Academic Q&A: Markus Wohlfeil

MarkusTo begin our exciting new Question and Answer blog series we have a fascinating interview to share from one of the research and teaching staff here at Norwich Business School. Markus is a Lecturer in Marketing and Consumer Behaviour with a background in management within sports retailing and the sports industry.

His blog might be particularly interesting to students looking to excel in their studies or just perform well in his Marketing Communications and Behavioural Aspects in Marketing modules.

1.     What would your super power be?

While I was reading comics when I was younger (thanks to the PhD Comics, I still do) or watching certain TV shows and films, I never really had any interest in those “super heroes” with their special super powers. Instead, I was more ‘inspired’ by those ‘ordinary’ guys, who only use their wit, intelligence, knowledge and improvisation skills to solve tricky problems, to help other people or to get themselves out of precarious situations – such as “Der Hexer”, “McGyver”, “The A-Team” or “The Equilizer”.

Therefore, I would say that my “super power” is probability my curiosity for the “little mundane, taken-for-granted and often overlooked” consumption phenomena in everyday life as well as my ability to solve problems by being aware of the bigger picture by:

a)     thinking ahead as to what potential impact on the broader context certain steps may have
b)     recognizing and paying attention to even the most mundane, taken-for-granted issues (it’s always the smallest details that kill even the best ideas and grandest plans)
c)     always trying to think outside the box and the usual framework of ready-made solutions
d)     coming up with reative and imaginative solutions/approaches that are different and only-too-often at odds with the “officially-approved” way of doing things

Perhaps that is also reason why I sometimes become annoyed with people, who – like human robots – have to do everything word-for-word by the book with no sign of independent thinking or problem-specific focus (customer service hotlines come to mind, for example). As well as people who want/need to be taken by the hand and not only constantly be told WHAT to do, but also HOW to do every little detail, just like little children. 😉 Come on!

2.     What do you like about your job?

Two things:

a)     To be able (at least for the time being) to satisfy my curiosity and research in much more detail those mundane, but truly fascinating facets in our everyday consumer behaviour that we often take for granted but in truth know virtually nothing about (besides much-repeated and re-enforced clichés, stereotypes and tabloid-, media- or internet-inspired pseudo-knowledge). I achieve this by using alternative and predominantly emic research approaches that allow for interacting with individual consumers and giving them a genuine voice to be heard in academic writings.

b)    To inspire students:
i) to look beyond the standard texts, statistics, formulas, best-practice models and perfect case studies they are presented with in their textbooks and to question them through REAL critical thinking (as opposed to just replicating rehearsed theoretical sound-bites).
ii) to become consciously aware and curious about the little everyday consumption phenomena (and other issues of everyday life) around them and appreciate them from a new, critical and informed personal perspective that goes beyond the obvious – after all, every one of us is a consumer.

3.     How do you relax?

Since I was young and went with my grandfather for the first time to the cinema (I think, I was 6 or 7 years old), I have developed a keen interest in the magical world of film, filmmaking and the film industry. Hence, I love going to the cinema – especially Cinema City ever since I arrived in Norwich. I also collect films on DVD or, lately, on iTunes – the main purpose of my iPod Touch is to watch films while travelling. But I also read a lot about the history and current developments in the film industry and in filmmaking. In fact, I try to spend much of my spare time to shoot and edit short films.

4.     What is your favorite place on campus?

The Graduate Bar! And the LCR, perhaps, when a “proper” band is playing. In recent years, I saw The Stranglers and The Damned twice (well, this December it will be third time) – I grew up with punk (the real thing, not the later imitations) and I continue to listen to: pub rock, punk, post-punk, ska, experimental and other alternative music. This year, I have already bought the tickets for the Boomtown Rats and Editors. The Waterfront is also nice (especially, when Stiff Little Fingers are playing), but it’s not on campus.

5.     Who would play you in the film of your life?

Hopefully, I would play myself. Finally, my long-awaited film debut.

As a second choice, it might require three good character actors: First, an unknown child actor for my “younger years”, then, Daniel Br‎‏‎‏ühl could pull off the aesthetic downgrade with the help of a good make-up artist, and eventually Christoph Waltz or William H. Marcy as my future me.

6.     Which words do you most overuse?

a)     Well
b)    Anyway
c)     However
d)    A number of words I’m not allowed to write here

But most of the time, I don’t “over-”use so much words, but phrases or metaphors.

7.     What is your favourite book?

I don’t believe in rankings but the group of my favourite books would include:


The Hunger Games;  Battle Royale; The Book Thief; I am the Messenger; The Lord of the Rings; Die Feuerzangenbowle; Kleider machen Leute; Rage; It; The Last Stand; The Wave; Pride & Prejudice; Cabal; Harry Potter; The Interpretation of Murder; Cloud Atlas


The Story of Film: An Odyssey; Movie Crazy: Fans, Stars and the Cult of Celebrity; The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood; Consumer Research: Introspective Essays on the Study of Consumption; Film Marketing; The Movie Business Book; Heroes, Monsters and Messiahs: Movies and TV Shows as the Mythology of American Culture; The UFA Story; The SAGE Handbook of Marketing Theory; Representing Consumers: Voices, Views and Visions; Handbook of Qualitative Methods in Consumer Research; Consumer Tribes; Textual Poachers; The Marketing Code; Agents and Dealers; The Lost Logo; Fail Better; Stunde der Heuchler

8.     What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Failure is an essential stepping stone to true/real success, not the end of it! It’s the way of how you deal with your experience of failure that eventually determines your success! Do you take responsibility for your actions and the consequences (failure) or do you blame everyone else but you? Do you feel sorry for yourself or do you pick yourself, brush of the dirt, learn from your mistakes and try again – perhaps with different approach? Life’s a series of trial-and-error challenges – you give it your best to deal with them. If doesn’t work out, reflect on what went wrong and try again until you find the best possible solution.

I know teachers, politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, economists and co. talk about nothing else as importance of getting top grades, top rankings, top journals, top quality, top feedbacks, top jobs, top universities, top degrees/qualifications, top performance, top this, top that, top everything. However, that’s only because, despite the pretence, those people have only a very narrow intellectual horizon and no genuine idea of what those words really mean (or how context-specific the meanings really are to make any sense). The truth is there is NO EITHER YOU SUCCEED OR YOU FAIL! There’s no black-or-white, right-or-wrong! The truth is that there is NO manual or perfect path to success that can be followed either! Getting top grades alone doesn’t guarantee you a top (or even a good) job. An excellent marketing plan based on models of best practice doesn’t guarantee business success. If it were that easy, everyone could do it and would have done it. Instead, it’s a rocky road through uncharted territory. In fact, most celebrated “success stories” in the textbooks and the media are anything but the “brilliant minds” that their corporate myths, journalists and academics portray them to be. Every single one of them has failed badly many times over and over again until they eventually had their lucky golden break/strike to success for which they became famous – and since then, many of them have experienced failure again (even though nobody really talks about it).

Thus, if you get a bad (or lower) mark, then instead of running around complaining how the unfair, ‘mean’ lecturer/marker was not able to appreciate your masterpiece appropriately, rather reflect carefully why your work may not have been up to the required standard, pick yourself up, learn your lessons and try again. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – and wiser.

Markus Wohlfeil explains what life is like as a Jena Malone fan

See more of our Academic Q&A series here.


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