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Navigating The Central Tensions In Research On At-Risk Consumers: Challenges And Opportunities

Journal of Public Policy & Marketing

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


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.

Consumers, Risk, Social Marketing


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