The proposed programme of discussions connects with a series of important contemporary concerns that relate to broad
issues of individual and societal well-being.
We focus on consumer vulnerability and characterise it as an undesirable state catalysed by a number of human
conditions and contexts. Vulnerability is not necessarily experienced as a permanent state and can often be felt in times of
transition - job loss, bereavement, ill health, natural disaster, ageing and the identity and lifestyle shift required in becoming
a parent. These conditions and characteristics affect how individuals experience, interpret and respond to the marketplace
and often how the marketplace responds to them.
For some time now consumer disadvantage and vulnerability has been explored by consumer researchers striving to
highlight particular human conditions and positively affect individual well-being. Studies focussing on poverty,
homelessness, drug addiction, immigration, illness, ageing, bereavement, and the vulnerability of children as consumers
deepen our understanding of the difficulties individuals face in the marketplace. What began as a few notable studies has
coalesced into a nascent yet viable research stream, often organised under the banner of Transformative Consumer
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Describe who will benefit from the research [up to 4000 chars].
Research. The impact of this work is considerable yet further research is needed to understand the contradictions and
contingencies of consumer vulnerability, particularly with regard to the social consequences of consumption. For example,
marketing practice is frequently indicted as a force which reduces consumer well-being and has a negative affect on
society at large.
Such insight into individual human behaviour has the potential to enhance quality of life. A less ambitious but nevertheless
important aim is to provide consumers with 'a voice.' This is a highly significant aspect of the study of vulnerability within
marketing, a discipline which has historically had a managerial focus. Increasingly consumer research emphasises how
consumption relates to the rest of human existence, creating legitimacy for macro and non-managerial marketing topics.
However, interest in the societal consequences of marketing does not appear to extend the same degree of legitimacy to
all consumer populations. Vulnerable consumer groups often remain under-represented in depictions of the marketplace.
A key objective of the series is to raise the profile of research with vulnerable populations of consumers within the
marketing discipline by showcasing national and international research excellence. Further, we wish to create interdisciplinary
dialogue which can encourage both methodological best practice and increase research capacity through future
collaborations. A third objective is to engage in mutual knowledge exchange with user-groups, practitioners and policy
makers throughout the seminar series and beyond.
The originality of this series lies in the international and interdisciplinary nature of the sessions and in its focus on the role
of marketing and marketers in both enhancing and ameliorating consumer vulnerability. The sessions provide space to
critique the notion of consumer vulnerability and build a broader understanding of the lived experience of consumers.
Demystification is an aim here, as is investigating and challenging common myths and stereotypes that persist about such
groups - through, for example, exploring the techniques the vulnerable use to navigate the marketplace. Further, as the
language and practices of business infiltrate the public sector and social service provision it would seem timely to highlight
the contribution marketing and consumer researchers can make to the study of consumer vulnerability. If successful this
seminar series, in bringing together a somewhat fragmented research stream, would represent the first of its kind in the UK.
The commitment of our invited international speakers calls attention to the need for such a series.