting impression on my rib cage. So there we lay, a couple of bruised and empty-handed guys. What else to do except get up and try again? Which we did, but my how it hurt! After another 30 minutes or so everyone was tired or bored so we took a city bus back to the conference hotel, where the evening reception was already in full swing. A quick shower-still very sore-and on to the drinks. I checked with Brian, because I felt miserable. He was fine. Fred assured me that I just needed a few more drinks. I accommodated. It didn't help. To bed by 1:00 and up by 7:00, but no sleep worth counting. This was really stupid. Off to the nearest hospital. Three broken ribs; one punctured lung. There is nothing easy about Sternthal. Be a blocker. (For the remaining ACR football excursions, I contented myself with scorekeeping.)


There is little I can add to the common knowledge of our history beyond these recollections of the very early days. It should be clear from my musings, however, that ACR has developed a distinct ethos that sets it apart from other professional organizations. We have benefited from externalities, we have been very lucky, and many people have worked hard to bring about the association's unarguable success. Absent our distinct raison d'Otre and modus operandi, however, none of these factors could have produced the preeminence ACR enjoys today. Our organizational character was palpable at the association's inception and we have nurtured it ever since.

ACR is, and has always been, about consumer research-its discovery, dissemination, and application. Individual members may emphasize one or another of these facets, they might believe passionately in this or that metaphysic, and they often represent differing constituencies. Whether one thinks of us as interdisciplinary, plural, or variegated, however, we have always had the durable nexus of research to bind everyone together. Dialogue has been our hallmark. Not dialogue as one experiences in many professional associations (e. g., networking), but exchanges focused on ideas. For this reason, ACR is perhaps the least status-conscious group about; it is as close to a meritocracy as one is likely to find. (Consider our membership qualifications: we are concerned with people's interests and what they know, not with their pedigree. Ignore the occasional fop; notice how accessible most ACR people are.) This commerce of ideas-not restricted to an elite plutocracy-has kept the organization vibrant, insulating it from the malignancy of self-importance and irrelevance.

Our single-minded concern for research has made us very much a task-oriented association. (There are emerging signs of group-maintenance concerns, but these are a natural development.) That there still are some founding members around to remind everyone of our inauspicious beginnings also has helped to focus us on "getting the job done." We began ACR with a cottage-industry mentality; we could not afford to waste money or time. Unlike today, the association, per se, had no budget. Volunteerism abounded, for this was our association; people were concerned with how much they could give. There was no ceremony about it because ours was not a faceless bureaucracy which needed to "recognize" its benefactors. And that tradition continues to this day-in spite of our large budgets, arrangements with outside publishers, and other trappings of commercial success, ACR members are at least willing, and generally eager, to do the organization's business, all without fanfare. (My sense is that Keith Hunt's gentle demeanor is largely responsible for sustaining the family atmosphere which encourages this spirit.) We have never been a group which pontificates; instead, we just go about our business-quietly but effectively.

This relaxed spirit of cooperation is evident even in the case of ACR's office holders. We have been blessed over the years with excellent election slates and the organization's officers have done our bidding well. Everyone knows the list of presidents and conference chairs, but many others have sustained us -often at considerable personal sacrifice-over the years. We are particularly indebted to our executive secretaries-Phil Kuehl, Jim Taylor, Ken Bernhardt, Tom Kinnear, and (ACR's soul) Keith Hunt-who have constituted our only headquarters, dealt with everyone's grief, and answered all the bizarre inquiries. And to the editors of the Newsletter-Hal Kassarjian (beginning in 1971 with a 7-page mimeographed piece, replete with the sort of understatement we've come to associate with him), Jack Jacoby, Jerry Olson, Bob Witt, Rich Lutz, Bill Locander, Laird Landon, Dick Reizenstein (our resident oenologist), Mickey Belch, Rich Yalch (he of the infamous "lists"), Valerie Zeithaml, and the tower twins, Peter Bloch and Jim Muncy-who in many ways are the voice of ACR between conferences. Whatever cohesion we have experienced over the years is due in large part to the effective and amiable efforts of these people. An abiding focus on research may have made everyone's job easier, but a determination to advance the organization's goals still was necessary.


