Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Volume 6, Issue 4
With our volume page limit already exhausted this year (so much great material to publish!), we will keep this final editorial of 2014 short. Next month (December) is the deadline for submissions to the 2015 Conference on Historical Research in Marketing (CHARM) which will be held in Long Beach, California, on board the Queen Mary cruise ship/hotel in late May, 2015. With that venue, CHARM 2015 promises to be a great conference – for more details, see: http://www.charmassociation.org/
The lead article in this issue earned the best student paper award at the 2013 CHARM conference. In “Trade Fairs and Propaganda: Fifty Years of the Automobile at the 1935 and 1936 Berlin Auto Shows”, Julia Große-Börger describes how the National-Socialist regime under Adolph Hitler participated in trade fairs to posture their propaganda. Große-Börger uses some wonderful archival material courtesy of Daimler–Benz AG to probe and illustrate how Daimler–Benz tailored their advertising to the communication strategies used by the Nazi regime during the mid-1930s. Promoted as a German invention, the automobile had the potential to reconcile the motorization of the German people – a sign of modernity – with the blood and soil ideology of the Nazis. In the case of the staging of the automobile anniversaries at the Berlin Auto Shows in 1935 and 1936, the promotional efforts of Daimler–Benz and the National-Socialist propaganda worked well together because of the relatively open display of honor toward some of the German inventors of the automobile.
A variety of likewise fascinating archival material was used by Wrege, Gordon and Greenwood to describe the development of an electric lamp renewal system by electric companies during the early twentieth century. In “Electric Lamp Renewal Systems: A Strategy to Dominate Lighting”, the authors interpret these lamp renewal systems in America as one of the first captive product (pricing) marketing programs known. Although the concept of uniformed men in trucks coming to customers’ homes once a month to clean and replace light bulbs seems amusing today, it was brilliant (pun intended) and effective in increasing the acceptance and use of electric lighting and, thereby, of electricity – which was the actual purpose.
Two conceptual articles round out the full papers in this issue. Eric Shaw’s article about a “Quest for a General Theory of the Marketing System” is arguably one of the major themes of his career and this article summarizes Shaw’s thinking about the various conceptual and theoretical components found in the marketing literature over the past half century that have, or could have, contributed to a general theory of marketing. For marketing scholars interested in a general theory of marketing, Shaw’s work here provides an invaluable inventory of ideas and challenges. In “Misdirected Effort: Thorstein Veblen’s Critique of Advertising”, Sidney Plotkin provides a penetrating interpretation of Veblen’s later writings on the business system to find an analysis of advertising within oligopolistic capitalism. For Veblen, the growth of advertising reflected a systematic expenditure of energy, talent and resources on a misdirection of human effort, one whose chief effect was to prolong “the strain” of everyday life in futile pursuit of waste. Whether such irrationality could be sustained indefinitely, or whether it might finally undermine the society that propels its pursuit, is an issue that Veblen raised, but according to Plotkin, one to which he ultimately gave no final answer.
Explorations and insights
In the first contribution to the explorations and insights section, Franck Cochoy traces the emergence of the American Marketing Association, the functions performed by the label “marketing”, the stabilizing effects of the new institutional structure – the American Marketing Association itself – which helped conceptualise and define the trajectory of the discipline. With institutionalization, the danger is one of sedimentation and ossification. This was circumnavigated via the founding of the flagship Journal of Marketing, an outlet intended to offer intellectual structure, but also to provide a means for the communication of intellectual developments and change, thereby vitalizing the field. The second contribution comes from a former President of the American Marketing Association, William Lazer. Lazer narrates an account of his experiences while head of the institution that Cochoy historically describes, providing insight into the ability of one individual to push this body in new and novel directions, but also the constraints they faced in dealing with many different interest groups all subsumed under the AMA label. Fascinatingly, Lazer underscores the politics that he ran into during the election process of a new editor of the Journal of Marketing – this provides us with a backstage insight into the machinations of some careerist academics.