Touched By an Angel (Being a Hagiography of H. Keith Hunt’S Role in Acr’S History on the Occasion of His Retirement As Its Executive Secretary)
Jerome B. Kernan (2001) ,"Touched By an Angel (Being a Hagiography of H. Keith Hunt’S Role in Acr’S History on the Occasion of His Retirement As Its Executive Secretary)", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 7-9.
(Being a Hagiography of H. Keith Hunts Role in ACRs History on the Occasion of His Retirement as Its Executive Secretary) (presented, at the request of the absent author, by Harold H. Kassarjian) Keith Hunt was born 3,250 weeks ago, on April 16, 1938, the direct result of events the day before. To reconstruct... "
(Being a Hagiography of H. Keith Hunts Role in ACRs History on the Occasion of His Retirement as Its Executive Secretary)
(presented, at the request of the absent author, by Harold H. Kassarjian)
Keith Hunt was born 3,250 weeks ago, on April 16, 1938, the direct result of events the day before. To reconstruct...
Yes, what is it? Another of your petty supplications?
"Sorry, God, but this is serious."
Listen, in case you hadnt noticed, Ive got a worldwide depression on my hands. That Hitler guy is acting up againCcould bust out into World War II any time. And Lucifer thinks he can unionize Hell now, just because your Congress passed that Wagner Act. So what have YOU got thats so serious?
"We realize all that stuff is terribly important, Lord, butwell, the Cardinals just traded Dizzy Dean to the Cubs for three no-name players and chump change."
Say what? Jerome Dean shipped off to Wrigley? Why Harry Carey isnt there yet. Neither is Ernie Banks. George W still needs to let loose of Sammy Sosa. And everybody knows, they NEVER win. Earth DOES have serious problems.
"Can you help us?"
Actually, the angel market is pretty tight these days. But maybe I could spare you a novice. You know, one without a Ph.D., who would have to be born and all that stuff. Thats the best I can do.
"Wow! Thanks a lot, God, well be grateful for any help you can send. When might we expect this angel? And where should we look for him?" (Youre not sending us a girl angel, are you?)"
(Ill pretend I didnt hear that last crack.) our angel will be there tomorrow and dont bother looking for himChell know how to take care of business.
KEITH !!! Get over here. They need you on Earth.
"Here I am, Lord. Did I understand You to say I was about to travel?"
Yes, Keith. And before you ask, thats my final answer.
"As You wish, but do You realize I dont yet have my wings? And I dont know whether Im Cherubim, Seraphim, or one of those Guardian Angels who protects little girls and boys. [Editors Note: In a recent poll, Keith was voted CherubimC1,000 to 0.]
Oh ye of little faith! Report to the hangar for your wings. Tell them to fit you with one of those sets weve been holding for the Boeing 747Cyoull be growing into a stout fellow. And dont worry about Cherus and SerasCIm inventing a new category for you.
"But I have to be born, grow up, and all that stuff. How will I manage this? Do You have a cover story for me? And how do I go about bringing peace and common sense to the world? You know how much I like to make people happy."
Relax, Keith, Im way ahead of you. Ive decided to invent something called consumer behavior. You just report to Earth and work your way into consumer behavior.
"Very well, anything You say. But if Im to work my way into consumer behavior, Id better know what it is. Can you give me clue? Animal, vegetable, mineral? Is it bigger than a bread box?"
Not to worry, Keith. It will be a discipline. An interdisciplinary discipline. Look for a guy called Holbrook. Hell tell youCconsumer behavior is anything and everything. Sleeping, listening to Mozart or Woody Guthrie, eating a Big Mac, getting tattooed, climbing mountains, having sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky, playing your banjo, anything. Its all consumer behavior.
"Gee. All that stuff is consumer behavior. But why do people do it?"
Theyre trying to find happiness.
"Really. Well, how do they know whether theyre succeeding?"
Consumer researchers will tell them.
"Huh? Whats a consumer researcher?"
