Guest editorial


Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 9 August 2011



Neilson, L. and Shapiro, S.J. (2011), "Guest editorial", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 3 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Guest editorial

Article Type: Guest editorial From: Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Volume 3, Issue 3

Academic journals schedule special issues for a variety of reasons. Quite often, the intention is to encourage additional research on an emerging topic that has already attracted considerable disciplinary attention. Further development of the concept in question is encouraged and the completed effort, the editors expect, will also be a set of contributions that, individually and collectively, bring academic honor to the sponsoring journal.

Other special issues are, instead, intended to call renewed attention to concepts, developments or individuals whose current relevance and/or past contribution, the editors believe, is not receiving the intellectual attention it should. Such issues are usually quite targeted ones, for example, the inaugural Journal of Historical Research in Marketing (JHRM) issue on the contributions of Stan Hollander or Volume 3, Number 1, JHRM’s Dixon issue. Other JHRM targeted special issues have included one on New work on North American retail history (Volume 2, Number 1) and Retailing beyond the shop: Britain 1400-1900 (Volume 2, Number 3).

What one finds far less frequently is a special journal issue with a national focus, a time period of relevance covering more than a century and a range of acceptable topics very different in nature, scope and focus. This special issue, however, was intentionally designed to be of such a wide-ranging nature. Its Call for Papers, first distributed almost two years ago, makes that quite clear. The announced special issue title was “The history of Canadian marketing: from confederation to the millennium”.

The list of suggested possible topics included contributions to the history of Canadian advertising, retailing and marketing; unique challenges to marketing in Canada, e.g. the impact of government regulation, Canada’s immigration history and bilingual nature; the wheat economy and Canadian marketing; periodization in Canadian marketing; how Canadian economic and business history shaped Canadian marketing; the impact of marketing boards, reports of Royal Commissions and Canada-US trade controversies; tariffs, branch plants and Canadian marketing; Canadian supply chains since confederation; the marketing of regions within Canada (e.g. the Canadian Prairies, Maritimes, North, etc.); feeding and clothing Canada’s cities; and marketing and the Canadian household – changes over time.

That the country chosen for the first JHRM special issue with a national focus would be Canada should be no surprise given that three of the five members of JHRM’s editorial team have strong and continuing links to Canada. That said, it was another Canadian, Leighann Neilson, a JHRM Advisory Board Member but not an editor, who first suggested that that there should be a special “Canadian” issue. Leighann’s thinking had been influenced by a presentation Stan Shapiro made in 2005, at a special seminar celebrating the tenth anniversary of Carleton University’s PhD Programme in Management. He argued at that time that far more attention should be paid to the history of Canadian marketing. Out of that chance meeting, a partnership was born. Leighann’s special issue proposal was accepted, the Call for Papers subsequently distributed, and researchers known to be working on relevant topics were encouraged to submit.

That Call for Papers, perhaps because of its wide-ranging scope, attracted a very significant response. Many more papers were submitted than could be chosen for inclusion in this issue. We expect, however, that a number of these other submissions will eventually be published, either in future issues of JHRM or in other journals. Indeed, we will be both surprised and disappointed if this does not prove to be the case. So, which five submissions did make the final cut?

Barry E.C. Boothman, in his “Mammoth market” paper, reports on how Canadian food retailing was transformed in the two decades following the end of Second World War. Drawing primarily upon public sources, Boothman makes it clear that “bigger” did not always lead to “better”, at least as far as profits were concerned. He pays particular attention to the limits of mass retailing, limits including difficulties in remaining a low-cost operation, the continuing need for capital associated with large-scale expansion and the transient nature of any competitive advantage.

Dale Miller’s paper explores how retailing giant, Canadian Tire, generated customer confidence in the years between First World War and Second World War. The many different approaches used to reassure its customers are reviewed. A very extensive mail order business is shown to have developed in tandem with the opening of a network of stores. We learn a great deal from this paper both about Canadian Tire retailing during this period and, also, on how archival material can and should be drawn upon for historical research.