I do not mean to give the impression that ACR has meandered along for these twenty-five years, unscathed and never touched by controversy. We have had our squabbles but, in the large scheme of things, they have been constructive and reasonably civil. In 1978, for example, we were asked to boycott our conference hotel in Miami Beach in an effort to pressure the Florida legislature to ratify the equal-rights amendment. (We didn't, because the wrong people-innocent hotel workers-would have been adversely affected.) Several of us have used the occasion of our presidential addresses to scold or encourage the membership (see Spiggle and Goodwin 1988), much as Bill Wells did in his JCR sermonette (Wells 1993). And one would need to have been on another planet to have missed the exchanges associated with the paradigm-shift phenomenon during the 1980s (e. g., Belk 1986, 1987, Hirschman 1986, Holbrook 1986). Compared with the disputes in other social-science disciplines, however, these rifts were mild and their resolution generally has been a constructive accommodation. Moreover, even at the height of the "battle," there were no ad hominem attacks. We diced over ideas, but never over the integrity or sincerity of their champions.

All told, then, while ACR has not fulfilled everyone's hopes, it can hardly be characterized as a failure-even a disappointment. Indeed, it has given us a legacy, if only in the form of a professional identity. Those of us interested in consumer behavior-for whatever reason, from whatever perspective-now have a credible label under which to pursue our activities, without fear of misunderstanding or ridicule. To those who want, ACR provides aid and comfort; yet it is not a demanding mistress-it is rather like a resident program on our personal-computing systems, on call. When we choose to wear the ACR label we can expect a tolerance for our ideas, however unpopular they may be. And we will find a respect for the history of ideas. (Truly, are there any new ones?) All this because ACR people have always chased the same elusive thing-an independent explanation of that large part of daily life having to do with consumption. Anyone who can contribute to the attainment of this goal has been welcome.

Only a few of us lived through the difficult years as the ACR identity was established and perhaps only we realize its tenuous nature. Do not imagine us to be alarmists, then, when we admonish you that the organization-the discipline-must be nurtured. The consumer-research identity may be a fait accompli, but its credibility is not immune from natural advances in the arts and sciences. We have a beginning, but no more. This seed must be nourished so that future generations of researchers can bring it into full bloom, so that ACR's original aspirations can be brought to fruition. We will not live to see that culmination, and we envy the excitement you will experience. Yet we have a trove of memories, amassed along the rocky road of the association's first twenty-five years.

Our first membership directory in 1973, the first Ferber award (Bob's name not then attached) to Leigh McAlister in 1978, and our initial selection of Jim Engel and John Howard as ACR Fellows in 1979 each represent a milestone in ACR's history, even though their significance may seem incidental except to those who were there at the time. Similarly, if you've only heard about the roast of Jim Bettman and Hal Kassarjian at the Cambridge conference in 1987, as they retired from a six-year watch as JCR editors, you don't have a flavor of that event. And speaking of JCR, which is not owned by ACR (see Kernan 1995), you know little if your sense is that it's merely a journal started in 1974. To understand the fabric of this association one needs to have experienced the "little things" as we developed-Mike Ray insisting on his "microtheoretical notions," Jack Jacoby's perennial response ("that's not what our study says; read it again"), Jag Sheth's musings ("but if you multiply by the importance weights"), Rob Settle's dismissive "it's all attribution theory," or Russ Belk's famous "dogfood" characterization. One needs to have seen Alan Sawyer looking for his shoes, or Kernan complaining about the ever-present chicken at conference lunches, or Kassarjian writing his discussion paper on a plane headed for Freeport, or Wilkie in tube socks at the Doral Country Club, or Alice Tybout desperately distributing the last of the champagne bottles in San Francisco, or Jerry Zaltman's familiar I-know-something-you-don't-know expression, because these incidents speak of us as people, rather than just researchers with extensive bibliographies. (ACR was not founded by individuals who subscribe to the dictum "I attach no importance to what I have written-so long as it is published.") Occasionally, some of us think ACR has become too big, too complex, and too officious-it has evolved into the very sort of bureaucratic monster against which we rebelled originally (see Cohen 1995)-and that it is time for us to start a new rump group. Such lapses into wistfulness are not driven by our desire to maintain control of the organization, however. Rather, they ensue from a nostalgic past when conference nametags were superfluous. (Younger members of ACR might ponder the fact that we elders don't know "all these people" either.)

