American Consumer Culture: Market Research and American Business

20 August 2014

Adam Matthew are delighted to announce the launch of their latest resource, American Consumer Culture: Market Research and American Business, 1935-1965. This truly unique collection showcases the market research reports and supporting documents of Ernest Dichter, the era’s foremost consumer analyst and market research pioneer, which are held at the Hagley Museum and Library in Delaware.

Ernest Dichter (1907-1991) was an Austrian emigré who in 1946 established his own consulting firmfor market research in New York. Unlike his contemporaries, Dichter’stechniques were largely qualitative, focusing on in-depth interviews andprojective tests rather than simple surveys. These methods enabled TheInstitute for Motivational Research, Inc. to discover consumers’ innermostsecrets and taboos, and the deeper meaning behind a particular product orservice. This resource provides an exciting insight into the needs of Americanconsumers during a booming era for consumerism, and conveys how globalbusinesses marketed their products to meet these expectations.


Some of thehighlights of the collection include: a report discussing the introduction ofthe ‘Barbee’ doll from 1958; a pilot study explaining the reasons behind the failedFord Edsel model from 1957; and a range of reports for the Betty Crocker brand.For this Dichter and his research team noted how adding an egg to a cake mixwould prevent housewives from feeling guilty for using convenience goods. As wellas documenting these mainstream consumer industries the resource also featuresreports on a wide variety of other fields, such as DIY and gardening, media andpublishing, and political campaigns. A number of studies from the collection’s Healthcareand Pharmaceutical industry, for example, plot the introduction of the oralcontraceptive to Western markets in the 1960s. Reports within American Consumer Culture cover a hugerange of products from televisions to toilet paper, making it a trulyinterdisciplinary resource for students of history, psychology, sociology, advertising,marketing, and business studies.


The resource alsocontains a carefully selected gallery of printed advertising for some ofAmerica’s best known brands. Hand-picked from the collections of Duke Universityand the Advertising Archives, around 1,000 advertisements for names such asCoca-Cola, Ford and Cadbury’s have been chosen to compliment the researchwithin the Dichter reports. These visual resources track the development ofcolour advertising, consumer trends, and gender dynamics as well ashighlighting some of the most iconic marketing campaigns of the twentiethcentury. Esso’s ‘Tiger in Your Tank’ campaign, the Marlboro man, and Clairol’s‘Does She or Doesn’t She’ string of advertisements all feature within thecollection.

The launch of American Consumer Culture: Market Research and American Business will make these incredible reports widely available, and will provide a unique insight into the work of one of the most influential marketeers of the twentieth century. The global and thematic scope of the reports will prove invaluable for students and scholars working within a wide range of subject areas.

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