Nobody really knows, but it helps to have a Ph.D.
"Lets see if I have this right. Persons with a Ph.D. can be consumer researchers and tell other persons whether theyre happy. And I guess they can still be consumers, besides. But who tells THEM whether theyre happy? I suppose other consumer researchers."
Youre catching on fast, Keith. These consumer researchers will amuse themselves by talking and writing notes to one another at conferences. Theyll paste their ideas into journals and this will create another special world of happiness for them. Each researcher will get to corner the market on a particular kind of happiness. Or maybe on a few catchwords or phrasesCkind of like a brand name for each persons work.
"Now I understand. If I get a Ph.D., I can pose as a consumer researcher and do my good works from that cover."
Right on all counts, Keith. I just knew you were the one for this job. So dont forget about the Ph.D. See a guy called Levy. Hell be hanging out at Northwestern University by the time youre ready.
"I guess I shouldnt be getting ahead of myself, but I think the way to measure happiness is by whether people are satisfied or not."
Seems reasonable to me.
"So could my special happiness words be consumer satisfaction and dissatisfaction?"
Consider them yours, Keith. And when you grow up, you can even have your own journal. (Actually, more than one. But watch out for those advertising professors.)
"Thats just wonderful. Im very excited about my life ahead! Anything else before I get ready to go?"
As a matter of fact, yes, Keith. When you get to Earth, remain obscureClead a normal, human existence. Grow up, marry, and have lots of children, because this organization of researchersCit will be called the Association for Consumer ResearchCwill need all the help you can give. Build a big house for your family, because ACR will need a warehouse to hold all its stuff. And get your real life established, because all of a sudden you wont have time for a real life.
And so it came to pass that Keith arrived in 1938 and did as the Lord had instructed. In time, he found the Levy guy and got his Ph.D. We first encountered him that same year of 1972, when he sauntered into the Continuing Education Center at the University of Chicago and proceeded to wow the ACR academic and regulatory audience with his understanding of corrective advertising (which is taking back the lies you told consumers so they can be happy again).
The rest, as the saying goes, is history, so following are just some highlights of Keiths angelic beneficence, organized around a conceit of the seven deadly sinsCaround anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, lust, pride and sloth. But even these shards will demonstrate that Keiths association with ACR has been marked by a consistent thread of caring, fair play, and common sense. He has been called the soul of ACR and that is no hyperbole. Consider...
Anger, which is threatening our civilization. Its not something one associates with Keith. He does not lose his cool (as in rage) or try to get even (as in wrath), but that does not mean he never expresses displeasure. He gets very upset in the face of injustice, rudeness, or anything short of fair play, and he never hesitated to display his concern to us in the face of those things. However, he always stood as the great mediator, never thinking about wins or losses, only equity, when he found it necessary to remind a few of usCever so gentlyCto behave like adults.
Avarice is a vice with which each of us must struggle, particularly as we are immersed in consumption. Keith, too. But his take on the temptation is so wonderful. Remember, this is the person who held all ACRs money. Unattended. Yet he never encouraged us to raise membership dues or conference fees, and every request for funding was answered affirmatively. Recall any of his annual reports on the state of ACRs finances. "This past year we spent some money and we took in a little more. Our financial picture is fine." [Editors Note: There is no evidence that actual numbers ever appeared in Keiths reports.] This shoebox mentality drove accountants crazy, but it exempted us for years from all concerns about money. Perhaps because Keiths methods had nothing to do with AICPA standards. His celestial bookkeeping seemed to be based loosely on the principles found in the parable of the loaves and fishes.
Envy runs rampant in our society and ACR has not been above it. We scratch and claw over intellectual property and invent metrics by which to assess status competition. (What else accounts for the tortured explanations of name ordering in author footnotes?) We fret over who gets credit for this and for that. Not Keith. A complete set of Advances in Consumer Research displayed on ones library shelf will reveal that one (and only one) of the volumes has a spine left blank. That volume is 5, edited by H. Keith Hunt. Keith replaced Kernan as ACR president (1979) and Kinnear as executive secretary (1982). After each job was finished, all he did was heap gratitude on the membership for allowing him to be a contributing part of ACR. GratitudeCfrom a person who ran ACR longer than FDR ran the USA.
