Navigating the Central Tensions in Research on At-Risk Consumers: Challenges and Opportunities

A perennial problem in social marketing and public policy is the plight of at-risk consumers. The authors define at-risk consumers as marketplace participants who, because of historical or personal circumstances or disabilities, may be harmed by marketers' practices or may be unable or unwilling to take full advantage of marketplace opportunities. This definition refers to either objective reality or perceptions. Early research focused on consumers who were at risk because they were poor, ethnic or racial minorities, immigrants, women, or elderly. Today's researchers also study consumers who are at risk because they are from religious minorities, disabled, illiterate, homeless, indigent, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The authors identify four tensions affecting research on and policy and marketing applications for at-risk populations: the value of focusing on (1) vulnerabilities versus strengths, (2) radical versus marginal change, (3) targeting versus nontargeting, and (4) encouraging knowledgeable versus naive consumers. They conclude with a discussion of the significance of including at-risk consumers as full marketplace participants and identify future research directions.


social marketing  risk  racial minorities  political planning  consumers  transgender people  LGTBQ+ 


Cornelia Pechmann, Robin L. Soster, Dante M. Pirouz, R. Craig Lefebvre, Deborah Heisley, Meryl P. Gardner, Dan Freeman, Paul M. Connell, Alan R. Andreasen, and Elizabeth S. Moore (2011). Navigating the Central Tensions in Research on At-Risk Consumers: Challenges and Opportunities. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 30(1), Pages 23-30.



Cornelia Pechmann
Robin L. Soster
Dante M. Pirouz
R. Craig Lefebvre
Deborah Heisley
Meryl P. Gardner
Dan Freeman
Paul M. Connell
Alan R. Andreasen
Elizabeth S. Moore

Journal of Public Policy & Marketing | 2011

Share Publication

Engage with Us

TCR creates opportunities for engagements between practitioners, funders and researchers, and supports efforts of scholars and practitioners to disseminate and publicize their research and work, and obtain mentoring and advice on grant applications.

While many of these opportunities are freely available, we encourage scholars and practitioners to become a member of the Association of Consumer Research to help continue funding our work and to obtain additional benefits.