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Teaching the history of marketing thought: an approach
Article Type: Explorations and Insights From: Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Volume 7, Issue 2
The demise of once ubiquitous PhD seminars in the history of marketing thought in universities across the USA raises at least two questions: first, what is the value added by knowing about the development of marketing concepts, constructs, theories, approaches and schools of thought? Second, if such knowledge does add value to the PhD program, why are courses in the history of marketing thought declining?
In answer to the first question, it seems ironic to have to justify to colleagues the value of a doctoral seminar on the history of marketing thought in a marketing PhD curriculum. Ideas (i.e. concepts) are the basic raw materials with which academics deal. Consequently, knowledge of the conceptual development of the discipline would appear to add immense value to budding marketing scholars preparatory to their beginning a lifelong career in developing testable theories constructed of concepts found scattered around the literature. (This, of course, argues for a marketing theory course and one in marketing thought; for that discussion, see six commentaries on the relationship of marketing thought to further theory development in Marketing Theory, Vol. 11 No. 4, December 2011).
It seems intuitively obvious that no matter how superbly one measures superficial or ambiguous concepts, such quantification will yield little of value to research. On the other hand, organizing a set of clearly defined and logically related concepts provides the building blocks for constructing testable theories, this being of potentially immeasurable research value. Research, the process of searching for answers to questions, starts with conceptual understanding, and the source of concepts and theories is found in the literature. That is, the search – in research – begins in the discipline’s collective body of knowledge, otherwise known as the history or development of thought. “[T]he history of thought is mined for the raw materials and component parts, i.e. the concepts and theories, required to produce new knowledge” (Shaw, 2009, p. 331). This is a notion enshrined in the history of scientific thought by Newton’s (1676/1959) familiar expression: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. The reference to “giants” is not an allusion to huge people; it is a metaphor for building on the great ideas found in the scholarly literature. If as Newton proposed, one views science as a self-improvement project involving the development of ideas from concepts into testable theories, then the building process (even in a social science such as marketing) begins with reading the relevant literature to learn about the significant concepts that exist. Thus, studying the history of any discipline’s thought, including marketing, is invaluable to developing and improving the ability both to explain and to predict phenomena.
Given that knowledge of the conceptual developments in a discipline clearly does add value to the PhD marketing curriculum, the second question is more perplexing: why has there been a decline in courses covering the history of marketing thought? There are undoubtedly several reasons. Perhaps the main reason is the sub-disciplinary silos brought about by the fragmentation of the marketing discipline (Bartels, 1974; Wilkie and Moore, 2003). Most contemporary scholars focus on a sub-discipline, such as marketing management or consumer/buyer behavior. It is far easier to teach the history of thought in a single specialty area in a course, than it is to cover the development of marketing ideas as a whole. One example of the discipline’s fragmentation into sub-disciplinary silos is found in the works of Bartels. From the early 1900s up until 1960, Bartels (1962) could list all the academic textbooks in seven specific areas (e.g. retail, wholesale and advertising) and one “general area” of marketing thought. However, by 1975, the proliferation of books became too great even for Bartels (1976) to manage, in his second edition, and his attempt at organizing conceptual developments to that point in time fell into utter disarray (Shaw and Tamilia, 2001, p. 160). By his third and last edition, the explosion of new book titles was so numerous that Bartels’ (1988) did not even attempt to extend the listings in his final book. The point is that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep-up with even a single specialized sub-discipline let alone keep an eye on developments across many sub-disciplines.
Unfortunately, ever greater specialization in ever narrower subject matter increases the difficulty – without standing on the shoulders of giants – of seeing how the sub-disciplinary pieces fit into a systematically unified whole. Specialization in sub-disciplines, in contrast to generalized knowledge of the discipline as a whole, produces a vicious cycle: as the number of history of marketing thought courses decline, the number of budding doctoral students capable of teaching such broad courses on the whole history of marketing thought will also decline, this still further reducing future courses and, as a consequence, future scholars capable of teaching them. While an overwhelming number of marketing doctoral students will specialize in a sub-discipline, it would be beneficial to the discipline as a whole if at least a few young scholars were encouraged to generalize about how the various sub-areas inter-relate to each other.
Another likely reason for the decline of historical/conceptual courses in doctoral programs is the rise of allegedly more rigorous quantitative techniques. As a PhD student in the 1970s, I took a course in multidimensional scaling (MDS), then the fashionable quantitative technique but now almost obsolete. Most contemporary doctoral curricula include a course in structural equation modeling (SEM), the currently reigning fashion in quantitative techniques. The main change in the technology appears to be the letters comprising the acronyms of the underlying algorithms. Although quantitative techniques are certainly valuable, to the extent they are more sophisticated than the concepts they purport to measure, the less likely they will exhibit construct validity, the more likely it is that garbage in will produce garbage out (Quinion, 2005). Rigor in theory development is at least as important as rigor in methodological techniques. Consequently, because of the necessity to develop clear and concise concepts to guide marketing research and practice, one must understand the evolutionary development of marketing terms to see how their conceptual meaning often becomes ambiguous and encrusted over time. To illustrate this problem, the first class assignment in my PhD course described below, involves discussing and categorizing more than one hundred definitions (conceptual meanings) of the term “marketing.”