Developing the consumer-behavior discipline has been a great adventure and I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect upon it (and for your indulgence of my informal style). I have come to know a host of bright colleagues and it has been my privilege to help, but mostly to be helped by, them. In addition to these professional benefits, ACR has been the source of many dear friendships. So I can only hope that your experience with the association will be as rewarding as has been mine and that you will keep in mind one other thing. Fun. We always had fun.


Alderson, Wroe (1957), Marketing Behavior and Executive Action: A Functionalist Approach to Marketing Theory, Homewood, IL: Irwin.

Arndt, Johan, ed. (1968), Insights into Consumer Behavior, Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Banks, Seymour (1965), Experimentation in Marketing, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Belk, Russell W. (1986), "What Should ACR Want to Be When It Grows Up?," Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 13, Richard J. Lutz, ed., Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 423-424.

Belk, Russell W. (1987), "ACR Presidential Address: Happy Thought," Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 14, Melanie Wallendorf and Paul F. Anderson, eds., Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 1-4.

Bennett, Peter D. and Harold H. Kassarjian (1972), Consumer Behavior, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Berelson, Bernard and Gary A. Steiner (1964), Human Behavior: An Inventory of Scientific Findings, New York: Harcourt, Brace.

Blackwell, Roger D., James F. Engel and David T. Kollat (1969), Cases in Consumer Behavior, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Bliss, Perry, ed. (1965), Marketing and the Behavioral Sciences, Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Boyd, Harper W., Jr. and Sidney J. Levy (1967), Promotion: A Behavioral View, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Britt, Stuart Henderson, ed. (1966), Consumer Behavior and the Behavioral Sciences: Theories and Applications, New York: Wiley.

Britt, Stuart Henderson (1970a), Consumer Behavior in Theory and in Action, New York: Wiley.

Britt, Stuart Henderson (1970b), Psychological Experiments in Consumer Behavior, New York: Wiley.

Clark, Lincoln H., ed. (1954), Consumer Behavior, Vol. I, New York: New York University Press.

Clark, Lincoln H. (1955), Consumer Behavior, Vol. II, New York: New York University Press.

Clark, Lincoln H. (1958), Consumer Behavior, Vol. III, New York: New York University Press.

Cohen, Joel B., ed. (1972), Behavioral Science Foundations of Consumer Behavior, New York: Free Press.

Cohen, Joel B. (1995), "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein: An ACR Retrospective," this volume.

Cox, Donald F., ed. (1967), Risk Taking and Information Handling in Consumer Behavior, Boston: Harvard Business School.

Dahl, Robert A., Mason Haire and Paul F. Lazarsfeld (1959), Social Science Research on Business: Product and Potential, New York: Columbia University Press.

Dichter, Ernest (1964), Handbook of Consumer Motivations, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Edwards, Allen L. (1957), Techniques of Attitude Scale Construction, New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Engel, James F., ed. (1968), Consumer Behavior: Selected Readings, Homewood, IL: Irwin.

Engel, James F. (1994), "ACR's 25th Anniversary-How It All Began," ACR Newsletter, 25 (June), 3-5.

Engel, James F., David T. Kollat and Roger D. Blackwell (1968), Consumer Behavior, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Farley, John U., John A. Howard and L. Winston Ring, eds. (1974), Consumer Behavior: Theory and Application, Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Ferber, Robert (1949), Statistical Techniques in Market Research, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Ferber, Robert, ed. (1977), Selected Aspects of Consumer Behavior: A Summary from the Perspective of Different Disciplines, Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office.