Gluttony would seem almost trivial in our weight-obsessed cultureCuntil we recall some of our conferees, who each year invade the banquet rooms for lunch before 11 AM, hoping to claim the perfect escape chair or to eat all the rolls at a satellite table. Of course, Keiths firm, no-badge-no-meal rule (meant only to protect us from ourselves) intercepted many of us attempting to storm these banquet rooms. But his consummate fat-fighter over the years was the chickenCOrem Borealis, I think he calls itCwhich was revealed initially in Kernan (1995). ACR lunches always featured chicken, because Keith was concerned that we might, well, put on a pound or two. So many years ago he discovered this faux chicken, which was served each year at the conference. (The same chicken. After the conference, the Hunt kids would gather it up and return it to Uta, where it was kept until the following year.) It was some space-age material, but looked just like real chicken. And perfectly harmless, because it couldnt be cut (we tried laser beams, hatchets, and Ginsu knivesCall to no avail) and therefore couldnt be swallowed. People would just push it around on their plates, trying to act real adult about it, and experiencing terrific aerobics in the process. Conversing with our colleagues about important stuff distracted our attention from the chicken that wasnt, and were all healthier today as a result. Thank you, Keith, for saving us from ourselves.
Lust is not something one imagines Keith being in charge of. But heres how it happened. And Im not making this up. There was this thing called the ACR football game. Each year at the conference. Atlantas Grant Park in 1976, Cincinnatis Nippert Stadium the year before. But now it was 1977 and we were at the OHare Hilton, with Keith as conference chair. Anyone whos seen that hotel understands that it is no exaggeration to say that certain adjustments needed to be made in order to produce a playing gridiron there. So while adjustments were being made, it seemed reasonable to add a fewClike making the teams coed. Well, this really put Keith on the spotCuntil it occurred to him that these guys are intellectual before theyre ludic. So without any hectoring he reminded them that ACR conferences are supposed to be about consuming and that while a football game surely qualifies as sports consumption, experiential consumption had not yet been invented, that Beth Hirschman and Morris Holbrook needed another five years to publish the papers that would introduce that topic to our canon.
PrideCin his family, in his association with ACR, and over accomplishments. Keith has self-respect in abundance. What he does not have is the ugly sort of pride we see in pretentiousness or superciliousnessCvices that corrupt the soul and stand, as Thomas Aquinas saw it, at the root of evil. Here is a person who dodges recognition because he finds it embarrassing. (If humility has an avatar, surely it is Keith.) Yet Hal Kassarjian could confirm that H. KEITH HUNT constitutes a category unto itself in any content analysis of the Association for Consumer Research. Who among us is better known? (What was that story about King Solomon and the lilies of the field?)
Sloth or, in ACR parlance, "Im too busy," is something Keith heard frequently from us during the many years of his service. Imagine how he must have feltCthis professor, editor, husband, father, grandfather, religious and civic leader, who also found time to run ACRCwhen we begged off (or bagged) things that were to the organizations benefit. So he did those jobs himself, although its difficult to understand why. Perhaps it was the huge salary we paid him. Or all the fringe benefits we provided. Or maybe he just saw a job that needed doing and did it, in his yeoman fashion. Shame on us.
If Keith Hunt seems larger than life its because he is. No fancy packaging here and nothing to deconstructChe is exactly what he seems to be. We in ACR are better people for having been touched by his presence. So thank you, Keith. And Carolyn. And all you Hunt kids. We owe this professional largesse to your quiet, unselfish, and rarely-recognized work over these many years.
To say that Keith will be remembered is quite insufficient. He will be missed. Godspeed, dear friend.
Jerome B. Kernan, George Mason University
NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28 | 2001
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