Explorers and creators of markets - Market research and public relations in Sweden 1980s to 1990s

Lilla Sparbanksfoajén Session 4: The Neoliberal Shift organized by Jonas Ljungberg and Erik Bengtsson


Elin Åström Rudberg


This paper is concerned with the development of market research in Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s from the perspective of a changing landscape for the private consultancy business at the intersection of marketing, communication, and public relations. During this time of liberalization and internationalization of the economy the industry grew momentously. The starting point for the paper has been to understand how this development and growth can be explained and why the services were increasingly perceived as essential by both the business world and the public sector. The paper discusses the knowledge production of the industry and the ideas and methods presented by representatives concerning the role it played in the economy and society. Of particular interest is the industry’s role as both the explorer of markets—in line with its mission to map and discover people’s needs and opinions—and as a promoter or creator of new markets in relation to deregulated sectors and international expansion. What were the fundamental principles that underpinned the industry’s description of itself and the value it would bring to the economy and society? In what ways were these principles transformed into practice by industry representatives?

The study connects with and contributes to previous research about marketization in the late twentieth century and to literature on the historical evolution of marketing, communication and public relations. Theoretically, inspiration is drawn from Luc Boltanski’s and Eve Chiapello’s New Spirit of Capitalism (2005) and their theories about justification and economies of worth. The study is based on archival records emanating from two key market- and opinion research companies in Sweden: Demoskop (a subsidiary of the PR company Kreab) and Sifo. Published sources from the industry’s business interest organizations are also used.


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