Paul D. Earl examines two closely related issues in his paper, the first being what the term “orderly marketing” meant as it was used by farm leaders in the 1920s, and the second whether or not farmers benefited from selling their crops through the wheat pools rather than through the Winnipeg Exchange. Using contemporary data on the amount growers were paid, Earl concludes that “orderly marketing” was nothing more or less than a rallying cry and that the wheat pools did not financially benefit farmers. The pools, however, are shown to have laid the ground work for the subsequent establishment of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The Dewhirst and Sparks paper explores how and why both Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, as a corporation, and Rothmans, as a flag ship brand, lost market share to Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited. Two reasons are advanced as the cause of this decline. Rothmans did not effectively use the sponsorship option to make the Rothmans brand relevant to younger consumers and the firm was slow in introducing a “light” product line extension. The source documents used in this examination included both promotional material available in advertising archives and internal documents made public as a result of litigation.

“Development porn” is a term that cannot help but capture the imagination. But what is it, exactly, and how will you know it when you see it? As a way of approaching this question, Mittelman and Neilson conducted a content analysis of 468 print advertisements from the 1970s used by one of the oldest and largest child sponsorship-based non-governmental development agencies. They concluded that the “typical” Plan Canada advertisement differed in several important respects from directly competing advertisements. Also, viewed in its entirety, Plan Canada advertising did not cross the line between honestly portraying how difficult it could be for children living in the developing world and “development porn”. However, the paper does raise questions regarding the extent to which aid agencies must go to attract the attention of potential donors.

Together, these papers cover a broad time span in the history of Canadian marketing. Beginning with Earl’s discussion of wheat pools in the 1920s, we progress through Miller’s discussion of the inter-war years and Boothman’s study of the post-Second World War time period to Mittelman and Neilson’s focus on the 1970s and Dewhirst and Sparks’ work which brings us up to the new millennium. The papers share common themes while adopting different perspectives – Earl looks at food from the vantage point of the producer while Boothman tackles changes in food retailing. Miller’s focus on the retailing of automotive products develops the retail history theme further, while both Boothman and Miller discuss companies that have in some ways gained iconic status in Canada – Canadian Tire and Loblaw. Like Earl, Dewhirst and Sparks deal with the marketing of a product that has been subject to government intervention and regulation in Canada. Both Dewhirst and Sparks and Mittelman and Neilson consider promotion strategies with the latter paper rounding out our coverage by delving into the area of not-for-profit marketing.

Each issue of JHRM also contains an Explorations & Insights (E&I) section. This section contains invited rather than refereed contributions expected to add value in their own right, often but not always on topics related to the special issue in which it appears. The editors considered a number of different E&I possibilities for this special Canadian issue. What seemed most useful was the preparation of a select annotated bibliography that would familiarize readers with the best of the previously existing literature on the history of Canadian marketing practice.

It was originally thought that this bibliography would only cover the period from confederation (1867) to the beginning of First World War. However, what emerged and what readers will find in this issue’s E&I section is a select listing of some 200 items covering a much longer time period – from initial exploration in the seventeenth century to the beginning of Second World War. Hopefully, this effort will both make a considerable intellectual contribution in its own right and also serve as a model for similar efforts first to locate and then to annotate the most relevant marketing practice literature in other countries. We feel confident that it will prove to be an indispensible reference to graduate students seeking to establish themselves as historical researchers, as well as for more experienced researchers seeking to spell out the social, economic and political context of their particular research interest.

We now offer this special “Canadian” issue to the JHRM readership. It is an editorial effort in which we take considerable pride. However, we are hopeful that the material which follows will not only make its own contribution to the relevant literature but will also encourage further research on the history of Canadian marketing.

Leighann Neilson, Stanley J. ShapiroGuest Editors

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