The purpose of this paper is to discuss one approach to teaching a PhD seminar in the history of marketing thought. Although this is my approach, it is one shaped by a number of scholars who had a huge influence on my thinking about teaching such a seminar: Bob Bartels, Don Dixon, Stan Hollander and Bill Lazer to mention just a few. I only had a few, much too short conversations with Dr Bartels at an American Marketing Association (AMA) marketing conference but was greatly influenced by his dissertation (1942) and three books (1962, 1976 and 1988) on the Development (later History) of Marketing Thought. A decade after his last revision, I had a chance to revisit Bob’s considerable intellectual contributions while reading all of his available articles and rereading his books in preparation for a paper titled: “Robert Bartels and the History of Marketing Thought” (Shaw and Tamilia, 2001).
From my first semester in the PhD program at Temple University when I became his research assistant, Dr Dixon was my main mentor. A year later, I was taking his Seminar on the History of Marketing Thought and its continuation in the Seminar on the Development of Marketing Theory. Subsequently, while he was serving as my dissertation chair, I again sat through the two seminars. In a word, Dixon’s influence on my marketing knowledge and teaching the doctoral course was “profound”, and this influence is detailed in a piece titled: “Reflections on the Dixon Seminar: The Development of Marketing Thought and Theory” (Shaw, 2011).
I met Dr Hollander as the only PhD student presenting a paper at the First North American Conference on Historical Research in Marketing in 1983 and continued meeting him at each of the biennial Proceedings of the Conference for Historical Analysis and Research in Marketings (CHARMs), and at occasional AMA and Macromarketing Conferences. Stan was a continuous source of encouragement for my work in the history of marketing thought, and he continually supported and provided outlets for my research. I also had the opportunity to discuss his teaching of the history of marketing thought class and obtained his course syllabus, one which used Bartels as the textbook and primary source of reading.
Dr Lazer retired as Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University, after almost thirty years, to become Florida Atlantic University’s first Eminent Scholar in Business in 1983 and later to hold the Sensormatic Chair in Marketing from 1996 to 2007. Because of our mutual interest in marketing history and being situated within a few offices of each other, we spent countless hours, week after week, over a quarter century, discussing personalities in academia and the development of marketing concepts. He also taught the seminar on marketing history, following Bartels’s (one of his teachers) textbook. Bill was also a mentor and continuing source of encouragement for my research, reading and critiquing many early drafts of my work. We collaborated as well on a number of research papers.
In sum, except for Dixon who had an entirely different approach, three of those who influenced me followed the organization of Bartels’ textbook. As a result of these influences, in my seminar, I try to blend both approaches. The seminar begins using Dixon’s approach to prehistoric, ancient, medieval and pre-twentieth-century sources to examine how the origins of trade, trading and traders evolved into markets, marketing and marketers, respectively. During the twentieth century, I follow the Bartels approach in organizing the course around subject matter, but where he used courses taught (advertising, retailing, salesmanship, market research, etc.), my subject matter follows research areas (marketing management, consumer behavior, macromarketing, marketing systems, etc.). Further, where Bartels separates his subject areas from the chronological context of academic developments taking place within the discipline as a whole, my research areas are placed within the temporal eras of development, as they transformed the discipline during the past century. Essentially, my “schools within eras” approach follows an article entitled “A History of Schools of Marketing Thought” (Shaw and Jones, 2005).
Following the syllabus offers the most straight forward way to discuss my approach to the seminar in the history of marketing thought. The course has changed significantly over the roughly two decades I have been teaching it. I like to think that it has improved, as I have refined my understanding of the conceptual issues and arguments that have developed during the roughly hundred-year history of marketing as an academic discipline. Indeed, most of my published research (and many current working papers) reflect my attempts to fill-in what I perceive as gaps in our knowledge of marketing thought and theory. The current syllabus (minus contact information) is shown in Appendix 1 and discussed below section by section.
The seminar starts out discussing conceptual analysis or thinking logically and building from concepts (ideas) to constructs (concepts + measurement) to theories (systematically related empirically testable propositions built of concepts, constructs and scientific laws). This makes it easy to distinguish between conceptual and quantitative analysis. Then, we gloss over a conceptual paradox: “Marketing is narrower and deeper in scholarly aspects, while at the same time, broader and shallower in popular respects than most academics and practitioners currently imagine”. This apparent logical enigma is not fully addressed until we enter Era IV during Week 11 (discussed below).
Because I consider my main job as an educator is first and foremost to improve my students’ critical thinking skills, that is the ultimate criterion of every course I teach. In my view, critical thinking means avoiding biased judgments and making methodical decisions. My second objective, what my students should think critically about, is their intellectual heritage – the subject matter of marketing. Lastly, I try to assist them in contributing to the knowledge base of marketing. Roughly two-thirds of my students have presented papers published in the CHARM or other venues.
