HOW do individual choices, rather than those of a large group, help businesses decide exactly what they want to make and sell?
And why are such personal views so important when deciding what choices to give people when they’re making buying judgments?
These are the questions Alex Boswell has been aiming to answer in a specialist dissertation he’s written as part of his Masters degree in marketing at the University of South Wales (USW), and it’s one that has had a very personal focus.
Alex, 24, from Cardiff, has recently completed a seven-year gender transition, and has focused on his experiences throughout the process and how they influenced the clothing choices he made.
Alex’s research utilised a research method which is considerably under-used within the business environment - critical authoethnography, through which a researcher uses personal experiences, rather than the views of a larger group, and reflects upon these within the wider cultural and social context.
Looking at the way that psychology and social influences can sway consumer behaviour, Alex considered his different clothing choices as he grew-up – starting at age seven, then 12, 15, 19, and when he reached the age of 23 – and how he made different clothing choices.
The research threw up some interesting results, some of which Alex wasn’t expecting.
“Even though I’d had initially considered psychological influences to be superior, sociological influences had a far greater impact than originally assumed,” he explained.
“On the surface it seems that transitioning did not change my behaviour by any noteworthy degree, besides the perceived gender of clothing being consumed.
“Further research can help to determine whether this experience is similar to others in the transgender community.”
Dr Elizabeth Lloyd-Parkes, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at USW, who was Alex’s dissertation supervisor, praised Alex for his work, and how he put the focus on himself.
“This was a very brave thing for Alex to do, using his personal experience of transitioning and looking at his own choices,” she explained.
“Authoethnography by its very nature is personal, and uses very different methodology to traditional business-related research to come to a conclusion.
“Alex was the first student within the South Wales Business School at USW to use that research method.
“His experience very much lent itself to the process, and his findings will almost certainly form the basis for further work in this area.”
Alex is presenting his research findings at the inaugural 'Telling the Story of Business' event at the University of South Wales on January 8.
The keynote speaker is Professor Joseph Sobol, who is Professor of Storytelling at USW, with other talks focusing on the wider aspects of storytelling, such as how it can influence employability, enterprise, innovation in the digital realm, workplace identity, marketing musicians, and female entrepreneurship.
To book tickets, visit https://www.southwales.ac.uk/about/events/telling-story-research-entrepreneurship/