Ferber, Robert and Hugh G. Wales, eds. (1958), Motivation and Market Behavior, Homewood, IL: Irwin.

Festinger, Leon (1957), A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Fishbein, Martin, ed. (1967), Readings in Attitude Theory and Measurement, New York: Wiley.

Foote, Nelson N., ed. (1961), Household Decision Making, New York: New York University Press.

Frank, Ronald E. and Paul E. Green (1967), Quantitative Methods in Marketing, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Frank, Ronald E., Alfred A. Kuehn and William F. Massy (1962), Quantitative Techniques in Marketing Analysis, Homewood, IL: Irwin.

Frank, Ronald E., William F. Massy and Yoram Wind (1972), Market Segmentation, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Gardner, David M., ed. (1971), Proceedings: 2nd Annual Conference, College Park, MD: Association for Consumer Research.

Gordon, Robert A. and James E. Howell (1959), Higher Education for Business, New York: Columbia University Press.

Green, Paul E. and Vithala P. Rao (1972), Applied Multidimensional Scaling, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Green, Paul E. and Donald S. Tull (1966), Research for Marketing Decisions, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Green, Paul E. and Yoram Wind (1973), Multiattribute Decisions in Marketing, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Handy, Rollo and Paul Kurtz (1964), A Current Appraisal of the Behavioral Sciences, Great Barrinton, MA: Behavioral Research Council.

Hansen, Fleming (1972), Consumer Choice Behavior, New York: Free Press.

Heider, Fritz (1958), The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations, New York: Wiley.

Hirschman, Elizabeth C. (1986), "Marketing, Intellectual Creativity, and Consumer Research," Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 13, Richard J. Lutz, ed., Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 433-435.

Holbrook, Morris B. (1986), "Whither ACR? Some Pastoral Reflections on Bears, Baltimore, Baseball, and Resurrecting Consumer Research," Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 13, Richard J. Lutz, ed., Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 436-441.

Howard, John A. (1963), Marketing: Executive and Buyer Behavior, New York: Columbia University Press.

Howard, John A. (1965), Marketing Theory, Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Howard, John A. and Jagdish N. Sheth (1969), The Theory of Buyer Behavior, New York: Wiley.

Hughes, G. David and Michael L. Ray, eds. (1974), Buyer/Consumer Information Processing, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Jacoby, Jacob (1976), "Consumer Research: Telling It Like It Is," Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 3, Beverlee B. Anderson, ed., Atlanta: Association for Consumer Research, 1-11.

Karlins, Marvin and Herbert I. Abelson (1959), Persuasion, New York: Springer.

Kassarjian, Harold H. (1995), "Some Recollections from A Quarter Century Ago," this volume.

Kassarjian, Harold H. and Thomas S. Robertson, eds. (1968), Perspectives in Consumer Behavior, Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.

Katona, George (1951), Psychological Analysis of Economic Behavior, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Katz, Elihu and Paul Lazarsfeld (1955), Personal Influence, New York: Free Press.

Kernan, Jerome B. (1995), "Framing A Rainbow, Focusing the Light: JCR's First Twenty Years ," this volume.

Kinnear, Thomas C., ed. (1984), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 11, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.

Kollat, David T., Roger D. Blackwell and James F. Engel, eds. (1970), Research in Consumer Behavior, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Kuhn, Alfred (1963), The Study of Society: A Unified Approach, Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press.

McNeal, James U., ed. (1965), Dimensions of Consumer Behavior, New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Mills, C. Wright (1959), The Sociological Imagination, New York: Oxford University Press.

Murray, Jeff B. and Julie L. Ozanne (1991), "The Critical Imagination: Emancipatory Interests in Consumer Research," Journal of Consumer Research, 18 (September), 129-144.