Grading is evenly divided between class participation, short weekly hand-ins (below), a term paper and final exam. However, the term paper is the critical element because if accepted for publication at a conference, it counts 70 per cent, or in a journal 90 per cent, of their final grade. I do that to inculcate the academic value system that is so heavily weighted toward publication.
Aside from two specific projects, the weekly assignments involve writing two- to -four-page summaries or analyses of some of the articles on the reading list. Each student also critiques another randomly chosen student’s hand-in to give the class some practice in reviewing. The first of the two specific projects involves: What is marketing? Prior to the first class, I email students more than 100 definitions of marketing from the late nineteenth century to the present (Exhibit 1, available on the CHARM website: http://www.charmassociation.org), and the students are required to categorize them, along with writing their own definition of marketing. The purpose of this assignment is to show that there are many perspectives of what marketing is beyond their typical marketing management perspective. The second specific class assignment is to differentiate market and non-market transactions (Exhibit 2, available on the CHARM website: http://www.charmassociation.org). The purpose here is to demonstrate that there are many forms of generic exchange and not all of them would be considered marketing. This requires identifying conceptual criteria to determine what is and what is not marketing.
The tentative schedule provides a timeline for the seminar’s content. Four marketing eras (or landmark events) provide the basis for organizing content. The phrase “Marketing Eras”, based on transformational developments in marketing, was coined by Jones and Shaw (2002), expanded by Wilkie and Moore (2003) and then redefined by Shaw and Jones (2005). Within these eras, clusters of concepts, theories and approaches are discussed within ten schools of marketing thought. The phrase “Schools of Marketing” thought was originally used by Beckman et al. (1973), refined by Sheth et al. (1988) and updated by Shaw and Jones (2005). The evolution of attempts to organize the marketing thought literature is described in “The History of Organizing the Histories of Marketing Thought” (for a section of a longer paper, see Shaw, 2009), which provides the current basis for organizing the seminar into eras and schools.
The content: eras of marketing
The Four eras consist of following:
1. pre-academic marketing thought, prior to 1900;
2. origins of the discipline: traditional approaches to marketing thought, roughly 1900-1955;
3. paradigm shift: about 1955-1975, based on the work of Wroe Alderson; and
4. paradigm broadening: about 1975-present, based on the work of Philip Kotler and various co-authors.
Some sample weeks are included in Appendix 2 and the full week-by-week reading lists are available on the CHARM website: http://www.charmassociation.org.
Each era represents a major transformation in marketing thought. Era I, pre-academic thought, offers mostly individual insights by great thinkers or practitioners of their times into the rationale for trading and marketing practices. The origin of the discipline in Era II begins with attempts to define marketing’s nature and scope and to systematically organize and classify marketing phenomena. The transformation from description and classification to explanation and theory building led by Wroe Alderson characterizes Era III’s paradigm shift. Broadening marketing’s boundaries from business activities directed toward market transactions to all human activities involving any social exchange relationship (i.e. “generic exchange”) proposed by Philip Kotler marks the paradigm broadening of Era IV.
Era I. Pre-academic marketing thought (prior to 1900)
There are three class sessions on Era I that provide an orientation to critical thinking about marketing. The pre-first class assignment involves reading and categorizing more than 100 definitions of marketing from roughly the turn of the century to the present. After covering the syllabus, we discuss their categorizations and the changes in marketing definitions during the century. Students then present their own definitions, and we question the logic of these as well. This is their introduction to the Socratic Method because, according to Plato (Shaw, 1995), Socrates began every discussion of subject matter by questioning the definition of what it was they were studying. In the second class, we examine some archeological and anthropological evidence as well as accounts provided by ancient writers of how trade, trading and traders evolved into markets, marketing and marketers, respectively, as well as their take on the marketing system’s economic benefits and social consequences.
Then, we discuss some of the earliest and greatest thinkers (including Plato, Aristotle and Cicero) who raised questions about marketing: What it is? Why it exists? How it works? I call this Socrates’ Method meets Kipling’s Six Honest Serving Men (who taught me all I know, their names are what and where and when, and why and how and who). The third class covers a sample of interesting and insightful sources offering a variety of perspectives on marketing thought and practice over the millennia from philosophers (e.g. Plato, St Augustine, Maimonides and St Thomas) to holy books (e.g. Hindu Atharva Veda, Hebrew Bible, Confucius’ Analects, Christian New Testament and Muslim Koran), to poets (e.g. Martial, Horace, Juvenal and Omar Khayyam), to kings (Marcus Aurelius, Philip Augustus and Henry IV), to explorers (Bernal Diaz, Christopher Columbus, Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh), to missionaries (e.g. John of Plano, William of Rubruck and Odoric of Pordenone), to merchants (e.g. Benjamin of Tudela, Marco Polo, Francesco Pegolotti and Ibn Batuta) and to scientists (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci, Nicolaus Copernicus, Joseph Priestly and Benjamin Franklin). Each student does a subset of the readings and presents his/her perspective.
