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Marketing theory and critical phenomenology: Exploring the human side of management practice

Barry Ardley (Lincoln Business School, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Article publication date: 25 October 2011




This paper uses phenomenology as a critical theoretical lens through which to view marketing management theory. The aim is to demonstrate that it can uncover the extent to which established theory neglects the human side of marketing.


To facilitate a phenomenological discussion, the critical framework of Mingers is utilised. This identifies a critique of rhetoric, of tradition, of authority and of objectivity. Secondary sources are then used to highlight the central role played by individual meaning in marketing practice, as opposed to the systemic based framework of the dominant theory.


Findings suggest that traditional theory is based on questionable assumptions regarding the nature of the individual and their managerial practice. Marketing theory is not a transferable objective technology, but is constituted by the vagaries of the human agent. It is also posited that the subject boundaries of marketing are set by established authorities that are prone to discourage alternative perspectives.

Research limitations/implications

This is a position paper and additional empirical research could be undertaken in order to help further discuss the claims made.

Practical implications

This paper suggests that marketing management has the potential to be understood in ways that go beyond the representation of it in established theory. Alternative conceptions of marketing hold the potential of informing future theory and practice developments.


Insights into marketing practice, acquired through the use of an innovative and critically informed phenomenological framework, have led to the questioning of a dominant theory that routinely ignores the human side of marketing activity.



Ardley, B. (2011), "Marketing theory and critical phenomenology: Exploring the human side of management practice", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 29 No. 7, pp. 628-642.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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