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Journal of Marketing Management

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Ignored or Invisible: Challenges to recruiting and researching members of marginalised communities

Manuscript deadline
20 February 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Dianne Dean, Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
[email protected]

Pallavi Singh, Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
[email protected]

Scott Jones, Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, UK
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Ignored or Invisible: Challenges to recruiting and researching members of marginalised communities

The drive for greater recognition of diversity and a push for more inclusion and equality in society can be conceived as an attempt to dismantle barriers of exclusion. Yet the gaze on the lives of marginalised and forgotten communities and the structural inequalities that blight their lives continues to be under represented. Arguably, much of the research published in academic marketing journals also fails to represent the more marginalised in our society. The UN amongst others including Alm and Guttormsen (2023, p.304), citing Bansa, (2002), have acknowledged that “there is an increasing international effort, echoed in the business world, to alleviate the disadvantages and discrimination faced by MGP (Marginalised groups of people)”. However, as Hill and Martin (2014, p.18) acknowledge, “only 15% of more than seven billion people are of interest to marketers”. Moreover, recent work by Hutton and Cappelini (2022) and others continue to highlight how marginalised voices are ignored, disrespected, and subjugated by the privileged ‘knowers’ who dominate and protect knowledge hierarchies and are afforded credibility and authority. But for Skeggs (1997, p.2) “theory can be radically transformed when others are let in on the conversations”. Indeed, in disciplines such as health, criminology, and sociology, voices of the silenced are encouraged to speak and more importantly are listened to. For instance, MacDonald, et al., (2005) focus on ‘socially excluded’ young adults; Beattie et al., (2005) reveal the gaps in dementia service provision for marginalised groups, including young people; and Skeggs, (1997) critically examines the notion of respectability amongst young working-class women. In education, Bhopal and Myers’ (2016) focus was on home education and the gypsy and traveller community. However, Bhopal (2010) has also highlighted the challenges of recruiting marginalised groups for participation, including how outsiders can gain access through trusted bodies providing support, or the different approaches used to recruit participants but eventually resorting to snowball sampling. Having supposed ‘insider’ status is also problematic, and Mirza (1998) acknowledges that being a black feminist doesn’t always give access to black communities.

This special issue seeks to broaden the theme from examining the challenges of recruiting and researching marginalised groups. Marketing is a profoundly Euro/Americanocentric discipline, derived from neo classical economic theory, focussing on exchange, and creating value, but problematically can be connected to the wider circuits of colonialism. Historically, we have seen indigenous people ‘examined’ and exploited by a colonial power (see for instance, Deloria, 1969; Smith, 1999/2021), as western values and knowledge systems colour perceptions and understanding of the colonised (Hall, 1981). Therefore, we are also interested in the power dynamics between the researcher and the researched in consumer behaviour and marketing more generally, but significantly, how the data collected can be used for the benefit of the researched.

Whilst marketing academe recognises limitations in the failure to recruit participants from vulnerable or marginalised groups, samples tend to consist of largely middle class, white participants. This has the effect of reinforcing the knowledge hierarchies and further distancing marginalised groups who are unable to share their sense making and understanding of their lived experiences. Indeed, Varman et al. (2022) have highlighted the scant attention paid to understanding the lives of lower socio-economic groups, but there is a history of marketing academe who have argued that “solutions to the problems of consumer vulnerability is badly needed” (Shultz & Holbrook, 2009, p.127).  There is a growing interest in the field. In a seminal text on consumer vulnerability, Hamilton et al. (2016, p.1) consider “consumer vulnerability as an undesirable state catalysed by a number of human conditions and contexts”. It can be also temporal and/or temporary.  For instance, how has the current cost of living crisis following on from the Covid pandemic drawn more people into a vulnerable position? For others, relational dynamics have altered structures and roles within the family, and Higgins and O’Leary (2023) focus on the experiences of parent carers; Dean et al. (2020) explored the liminal nature of caring for an ageing parent; Hein et al. (2016) focus on gender; Piacentini and colleagues (2014) highlight the struggles and transition of care leavers to independent living, Hutton (2015) examines the intersection between gender and poverty and highlights how vulnerable women manage (or not) consumption related stress and Bublitz et al. (2019) advocate food access for all. While there may be a number of reasons why participation is so skewed, there are many instances when it is crucial to listen to marginalised voices and understand their needs, so we ask two questions. Firstly, what recruitment strategies are deployed as we need to build an understanding of the challenges in recruiting vulnerable and/or marginalised groups; and what mechanisms are used to overcome these challenges (Jones, et al, 2023). Secondly, what data collection methods can, or do, we use that does not privilege knowledge systems over the participants’ voice (see for instance Archibald et al., 2019).

Responding to Hutton and Heath’s (2020, p. 2699) call to “critique our methodological status quo” this special edition calls for a critical examination of recruitment methods and data collection methods which can release the voices of the marginalised.  Consumer culture theorists are increasingly using alternative methods including arts based research methods (ABR) such as poetry (Rojas-Gaviria, 2020; Rojas-Gaviria & Canniford, 2022), visual media including photography (Ozanne et al., 2013) and videography (Belk & Kozinets, 2005) performance (Moisio & Arnould, 2005) and others (for a comprehensive review see Seregina, 2020) to make sense of complexity and reveal the silenced voices of the marginalised.  We are interested in articles that give precedence to the issues, concerns and disparities facing marginalised and disadvantaged consumers in society and how researchers overcome the problems associated with recruitment, sampling strategies data collection, giving voice to marginalised and/or vulnerable groups. We welcome conceptual and empirical work, and the journal is open to alternative modes of representation and dissemination, multidisciplinary approaches, and varied research contexts from across the globe. Potential topics could explore, and are not limited to the following:

  • Outsider challenges to recruiting and accessing marginalised participants.
  • Utilising insider knowledge of marginalised consumer groups.
  • Researching marginalised consumer groups – methodologies and critiques.
  • Giving voice to the unheard.
  • The marketplace and marginalisation.
  • Voices that are closed down – exploration of epistemic ignorance.
  • Issues, tensions and ramifications of increasing consumerism and the rise of consumer culture in socially and economically deprived regions and communities.
  • Rebellion and dissent in marginalised regions and communities.
  • Escaping (or not) deprivation, doom, and uncertainty.
  • Researching feelings of inferiority, vulnerability, and modes of discrimination.
  • Surviving, living, and working in precarious environments/regions.
  • Co-creating value with marginalised groups.
  • Critical appraisal of conceptualising marginal or vulnerable groups.

For the full call for papers including references see

Submission Instructions

Authors should submit manuscripts of between 8,000–10,000 words (excluding tables, references, captions, footnotes and endnotes). All submissions must strictly follow the guidelines for the Journal of Marketing Management. Please note the requirements to include a Summary Statement of Contribution, and to place figures and tables at their correct location within the text. Please also read the following guidelines prior to submitting your manuscript:

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Manuscripts should be submitted online using the T&F Submission Portal for Journal of Marketing Management. Authors should prepare and upload two versions of their manuscript (only use alpha-numeric characters or underscores in the filename). One should be a complete text, while in the second all document information identifying the author should be removed from the files to allow them to be sent anonymously to referees.

When uploading files authors will be able to define the non-anonymous version as “Manuscript - with author details”, and the anonymous version as “Manuscript - Anonymous”. To submit your manuscript to the Special Issue choose “Research Article” from the Manuscript Type list in the Submission Portal. On the next screen (Manuscript Details), answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Are you submitting your paper for a specific special issue or article collection?’. A drop down menu will then appear and you should select the Special Issue Title from this list.

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