The general idea of the first three sessions is to introduce what I have found the soundest approach to critical thinking. This approach combines both the unanswered questions and unquestioned answers central to the Socratic Method with Kipling’s systematic organization of the relevant types of questions requiring answers. Knowing the important questions to ask, one then searches for the most thoughtful answers from a diversity of sources over time and across disciplines.
Era II. Origins of marketing as an academic discipline (1900-1955)
Era II consists of three sessions that establish the nature and scope of the emerging academic discipline of marketing. The first of these classes, Week 4, follows the origins of the marketing discipline, as described by Bartels (1962, Chapter 3) through a sampling of pages from the opening chapters in a variety of marketing textbooks during the1920s and 1930s. The focus of these early academics was on showing that marketing was productive in nature and on delimiting the scope of the field by distinguishing it from production (farming and manufacturing). This was accomplished using the four utilities concept.
Early textbook writers defined the scope of marketing as the “creation of time, place and possession utilities” (Converse, 1922, p. 1). The nature of this work (called marketing functions) performed by middlemen (called marketing institutions) in creating utilities, these marketing pioneers argued, was just as productive as the creation of “form utility” by farmers and manufacturers. The argument, in a nutshell, is that creating utility (the capacity to provide human satisfaction) requires work, work takes time, time has a cost and the monetized opportunity cost of performing marketing work to create utility provides additional value to the prior value of produced products.
Then, we discuss an overview of the traditional approaches to marketing thought, which addresses the questions of what activities are performed by whom on which products to create utilities. The answers are found in the functions, institutions and commodity approaches to marketing thought. The discussion is based on the reading: “General Marketing”, Chapter 10 in Bartels (1962), which is a chronology of developments in the marketing discipline from 1900 to 1960. Also discussed is the interregional school of marketing thought, developed shortly after the traditional approaches to address the question of where marketing activities are performed.
In the following session, Week 5, we survey two of the early schools of thought: functions and institutions. The marketing functions’ approach involves classifying the work or activities of marketing (e.g. assembling/buying, selling, transporting and financing promoting/communicating). The marketing institutions approach involves the classification of middlemen who perform this marketing work (e.g. wholesaler and retailers, agents and brokers) and their organization in channels of distribution. With functions, for example, we start with Shaw (1912) and Weld (1917), then proceed through the literature reaching a review article by Hunt and Goolsby (1988). The same approach is taken with each of the other schools.
In Week 6, we cover the other two early schools. The Commodity School includes various classifications of industrial and consumer goods. The emphasis is on arguments in the literature over shopping, convenience and specialty goods, as well as discussion of some more contemporary categorizations of goods (e.g. search and experience and high and low involvement). The Interregional Trade School examines “retail gravitation” models of shopping area size to distance/time people will travel to shop and why some regions of the country specialize in the production or distribution of particular types of commodities, which discussion is easily generalized to international marketing and global trade.
Era III. Paradigm shift: the influence of Wroe Alderson (1955-1975)
We spend four weeks in this era. In Week 7, we read a selection of Alderson’s writings. Particularly, we discuss writings, especially articles, which emphasize the three epic transformations attributed to Alderson constituting a paradigm shift in marketing thought:
1. from distribution (macro) to marketing management (micro);
2. from economics to the behavioral sciences; and
3. from descriptive facts and classification to systematic explanations and theory building.
These transformations have become so embedded in the marketing literature that they are now largely taken for granted and are assumed to have always existed.
One of the less well-known Alderson constructs is emphasized because I regard that construct as the cornerstone of marketing thought. The transvection, along with its corollary – the channel of distribution – concept, is one of the very few, not borrowed from another, discipline and, thus, one of the unique marketing constructs found in the literature. Alderson (1965) coined the term “transvection” to represent a series of transactions, including all sorts and transformations taking place in the channel of distribution, from an original seller of raw material, through intermediate purchases and sales, to the final buyer of a finished product. In mathematics, an individual transaction represents a scalar quantity (with magnitude only) and a vector represents a series of scalar transactions (with magnitude and direction). After discussing several of his seminal pieces, in Week 8, we read extensions of Alderson’s ideas in the work of subsequent authors.
In the following two weeks, we discuss two new schools that fall out of Alderson’s work. The Marketing Systems School of Thought that follows from his functionalist approach is considered in Week 9. Alderson (1957, pp. 16-17) regarded it as “that approach to science […] that stresses the whole system and undertakes to interpret the parts in terms of how they service the system as a whole”. Perhaps, the most understudied of marketing areas, yet a theoretically critical school of thought, marketing systems offers a means to integrate the other sub-disciplinary areas. “It appears obvious that any attempt to synthesize schools of marketing thought or develop a general theory of marketing, must include systems thinking at least as a superstructure” (Shaw and Jones, 2005, p. 261). The critical role of systems stems from its ability to integrate and synthesize a wide variety of diverse concepts into a coherent whole.
