top of page

Transformative Consumer Research


Unlocking The Full Potential Of Transformative Service Research By Embedding Collaboration Throughout The Research Process

Jessica Weaver, Philippa Hunter-Jones, Rory Donnelly


This article presents a review of published articles on Transformative Service Research (TSR), incorporating insights from user-led research to further understand how collaboration within the TSR process can improve wellbeing. Our analysis of 111 articles reveals mixed approaches to the way user collaboration has been documented, with only a small number of articles reporting extensive collaboration across every stage of the TSR process. We posit that this has led to missed opportunities for more effective TSR and make two significant contributions to the development of subsequent TSR. First, by highlighting inconsistencies in the TSR research process, we elucidate the need for the reflexive application of TSR knowledge and open dialogue on embedding collaboration within the research process itself. Second, we propose five avenues for progress to enhance the potential for future TSR to uplift service provision for service users and stakeholders.

Taming Complex Problems Using The Problem-Solution-Impact Research Process Model

Jane E. Machin, Natalie Ross Adkins, Christina Chan-Park, Elizabeth Crosby, Justine Rapp Farrell, Ann M. Mirabito


The transformative consumer research (TCR) and transformative service research (TSR) movements seek to encourage, support, and publicize research benefiting consumer welfare. In this article, we introduce design thinking (DT) as a rigorous, effective, and creative problem-solving process well-suited to tackle the multi-dimensional problems TCR/TSR researchers address. A scoping review of TCR/TSR and DT literatures examining complex issues, such as health and well-being, inequality, and sustainability, reveals each orientation's theoretical and methodological strengths as well as its opportunities to more effectively catalyze positive change. Specifically, DT would benefit from the rigorous theoretical perspective brought by TCR/TSR researchers. In turn, transformative consumer and service researchers can find inspiration in the participatory ideation and prototyping techniques central to DT. The problem-solution-impact (PSI) research process model for transformative change draws from the strengths of the two traditions to creates a rigorous and relevant approach to addressing the world's most complex and dynamic problems.

Stronger Together: Developing Research Partnerships with Social Impact Organizations

Melissa Bublitz, Laura Perrachio, Brennan Davis, Jennifer Edson Escalas, Jonathan Hansen, Elizabeth G. Miller, Beth Vallen, Tiffany B. White


A growing number of Transformative Consumer Research (TCR) academic community members are establishing research partnerships with Social Impact Organizations (SIOs) such as nonprofits, public policy
entities, and other societally focused organizations and initiatives. These relational engagement partnerships with SIOs are vital for TCR researchers because SIOs have deep connections to people and communities where transformative change takes place. We leverage insights from TCR researchers and SIOs engaged in relational engagement partnerships to outline a framework for such partnerships that supports and sustains these collaborations, furthers knowledge creation, and lays the groundwork for social impact. Our goal is to offer a framework for relational engagement partnerships that can propagate within the TCR community, encouraging fruitful collaborations between TCR researchers and SIOs that have the potential to create positive social impact.

Research Pathways for Societal Impact: A Typology of Relational Engagements for Consumer Psychology Research

Julie L. Ozanne, Brennan Davi, Akon E. Ekpo


Consumer psychology research achieves desirable societal impact when it affects positive changes in the world. Increasingly, researchers seek to understand how to increase the impact of their work. For research to have societal impact, scholars must engage with stakeholders ranging from consumers, businesses, and nonprofits, to media and the government. Earlier research presented a relational engagement approach that defined societal impact as a rewarding process involving knowledge creation, awareness, implementation, and societal benefits (J.L. Ozanne et al., 2017). This article builds upon these insights by conceptualizing a typology of relational engagements that provides different research pathways for those researchers who want to effect positive changes in society.

Transformative Consumer Research And Public Policy And Marketing Research: Distinct, Yet Complementary, Approaches

Stacey R. Finkelstein, Christopher L. Newman, Brennan Davis


Research on marketing in society has become increasingly prevalent, as evident in many subgroups such as public policy and marketing (PPM), macromarketing, consumer economics, social marketing, marketing ethics, international consumer policy, Transformative Consumer Research (TCR), and the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative (Wilkie and Moore 2012). PPM and TCR represent significant communities, with over 2,500 conference registrations over the past decade between them. The PPM and TCR communities have significant overlap in conference participants, research identity, and aspiration to make the world a better place, leaving many researchers confused about differences between the two communities. Given their cooperation, size, and publication history in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing (JPP&M) we explore helpful distinctions in the approaches of these partner organizations while also demonstrating their complementarity. We start with a brief history of both communities and explain the key differences between them (for an overview, see Table 1). We then discuss two substantive current issues in “marketing in society”—vaccination and marijuana legalization—suggesting future research questions based on each erspective.

The Characteristics Of Transformative Consumer Research And How It Can Contribute To And Enhance Consumer Psychology

Brennan Davis, Cornelia Pechmann


Transformative Consumer Research is a relatively new academic movement whose overall mission is to encourage, support, and disseminate research that contributes to the well-being of consumers, environments, and societies around the world (Mick, 2006). Researchers seek to examine real-world phenomena experienced by people in specific contexts, to identify feasible courses of action that can either improve or detract from well-being, considering not only the individual, but also larger social groups including families, communities, regions, countries, and the world and environment at large, with a special emphasis on disadvantaged and vulnerable groups (Davis, Ozanne, & Hill, 2016; Mick, 2006). Transformative Consumer Research has a tradition of using a broad theoretical lens and a wide array of epistemological approaches that stem from psychology, economics, sociology, anthropology, strategy, marketing, and other disciplines (Davis & Cornelia, 2013; Davis et al., 2016).

Assessing The Societal Impact Of Research: The Relational Engagement Approach

Julie L. Ozanne, Brennan Davis, Jeff B. Murray, Sonya Grier, Ahmed Benmecheddal, Hilary Downey, Akon E. Ekpo, Marion Garnier, Joel Hietanen, Marine Le Gall-Ely, Anastasia Seregina, Kevin D. Thomas, Ekant Veer


Marketing and policy researchers aiming to increase the societal impact of their scholarship should engage directly with relevant stakeholders. For maximum societal effect, this engagement needs to occur both within the research process and throughout the complex process of knowledge transfer. The authors propose that a relational engagement approach to research impact complements and builds on traditional approaches. Traditional approaches to impact employ bibliometric measures and focus on the creation and use of journal articles by scholarly audiences, an important but incomplete part of the academic process. The authors recommend expanding the strategies and measures of impact to include process assessments for specific stakeholders across the entire course of impact, from the creation, awareness, and use of knowledge to societal impact. This relational engagement approach involves the cocreation of research with audiences beyond academia. The authors hope to begin a dialogue on the strategies researchers can use to increase the potential societal benefits of their research.

The Transformative Consumer Research Movement

Brennan Davis, Julie L. Ozanne, Ronald Paul Hill


In this essay, the authors explore the emergence, growth, and future of the transformative consumer research movement. The notion of a social movement is used to conceptualize the organizing activities of research performed with the goal of enhancing consumer well-being. The authors trace the informal/formal and individual/collective actions that support their claim that transformative consumer research is an academic movement. They reflect on the future hurdles the movement faces to remain healthy and dynamic as well as the significant synergies that exist with public policy researchers.

Presidential Address: Meaning And Mattering Through Transformative Consumer Research

David Glen Mick


The Association for Consumer Research was born in 1969 and is now approaching middle age. As with most of us personally, this stage of life often provokes introspection about our past and present, our values, and theextent to which our remaining words and actions can make any worthwhile difference in the world. Today I am asking you to pause with me and consider the meaning and mattering of ACR.

bottom of page