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Articles of faith and mystic matrices: Marketing textbooks and the misrepresentation of reality

Barry Ardley (Lincoln University, Lincoln, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 5 September 2008




This purpose of this paper is to show that theories of marketing, as evident in a range of key textbooks, represent a set of reified articles of faith, which are unreflective of the reality of the practitioner's world.


This paper draws on some interpretative research findings into the nature of marketing practice. A series of phenomenological interviews were carried out with senior marketing managers. Their views were compared with existing representations of marketing as it appears in a range of textbooks.


Marketing textbooks were found to be highly alike drawing as they do on an implicit systems based paradigm. The findings from the interviews show that marketing is a locally defined, highly contextualised activity that is dissimilar in many ways to the generalised prescriptions of mainstream textbooks.

Research limitations/implications

Scholarship in the form of textbooks should attempt to move away from the dictates of the dominant articles of faith as espoused by the established church of marketing. Differing interpretations of marketing should not be viewed as being heretical. They should be seen as being the result of diverse organisational contexts and outcomes which stem from the socially constructed nature of reality.


The contribution of this paper is to show that marketing in practice is not constituted by textbook theory, but by context and the individual perceptions of people as they carry out their actions and routines in organisations.



Ardley, B. (2008), "Articles of faith and mystic matrices: Marketing textbooks and the misrepresentation of reality", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 372-385.



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