Next, in Week 10, the Marketing Management School of Thought is discussed. Still new in the 1960s, though now long taken for granted, marketing management has become the dominant perspective of the marketing discipline. With both the Carnegie and Ford Commissions in 1959 stressing greater rigor and relevance in business and marketing courses (Lazer and Shaw, 1988), marketing management with its 4P’s aimed at customer targets (McCarthy, 1960) offered a pragmatic approach to business from the perspective of a firm.
Era IV. Paradigm broadening: the influence of Philip Kotler et al. (1975-present)
There are five sessions in Era IV. Based on the work of Kotler along with various co-authors and critics, the class discusses the expansion in the nature of exchange and the impact this concomitantly brings to the scope of marketing management activity now expanded to “all human activities”, as Kotler (1972, p. 53) describes it, “The marketer is a specialist at understanding human wants and values and determining what it takes for someone to act.” Such a perspective dramatically expands the scope of marketing management from a firm’s business activities to any individual who or organization which tries to convert another to its way of thinking. We also cover developments in four additional schools of marketing thought.
In this era’s first class session, Week 11, we discuss the paradox mentioned in the course description: “marketing is broader and shallower in popular respects while at the same time narrower and deeper in scholarly respects than most academics and practitioners currently imagine”. First, broader and shallower: when marketing is defined as any activity that uses a marketing technique (such as persuasive communication) the domain of marketing becomes broader to encompass a greater range of marketing practitioner-like activities (e.g. politicians, charities and anyone trying to influence a person or group). But it is also shallower because it relegates marketing to the application of techniques rather than conceptual content. Next, narrower and deeper market transactions (seller–buyer exchanges) include a narrower range of phenomena than generic exchanges (any parties exchanging any values). But unlike generic exchange, which lacks conceptual depth (beyond simple giving and receiving), market exchange is deeper theoretically because it is embedded in a hierarchical cluster of concepts. Selling and buying activities are elements of a market transaction, which is an element of a transvection (discussed in Week 7), which is an element of the aggregate marketing process, which, in turn, is an institutional element of the aggregate social system.
In the following class, Week 12, we examine exchange in more depth. Although all exchanges are similar in superficial aspects (all exchanges involve giving and receiving), market transactions are a special category of social exchanges that in non-trivial respects are significantly different than all other forms of exchange. As a legal and practical matter, all societies with a marketing system create laws to deal specifically with market transactions (the Uniform Commercial Code in the USA, English Contract Law in Great Britain, the Indian Contract Act, Section III of the Civil Code in the Russian Federation, European Contract Law in euro nations, etc.) as a special category – separate and distinct from other forms of exchange. As a theoretical consideration, “a more than ‘incidental advantage’of the market transaction” for empirical testing, compared to other forms of exchange, was noted by Homans (1958, p. 598), an early social exchange theorist, who observed “that it is carried out under special circumstances and with a most useful built-in numerical measure of value” (cited in Shaw, 2010, p. 362 which also provides more detailed arguments). In short, beyond the superficial elements of generic social exchanges, historically societies with a marketing system treat market transactions as a special category – a category with its own special medium of exchange and with a special set of rules, regulations and laws for conducting its practice.
The Macromarketing School of Thought is covered in Week 13. With the dominant emphasis in the discipline on micromarketing (i.e. an individual firm/organization in marketing management and individual consumer/buyer behavior), some marketing scholars were concerned with the larger picture of marketing’s institutional interaction with the larger economic and social systems of which it is a part. The discussions are based on a sampling of articles from a “Doctoral-Level Reading List” compiled by a former editor of the Journal of Macromarketing, Shapiro (2006). Topics include early definitional efforts, developing the domain of macromarketing, macromarketing and systems thinking, markets and regulation, the politics of distribution and consumer activism, marketing ethics, distributive justice and the disadvantaged consumer, macromarketing and the ouality of life, sustainability and consumption and marketing and economic development.
In Week 14, we focus on the Consumer/Buyer Behavior School of Marketing Thought. We read some summaries of the work of 1950s motivation researchers, next we cover the large-scale models of buyer behavior during the 1960s, particularly the models of Engel et al. (1968) and Howard and Sheth (1969). Then, we discuss some literature reviews of current developments in behavioral economics/marketing and neuro-economics/marketing. In the final class, Week 15, we review some summaries related to organizing marketing thought development and discuss the Marketing History School of Thought. After the historical perspective is considered, we try to systematize what we learned over the semester and conclude by speculating on future developments in marketing thought.
What I try to emphasize in the course is the importance of students keeping an open mind. We look at marketing from multiple perspectives. We do not concern ourselves with which authority said what (including the professor) but the soundness of ideas. Students tell me that they find the most useful and enjoyable part of the class involves the discussions using the Socratic Method, an approach which provides an agreeable way to disagree. Students also appreciate learning that there is little new under the sun that somebody had not thought about before. On a personal note, I thoroughly enjoy teaching the history of marketing thought class. Every time I reread familiar sources and hear the fresh perspectives of my students, I learn from the process. It improves my understanding, forces me to rethink ideas long taken for granted and reveals more gaps in knowledge demanding explanation. All of this requires an apparently endless resort to the literature that makes up the history of marketing thought. This old professor, of course, can only hope that his youthful students learn as much from such a class as he does.