Myers, James H. and William H. Reynolds (1967), Consumer Behavior and Marketing Management, Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Newman, Joseph W. (1957), Motivation Research and Marketing Management, Boston: Harvard Business School.

Newman, Joseph W., ed. (1966), On Knowing the Consumer, New York: Wiley.

Nicosia, Francesco M. (1966), Consumer Decision Processes: Marketing and Advertising Implications, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Osgood, Charles E., George J. Suci and Percy H. Tannenbaum (1957), The Measurement of Meaning, Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Oxenfeldt, Alfred, David Miller, Abraham Shuchman and Charles Winick (1961), Insights into Pricing from Operations Research and Behavioral Science, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Pierson, Frank C. et al. (1959), The Education of American Businessmen, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Robertson, Thomas S. (1971), Innovative Behavior and Communication, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Rogers, Everett M. (1962), Diffusion of Innovations, New York: Free Press.

Shannon, Claude E. and Warren Weaver (1949), The Mathematical Theory of Communication, Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Sheth, Jagdish N., ed. (1974), Models of Buyer Behavior: Conceptual, Quantitative & Empirical, New York: Harper & Row.

Smith, George Horsley (1954), Motivation Research in Advertising and Marketing, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Sommers, Montrose S. and Jerome B. Kernan, eds. (1967), Explorations in Consumer Behavior, Austin: University of Texas Press.

Spiggle, Susan and Cathy Goodwin (1988), "Values and Issues in the Field of Consumer Research: A Content Analysis of ACR Presidential Addresses." Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 15, Michael J. Houston, ed., Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 5-12.

Tan, Chin Tiong and Jagdish N. Sheth, eds. (1985), Historical Perspective in Consumer Research: National and International Perspectives, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.

Thurstone, L.L. (1959), The Measurement of Values, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Tucker, W.T. (1967), Foundations for A Theory of Consumer Behavior, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

van Raaij, W. Fred and Gary J. Bamossy, eds. (1993), European Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 1, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.

Venkatesan, M., ed. (1972), Proceedings: 3rd Annual Conference, College Park, MD: Association for Consumer Research.

Ward, Scott and Thomas S. Robertson, eds. (1973), Consumer Behavior: Theoretical Sources, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Ward, Scott and Peter Wright, eds. (1974), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 1, Urbana, IL: Association for Consumer Research.

Wells, William D., ed. (1974), Life Style and Psychographics, Chicago: American Marketing Association.

Wells, William D. (1993), "Discovery-Oriented Consumer Research," Journal of Consumer Research, 19 (March), 489-504.

Wells, William D. (1995), "What Do We Want to Be When We Grow Up?," this volume.

Wulfeck, Joseph W. and Edward M. Bennett (1954), The Language of Dynamic Psychology as Related to Motivation Research, New York: McGraw-Hill.

Zaltman, Gerald (1965), Marketing: Contributions from the Behavioral Sciences, New York: Harcourt, Brace.

Zaltman, Gerald, Christian R. A. Pinson and Reinard Angelmar (1973), Metatheory and Consumer Research, New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston.

Zaltman, Gerald and Brian Sternthal, eds. (1975), Broadening the Concept of Consumer Behavior, Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Consumer Research.



Jerome B. Kernan, George Mason University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22 | 1995

Share Proceeding

Featured papers

See More


The “Break-in” Effect: A Token Gesture Can Increase Task Initiation and Prevent Goal Abandonment

Adelle Xue Yang, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Babu Gounder, University of Miami, USA
Rajesh Bagchi, Virginia Tech, USA

Read More


O9. The Role of Numerical Identification in Customer Reaction toward Service Failure

JIEXIAN (Chloe) HUANG, Hong Kong Polytechic University
Yuwei Jiang, Hong Kong Polytechic University

Read More


Neural pattern similarity reveals brand equity

Feng Sheng, University of Pennsylvania, USA
Michael Platt, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Read More

Engage with Us

Becoming an Association for Consumer Research member is simple. Membership in ACR is relatively inexpensive, but brings significant benefits to its members.