University of South Wales (USW) Research student Alex Boswell is embarking on a PhD to study consumer behaviour within the LGBTQ+ community, specifically during Pride.
Alex, who started gender transition in his late teens, began to explore consumer behaviour during his Masters degree in Marketing at USW. He was one of the first students from the South Wales Business School to use autoethnography at Masters level – a research method which uses personal experiences, rather than the views of a larger group, and reflects upon these within the wider cultural and social context.
“Studying consumer behaviour appealed to me because I was very interested in the psychology element of it,” said Alex, now 25 and living in Cardiff.
“Using autoethnography gave me the space to reflect on my own experiences as a transgender person, and made me realise how little research had previously been done on consumer behaviour among LGBTQ+ people. I wanted to address that knowledge gap.”
For his PhD, Alex will take a slightly different approach to data collection by incorporating other people into the research, using narrative inquiry – where people will send him written, audio or visual accounts of their experiences of brands during Pride.
He decided to focus on this topic after conversations with people in the LGBTQ+ community about being the target of corporate brand advertising, either during Pride events or via marketing methods throughout the month.
“Anecdotally, there’s a negative sentiment that people don’t appreciate corporate brands being at Pride; there’s an idea of tokenism or band wagoning, without any real commitment from these brands to equality and diversity.
“I’ll be involving participants so that my research can specifically listen to the voices of that community.”
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its knock-on effect for live events this year, Alex will aim to complete the majority of his data collection in 2022, when event such as Pride parades are likely to take place. He has already started to reach out to members of the LGBTQ+ community via social media, including some of his friends, to recruit them as participants in his research.
“My main aim of this research is to gain a better understanding of people’s thoughts and feelings of brands at Pride, and relate that to existing consumer behaviour research, which will hopefully lead to more specific studies in the future.
“I will also be adding elements of autoethnography into my work, so that when I’m analysing data, I’ll add in my thoughts or relate what the participant has said to my own experiences. After all, I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ community and have taken part in Pride, so taking the participants’ accounts into account alongside my own will seek to strengthen the authenticity of my research.”