This paper began by addressing two unanswered questions. The first raised the question: what is the value added by courses on the history of marketing thought in the PhD curriculum? The main arguments for the value of studying historical thought was found in understanding the whole of marketing rather than just some of its parts, and in identifying, clarifying and developing concepts, constructs and theories that can be used to describe, to explain and to predict marketing phenomena.
If one accepts the argument that there is scientific value in standing on the shoulders of giants, it begs the second question: why are such courses declining? Two reasons were suggested. One explanation for the decline appears as a result of ever greater specialization in ever narrower sub-disciplines, making it difficult to visualize how pieces of the sub-disciplinary puzzle fit together and to generalize on the marketing discipline as a whole. There is certainly a need for developing greater knowledge of the history of thought in the individual specializations. But this does not preclude the necessity of at least a few generalist historians of thought to synthesize these specialties because it is through their interactions that make the marketing whole greater than the sum of its individual parts.
The other reason involved quantitative courses (emphasizing testing), largely in the name of rigor, crowding-out conceptual classes (emphasizing theory building) in the marketing PhD curricula. It certainly does not seem excessive to have a few conceptual courses, particularly the history of marketing thought and the development of marketing theory included in the doctoral program. Irrespective of the reasons, the consequence of such a decline has been that future generations of marketing scholars have limited knowledge, at best, of their intellectual heritage.
Logically, the next question is: how to resolve this difficulty and turn a vicious cycle into a virtuous one? The one area of marketing that offers an overarching perspective because it synthesizes and integrates micro and macro components is marketing systems. Rather than narrow specialization, marketing systems involves a broader, more generalized knowledge of marketing, one focusing on interactions within and between firms and households as systems, embedded in channel systems, interconnected to form aggregate marketing systems with interactions as well within the larger economic and social environments through which they operate.
Where does one obtain such generalized knowledge? The answer brings us back to the full circle to where the discussion began – the process called research. Ideally, with doctoral courses providing guidance, but in their absence, a researcher still searches for concepts, theories and approaches in the discipline’s collective body of knowledge – the history of marketing Thought.
If even a few students of marketing take up the challenge to generalize on how the various pieces of the marketing puzzle fit together rather than to specialize as most do, in but a small piece of the puzzle, a clearer picture of the marketing discipline as a whole will emerge. Moreover, students with such knowledge of the discipline as a whole will also supply the professoriate with scholars capable of teaching courses on the history of marketing thought. Although whatever quantitative courses now in fashion have their place, a few rigorous and relevant conceptual classes, such as seminars in the history of marketing thought and the development of marketing theory, would also add long-lasting value to the marketing PhD curriculum.
The author gratefully acknowledges Dr Stanley J. Shapiro for his many suggestions.
Eric H. Shaw, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, USA
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Shaw, E.H. and Tamilia, R. (2001), “Robert Bartels and the history of marketing thought”, Journal of Macromarketing, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 156-163.
Sheth, J.N., Gardner, D.M. and Garrett, D.E. (1988), Marketing Theory: Evolution and Evaluation, Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.
Weld, L.D.H. (1917), “Marketing functions and mercantile organization”, American Economic Review, Vol. 7, June, pp. 306-318.
Wilkie, W. and Moore, E. (2003), “Scholarly research in marketing: exploring the four eras of thought development”, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Vol. 22, pp. 116-146.
Appendix 1: Syllabus
PhD seminar in the history of marketing thought, March 7, 1796
Course description. This doctoral seminar in the development of marketing thought is designed to provide you with a systematic framework for understanding the subject of marketing. This framework illuminates the paradox that marketing is broader and shallower in popular respects while at the same time narrower and deeper in scholarly respects than most academics and practitioners currently imagine. In contrast to courses emphasizing quantitative analysis, this course will focus upon the conceptual analysis of original ideas and their integration into theoretical approaches and schools of marketing thought by surveying the literature from early scholars to the present.
Course objectives. The three major objectives of this course are to:
1. improve your powers of critical thinking;
2. expand your intellectual horizons of the field of marketing; and
3. develop your abilities to contribute to the knowledge base of marketing.
Grading: your grade is based on:
1. weekly hand-ins 25 per cent#;
2. class discussion 25 per cent;
3. term paper 25 per cent*; and
4. final exam 25 per cent.
#Weekly hand-ins will consist of short papers (2 or 4 pages, double spaced with 1½ margins), which summarizes, compares and contrasts or synthesizes the points/issues/concepts under discussion using clear, concise and convincing arguments.
*If your term paper is accepted for publication in a peer reviewed conference proceedings, then it is graded “A” counts 70 per cent of your final grade and remaining criteria drop to 10 per cent each. If your term paper is accepted for publication in a peer reviewed journal, then it is graded “A” counts 91 per cent of your final grade and remaining criteria drop to 3 per cent each.
