Philosophy and Theory of Marketing

The Philosophy and Theory of Marketing

Marketing has many definitions, too many to considered here. Gibson et al (1993) found over 100 definitions and argued that no single definition of marketing should be aimed for since it might limit the future development of marketing as an academic discipline.

What matters is the state of mind of the producer/seller – their philosophy of business. If this philosophy includes a concern for customers’ needs and wants, an appreciation of the benefits and satisfactions which are looked for, a genuine effort to establish dialogue and build a long term relationship then this is a marketing philosophy irrespective of whether or not the organisation possesses any personnel or function designated as ‘marketing.’

Baker (2000 p19)

The nature of marketing theory, or whether marketing theory is actually possible, has been the topic of debate for more than 40 years (Saren 2000 ). Initially a scientific approach, along the lines of the social sciences underpinned the aforementioned debate (Bartels 1951, Alderson and Cox 1948). This was based largely on empiricism, and tended to ignore the human nature of marketing as marketing managers crafted it. So conversely, the marketing management school viewed marketing from a manager’s perspective and took an opposing view that rejected the positivist notion and its empirical roots. Ramond (1962) contrasted the wisdom of the manager with scientific knowledge, since business acumen recognizes the low probability that given combinations of phenomena can or will be repeated. In other words, a scientific approach to marketing sought a generic structure, which it is argued is not possible since no two situations are ever the same. Any test of theory would not see a simple unambiguous question posed, with findings that are replicable since by their very nature markets are diverse and not all competitors have access to the same information, and even if they did managers are unlikely to create identical marketing plans. The scientific school cannot verify a generic approach to marketing.

A relativist approach that saw no agreement or common ground between the opposing views was put forward by Anderson (1983). The relativist approach saw no meeting of the mind between scientists with different worldviews and persuasions (Kuhn 1962). According to Saren (2000), eventually Hunt moved to a realist position, that saw pure empiricism counterbalanced by an acceptance that perceptions may be illusions, and that some perceptions were more accurate than others. Hunt (1971) concluded that no single philosophy dominates marketing

The academic discipline of marketing has core schools of thought, where marketing is seen as either a philosophy or as a function. Where marketing is considered a philosophy, the marketing concept is embedded in management thought. With the alternative view, where marketing is a function within a business, marketing is seen as a department, in the same way as accounting or personnel.

The History of Marketing

The history of marketing can be divided into three stages when considering the development of the marketing concept namely the emergence of the mass market ca 1850, the articulation of the modern marketing concept ca 1960, and the transition from the emphasis upon the transaction to the relationship ca 1990 (Baker 2000 p10-11).

Marketing planning has its roots in the marketing management school of the 1950’s. Here, marketing managers followed a largely structured, formalised, positivist approach to marketing planning. However in summary the marketing management school was developed largely by American academics, and was based upon an analytical approach that tended to include analysis, objectives, strategies and control. It has no single dominating visionary, but is based upon contributions from Kotler (1967), McCarthy (1960), Borden (1964), and others. Marion (1993) is critical of the marketing management school and argues that there has been nothing new since the 1960’s or even well before. Other opinion leaders, considering marketing from a European perspective, echo his view. Gummesson (1993) strongly opposed the American perspective and reasoned that textbooks are based upon limited real world data and are prescribed approaches for consumer goods businesses. Most companies do not market consumer goods. Gronroos (1994) was critical of the view presented by largely American textbooks that marketing was founded in the 1960’s and was based largely upon the 4P’s/marketing mix. Kent (1986) regarded process considerations more important than the structure offered by the marketing management school. The usefulness of the 4P’s/marketing mix was criticised by some European academics (Gronroos 1989,1990,1994, and Dixon and Blois 1983).