The Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science was started 40 years ago, at a time when “marketing in society” issues were capturing much attention from marketing scholars. Since that time both the field and this journal have grown and matured, but the marketing in society area has become somewhat removed from the dominant perspectives of marketing scholarship. This paper provides an historical perspective on these developments and offers an examination of the fundamental role of societal interests in our field. Six basic topics are explored: (1) the hundred years of history of marketing thought development, as reflected in the “4 Eras” of marketing thought; (2) the ebbs and flows of attention to marketing in society topics during these 4 Eras; (3) two illustrations of difficulties brought about by this area’s move to sideline status in the field; (4) our concept of the “aggregate marketing system” as a basis for appreciating the centrality of this research area for the field of marketing; (5) the nature of marketing in society research today; and (6) a discussion of several research challenges and opportunities for the future.
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This view was somewhat understandable when markets were entirely localized. By the turn of the 20th century in the United States, however, immigration, migration to urban centers, production and technology gains, as well as improvements in transport and storage were combining to dramatically change the state of the marketplace, with the growth and evolution of distribution systems developing apace. Thus there was a genuine need for some economists to step forward to embrace and then explain those elements of this new world that were not incorporated into the body of thought of the time.
The Journal of Retailing was published on a quarterly basis and contained primarily short articles (1–5 pages) aimed at understanding the management of retail functions and processes (e.g., “The Merchandise Division—Why it Exists, and Its Job” (Mench 1925); “Some Observations on Merchandise Control” (Straus 1926)). Thus, for the retailing sector of the field, a valuable communications vehicle had become available.
In 1924 the National Association of Teachers of Marketing and Advertising was formed, while in 1930 the American Marketing Society, representing the interests of practitioners, came into being. This Society began the American Marketing Journal in 1934, with a name change in 1935 to the National Marketing Review. In 1936–1937 the teaching and practitioner associations merged to form the American Marketing Association (AMA), and the new group’s publication was renamed the Journal of Marketing (JM).
Though the functional approach achieved wide currency among marketing thinkers in Era II, lists of functions did vary across authors. See Hunt and Goolsby (1988) for an excellent further discussion.
As an aside of interest, the senior author of this paper was an undergraduate undecided between a liberal arts and mathematics major when he was recruited by the recently returned Professor E. Jerome McCarthy into a new minor, “Management Science,” that he was instituting in Notre Dame’s College of Business Administration. Some twenty students from various fields entered the new program, and seven went on for PhD work in business fields.
A detailed look at Era III topics is available as Figure 6 in Wilkie and Moore (2003).
Of course there are many types of publication outlets, so definition may be an issue for this calculation. To be clear, the seven existing marketing-related journals we used in this assumption were the Journal of Marketing, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Advertising Research, Journal of Retailing, and Journal of Consumer Affairs. Generalized publications such as Harvard Business Review and Management Science were not included here.
See Marketingpower.com/Community/ARC/Pages/Research/Journals/Other, accessed 7/13/2011.
This total is based on listings in the Journal of Marketing’s cumulative index under subject headings Government Issues, Social Marketing, and Social, Political and Economic Issues for volumes 1–15. We should note however, that this is a conservative number because these listings tend not to include the many articles devoted to the role of marketing in a national emergency, specifics on the war effort, and postwar planning and analysis.
See Lampman (1988) for a first-person account. This important declaration established that, within the framework of our society, consumers have the right to expect product safety, to be fully informed, to have freedom of choice, and to have a voice in the rules for the marketplace. Thus marketers were presented with some formal constraints well beyond any residual notions that caveat emptor (“Let the buyer beware”) might still rule the American marketplace.
This movement was greatly assisted by a new program sponsored by the AACSB and the Sears-Roebuck Foundation, to place approximately 20 business faculty members annually in government agencies for year-long periods of consulting work and study. Similar to the effects of the Ford Foundation’s mathematics program, this led to significant diffusion of new research perspectives during the decade.
Unpublished data courtesy of the authors; see Gundlach and Wilkie (1990, p. 335) for an earlier report of findings. The 550 figure reflects only “marketing and public policy” topics, involving some mix of consumerism, government, and self-regulatory issues. This study represents a considerable sampling of the major research venues in Marketing, including the 12 most prominent journals published during all or part of this period (J. Marketing, J. Marketing Research, J. Consumer Research, J. Advertising, J. Advertising Research, J. Academy of Marketing Science, Business Horizons, J. Business Research, California Management Review, J. Consumer Affairs, Harvard Business Review, J. Retailing), plus the Proceedings of the conferences of the American Marketing Association (Educators) and the Association for Consumer Research, plus the publications of the Marketing Science Institute.
It may be that this is partially due to the “level of analysis” appropriate to a given issue. To illustrate, for most marketing strategists and many quantitative marketing scientists, adopting the managerial perspective means focusing on the firm: analyses of the societal issues may actually be dysfunctional for solving firm-level problems. Meanwhile, for many consumer researchers, emphasis has been on individual consumer or household decisions; again, a system-wide look at either marketing or consumers would be a dysfunctional choice given the research goals.
Close judgments sometimes had to be made here, and readers may not concur with our treatments. Nonprofit marketing articles were counted here, for example, as were ethics articles. Articles on the definition of marketing were not counted, however, though in some cases they might have qualified under closer inspection.
Interested readers may wish to consult the Fall 2007 issue of the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing for articles calling for change in the 2004 AMA definition.
The increasing emphasis on customer co-creation, as contemplated by service-dominant logic, should serve to reduce these problems (Lusch and Vargo 2006).
Studies have shown that the less familiar a person is with the marketing field, the more likely he or she is to equate marketing with advertising or selling, the most visible portions of marketing to laypersons. As a person learns more, the view deepens and he or she begins to appreciate the richness of the field (Kasper 1993).
These are the larger groups of which the authors are aware. There are, in addition, other efforts to be noted, including growing activities of the Consumer Culture Theory group, which could extend to join the Marketing in Society rubric.
Many researchers likely appreciate that the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, the Journal of Marketing, and other journals are more open to alternative priority configurations.
Alternatively, those whose priorities are strong for the substantive domain of marketing are quite familiar with the reaction that much research appearing in the top journals is “irrelevant,” “unrealistic,” or “overly simplistic.”
In his essay in “The Sages Speak” special section of the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, in which authors were reacting to points raised in the 4 Eras article, former JAMS Editor Robert Peterson (2005) reported an additional finding using a longer time frame in his analysis of the structure of marketing scholarship: “a comparison of the contents of the three journals (JM, JMR, JCR) in 1978 and 2003 reveals that the total number of reviewed articles and notes … decreased 27%….”
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The authors wish to thank Augustus Amato for his assistance in gathering information for this article.
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Wilkie, W.L., Moore, E.S. Expanding our understanding of marketing in society. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 40, 53–73 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-011-0277-y