Assignments. The readings and handouts are in Dropbox under their respective Weeks. Note that Week 1 requires your completing the assignment: “What is marketing?” prior to coming to first class.
Week 1: Introduction to the seminar in the development of marketing thought: Socrates’ Method (ask questions and question answers) meets Kipling’s Six Honest Serving Men (who taught me all I know, their names are what and where and when and why and how and who). First question: What is marketing?
Week 2: Era I (pre twentieth century): Origins of marketing practice and thought.Trade and markets. Philosophy, logic and ethics of the marketing system.What is marketing? When and where does marketing occur? Why do we have a marketing system? How does it work? Who performs the work of marketing?
Week 3: Perspectives on Marketing through history.
Week 4: Era II (1900-1950s): Origins of marketing as an academic discipline.The Nature and Scope of Marketing: The Four Utilities Concept. Traditional Approaches to Marketing Thought: Functions, Institutions and Commodities.
Week 5: (1) Functions (not Functionalist) Approach to Marketing Thought: Classifying the work (or activities) of marketing; (2) Institutions (not Institutional) Approach to Marketing Thought: Classifying the organizations (channel of distribution members) who do the work of marketing.
Week 6: (3) Commodities (Products and Services; not ideas, places, experiences, etc.) Approach to Marketing Thought: Classifying the products and services offered by marketing institutions; (4) Interregional school of marketing thought where marketing takes place, and why?
Week 7: Era III (1950s-1970s): Paradigm shift: Wroe Alderson’s Influence: From classification to theory, from traditional approaches to new schools of marketing thought. Alderson’s Work.
Week 8: Extensions of Alderson’s Work.
Week 9: (5) Marketing Systems School of Thought.
Week 10: (6) Marketing Management School of Thought.
Week 11: Era IV (1970s–present): paradigm broadening: Kotler et al. (s)’ influence: broadening Marketing and Generic Exchange: Nature and Scope of Marketing.
Week 12: (7) Exchange School of Marketing Thought.
Week 13: (8) Macromarketing School of Thought.
Week 14: (9) Consumer Behavior School of Marketing Thought.
Week 15: (10) Marketing History School of Thought: The present and future of marketing thought. What have we learned? Six blind men and the elephant: Systematizing schools of marketing thought. New schools?
Appendix 2. Sample reading list for Weeks 2, 4, 7 and 11
Week 2: Origins of marketing practice and thought
Anthropological and archeological evidence of trade and markets. Dixon et al. (1968), “Obsidian and the origins of trade”, Scientific American, March, pp. 38-46.
Schmandt-Besserat, D. (1984), “The emergence of recording”, American Anthropologist, pp. 871-878.
Polyani, K. (1957), Trade and Market in the Early Empires, Chapter II, III, V, XVIII; also 1975, Traders and Trade.
Dixon, D.F. (1973), “Notes on the beginnings of marketing”, Unpublished Manuscript.
The silent trade and early markets. Herodotus, fifth century, BCE, The Histories, Origins of Coinage and Retail Markets, p. 93, The Marketplace, p. 153, The Silent Trade, p. 197.
Cosmas the Monk, century, 545, Topographia Christiana, Section 2, part about the “Silent Trade”.
Alvise da Cadamosto, 1,455, Journal Entry: “The Silent Trade in Salt and Gold”.
Marketing philosophy and ethics. Plato, fourth century, BCE, Republic, Book IV, pp. 211-215.
Plato, fourth century, BCE, Laws, pp. 486-493.
Zenophon, fourth century, BCE, Ways and Means to Increase the Revenues of Athens, selections.
Aristotle, fourth century, BCE, Politics, Book I, 3-2.
Aristotle, fourth century, BCE, The Nicomachean Ethics, selections.
Aristotle, fourth century, BCE, The History of the Athenian Constitution, Ch. 5-13, Solon’s Laws. Revising the Weights, Measures & Currency of Athens.
Cicero, first century, BCE, De Officis, Book I, pp. 19-29, p. 153; Book III, p. 293, 319, 323, 327-329.
Cicero, first century, BCE, On the Good Life, selections.
Week 4: foundations of marketing as an academic discipline
The four utilities concept and the value-added by marketing.
Shaw, A.W. (1915), Some Problems in Market Distribution, Harvard University Press, pp. 76-77.
Weld, L.D.H. (1916), The Marketing of Farm Products, The Macmillan Company, pp. 356-357.
Maynard, H., Weidler, W.C. and Beckman, T. (1927), Principles of Marketing, The Ronald Press Company, p. 15.
Converse et al. (1930), The Elements of Marketing, Prentice Hall, p. 1.
Cox, R. (1947), “The marketing of textiles”, The textile foundation, pp. 3-5.
Beckman, T. (1958a), “The value added concept as a measurement of output”, in Eugene, J.K. and Lazer, W. (Eds), Managerial Marketing: Perspectives and Viewpoints” A Source Book, Richard D. Irwin, Homewood, IL, pp. 451-459.
