Monday, November 19, 2007

What we don't know in the field of marketing?

Since last year at my school the buzz in the marketing department is around the 37th EMAC conference we are hosting next year. Dr. Keith Perks, a colleague and a very good friend of is the conference chair. The title for the conference is "Marketing Landscapes: A Pause for Thought".

The theme was put forward because
"marketing has come under increasing scrutiny by scholars, practitioners, governments, and pressure groups in the past decade. Leading scholars in the field have held special forums to debate what is perceived as a decline in the status of marketing as a discipline, and its position in the corporate hierarchy from a central role in strategy making to a lower order functional role. Influential non-governmental organisations and governments are bringing marketing to task over its perceived and real lack of concern for ethical and socially responsible behaviour. Marketing academics have been accused of disengaging with the corporate world and their research as becoming increasingly irrelevant to the practice of marketing."

The theme of the conference was developed "to examine the marketing landscape, to continue the debate, and assess if we have over specialised the discipline into ‘silos’ and narrowed our perspectives resulting in a failure to look at the bigger picture. Marketing has broadened in the last three decades of the 20th century adding to the complexity and diversity of the field. The questions to be raised at the 2008 conference are: Have we gone too far? Do we need a single universal paradigm or multiple paradigms? How can we reconnect with the corporate world? How does marketing respond to its critics?"

How true this is when we start looking at the field of marketing and the largely esoteric research being carried out by experts across the world. I was reading an article published by Rust and others in Journal of Marketing in 2004 titled "Measuring Marketing Productivity: Current Knowledge and Future directions".

The authors identified three major challenges facing us in the field of marketing.

1. Relating marketing activities to long-term effects

2. Seperation of individual marketing activities from other actions

3. Use of purely financial methods to measure marketing performance which has proved inadequate for justifying marketing investments and therefore, the need for non-financial marketing measurements.

These are tough challenges in front of marketing scholars however, there are still no definitive answers for the same. Furthermore, there are questions as to how the marketing actions add to the value of the firm. Few studies are available but their generalizability is questionable.

Strategic questions which emerge for marketing presently are:
  • Why does linking marketing assets to capitalization matters? Can these assets be leveraged to provide strategic options?
  • What is marketing's contribution in managing core business processes or is it going to become a tactical silo dealing largely with advertising (this is what laypersons think about marketing, isn't it)?
  • Most times we have seen reactive esoteric models of marketing which attempt to measure customer behaviour. However, the need is there to measure the behaviour pro-actively as to how customers will respond to a certain marketing action.
  • Most companies manage multiple brands and interesting enough we are still to see research in the field of marketing which addresses issues related to the same comprehensively.
  • We don't have a guideline on how much resources to spend on each marketing alternative to get maximized impact (results). What we have presently are the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) models which measure CLV but don't provide strategic answers to above questions.
  • One to One marketing, Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) have become buzzwords, however we don't have models which can predict individual customer beahaviour and therefore, what we really have aggregate models which at best provide general answers and not customized solutions as most claim.
  • There are very few customer level longitudinal data based studies in marketing. Almost all studies are based on cross-sectional research. The limitations of this method are known however, not much has been done in this regard.
  • Much work remains to understand how competition and environment influence firm value.
The above mentioned issues highlight two important things according to me.
  1. There is a lot to be done in the field of marketing, if marketing has to gain any respect in the world of management.
  2. We by ourselves will have to put an end to the esoteric cross-sectional research at some point in time as it fails to answer questions which really matter to managers.
We will have to find answers to the above questions soon if marketing is to regain its once respected position in the field of management.

Rust, Roland T.; Ambler, Tim; Carpenter, Gregory S.; Kumar, V.; Srivastava, Rajendra K. (2004), "Measuring Marketing Productivity: Current Knowledge and Future Directions," Journal of Marketing, 68 (4), 76-90.