Troubled waters: the transformation of marketing in a digital world

Lee Quinn (School of Materials, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Sally Dibb (Centre for Business in Society, Coventry University, Coventry, UK)
Lyndon Simkin (Centre for Business in Society, Coventry University, Coventry, UK)
Ana Canhoto (Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK)
Mathew Analogbei (Business School, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Publication date: 14 November 2016



This paper aims to establish how strategic target-market selection decisions are shaped, challenged and driven in response to the rapidly evolving technological landscape. The authors critically evaluate the implications of these changes for the role of marketers and the organizational function of marketing.


The research uses qualitative methods. Key-informant interviews are conducted among senior organizational practitioners within client-side organizations, digital agencies and strategic marketing consultancies, seeking to contrast their views.


The findings reveal an erosion of responsibility for the integrated strategic role of marketing decision-making. In particular, the authors reveal that the evolving digital landscape has precipitated a sense of crisis for marketers and the role of marketing within the firm. This extends beyond simply remedying a skills-gap and is triggering a transformation that has repercussions for the future of marketing and its practice, thus diminishing functional accountability.

Research limitations/implications

The findings have long-term implications for marketing as a strategic organizational function of the firm and for marketing as a practice.


The study considers an increasingly digitalized marketplace and the associated impact of big data for the function of marketing. It reveals the changing scope of strategic marketing practice and functional accountability.



The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Economic and Social Research Council, Digital Social Research programme in funding this project.


Quinn, L., Dibb, S., Simkin, L., Canhoto, A. and Analogbei, M. (2016), "Troubled waters: the transformation of marketing in a digital world", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 50 No. 12, pp. 2103-2133.

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