Beckman, T. (1958b), “The evolution of marketing and marketing concepts”, in Duncan, D.J. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Conference of Marketing Teachers from Far Western States, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, pp. 1-11.
Bartels, R. (1962), “Earlier theories relevant to marketing thought [The Market and The Meaning of Value]”, The Development of Marketing Thought, Irwin, Homewood, IL, pp. 12-16.
Ellis, D. and Jacobs, L. (1977), “Marketing utilities: a new look”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 21-26.
Jerome, M.E. and Perreault, W. (1993), Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach, 11th ed., Irwin, pp. 5-6.
Shaw, E.H. (1994), “The utility of the four utilities concept”, in Fullerton, R.A. and Sheth, J.N. (Eds), Research in Marketing, Vol. 6, JAI Press, Greenwich, CT, pp. 47-66.
Origins of the discipline and overview of the traditional approaches to marketing. Bartels, R. (1962), “The meaning of marketing”, Chapter 1, pp. 1-12, “The beginnings of marketing thought”, Chapter 3, pp. 28-45; “General marketing”, Chapter 10, The History of Marketing Thought, Richard D. Irwin, Homewood, IL, pp 157-192.
Week 7: Alderson’s writings: selections
Alderson, W. and Cox, R. (1948), “Towards a theory of marketing”, The Journal of Marketing, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 137-152.
Alderson, W. (1948), “A formula for measuring productivity in distribution”, The Journal of Marketing, pp. 442-448.
Alderson, W. (1958), “The analytical framework for marketing”, in Duncan, D.J. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Conference of Marketing Teachers from Far Western States, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, pp. 15-31.
Alderson, W. (1957a), “Survival and growth in organized behavior systems”, Marketing Behavior and Executive Action, pp. 52-64.
Alderson, W. (1957b), “Competition for differential advantage”, Marketing Behavior and Executive Action, pp. 101-121.
Alderson, W. (1957c), “Matching and sorting: the logic of exchange”, Marketing Behavior and Executive Action, pp. 195-217.
Alderson, W. (1957d), “Marketing efficiency and the principle of postponement”, Marketing Behavior and Executive Action, pp. 423-427.
Alderson, W. (1965a), “Introduction to functionalism”, Aldersonian Marketing Thought, pp. 176-184.
Alderson, W. (1965b). “The Heterogeneous Market and the Organized Behavior System,” Dynamic Marketing Behavior, pp. 23-51.
Alderson, W. (1965c). “Information flows in heterogeneous markets”, Dynamic Marketing Behavior, pp. 52-65.
Alderson, W. (1965d). “Transactions and transvections”, Dynamic Marketing Behavior, pp. 75-97.
Alderson, W. (1965e), “Cooperation and conflict in marketing channels”, Dynamic Marketing Behavior, pp. 239-258.
Week 11: paradigm broadening: “New” nature and scope of marketing
Kotler, P. and Levy, S.J. (1969), “Broadening the concept of marketing”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 33, pp. 127-132.
Luck, D.J. (1969), “Marketing notes and communications: broadening the concept of marketing – too far”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 33, pp. 53-63.
Kotler, P. (1972), “A generic concept of marketing”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 36, April, pp. 46-54.
Stidsen, B. (1972), “A reconsideration of the conceptual foundations of marketing”, unknown journal, pp. 539-542.
Sweeney, D.J. (1972), “Marketing: management technology or social process”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 36, October, pp. 3-10.
Kotler, P. and Levy, S.J. (1973), “Buying is marketing too!”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 37, January, pp. 54-59.
Bartels, R. (1974), “The identity crisis in marketing”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 38 No. 4, October, pp.73-76.
Luck, D.J. (1974), “Social marketing: confusion compounded”, Journal of Marketing, October, pp.70-72.
Arndt, J. (1977), “A critique of the marketing and broadened marketing concepts”, The Proceedings of the Macro-Marketing Seminar, August, pp. 7-27.
Laczniak, G.R. and Michie, D.A. (1979), “The social disorder of the broadened concept of marketing”, Journal of Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 214-229.
Hunt, S.D. (1976), “The nature and scope of marketing”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 40, July, pp. 17-28.
Arndt, J. (1983), “The political economy paradigm: foundation for theory building in marketing”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 47, pp. 44-54.
Dixon, D.F. (1986), “Nonprofit and mainstream marketing: the costs and benefits of metaphors”, Proceedings of the 15th Annual Conference of the European Marketing Academy, Helsinki, pp. 27-35.
About the author
Dr Eric H. Shaw is Professor Emeritus of Marketing at Florida Atlantic University. He teaches PhD seminars in the history of marketing thought and the development of marketing theory, which are his major research interests. Other research areas include decision-making, strategic marketing planning, conceptualizing and measuring macromarketing system performance and the study of general and complex adaptive systems. He has published numerous articles, book chapters and monographs. He serves on a number of editorial review boards and is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Historical Research in Marketing. Eric H. Shaw can be contacted at:mailto:email@example.com