D G Brian Jones & Eric H Shaw. Handbook of Marketing. Editor: Barton A Weitz & Robin Wensley. 2002. Sage Publication.
This section considers the nature of historical research in marketing, why this research should matter to marketing scholars, the various approaches to studying the history of marketing thought, and the organization of this chapter.
Historical Research in Marketing
Marketing historians have generally followed the tradition long held by economists, which is to separate the history of practice from the history of thought and to focus their studies on one or the other. Thus, historical research in marketing divides roughly into marketing history and the history of marketing thought. It is the latter we are reviewing in this chapter. Of course, as Stanley Hollander once observed, ‘practice is not entirely thoughtless and thought is often practice-driven’ (1989, p. xx). Some of the research reviewed herein examines marketing history together with marketing thought and, as we point out at the end of the chapter, more of this would be desirable. We have also restricted our review primarily to historical research by marketing scholars publishing in the literature intended for a marketing audience. We do not directly review literature dealing with historiography, but for the interested reader there is a growing body of work describing the methods of historical scholarship in marketing (e.g., Brown et al., 2001; Golder, 2000; Jones, 1993; Nevett, 1991; Savitt, 1980; Smith and Lux, 1993; Stern, 1990; Witkowski, 1993).
The practice of marketing is quite ancient and as long as thoughtful individuals have reflected on marketing behavior, there has been marketing thought. For example, early sections of this chapter examine the ideas about markets, marketing and marketers of Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. However, the formal study of marketing is of much more recent origin. As a subject taught in universities, studied and written about in a systematic, scholarly way, the marketing discipline has existed for only about 100 years. Interestingly, when such scholarship emerged during the early twentieth century, history was a prominent part of what marketing professors studied and taught—a quality we have since lost.
Why History Matters to Marketing
The classic justification for history is that those who don’t know their past are doomed to repeat its mistakes. Ideas or concepts that have not worked or have not proven useful should be discarded. This appears self-evident. However, knowledge of history can also help us to avoid repeating its successes! This is the re-inventing-the-wheel phenomenon. One example well known to marketing historians is the reincarnation of the marketing concept, first as relationship marketing, and then as customer relationship management (CRM). Even if it is only a marginal change in the broader concept, with each new generation of terminology there seems to be no recognition that the basic idea has remained the same. As Mark Twain has been credited with observing, history may not repeat itself but it often rhymes. When it does, variations on a theme should be recognized for what they are.
That brings us to a second value in studying history. It establishes a baseline for recognizing changes in theory. How can we advance our knowledge of marketing if we have no prior knowledge? In a sense, this is the purpose served by a literature review. The problem is that far too many literature reviews only go back as far as the researcher can personally remember because, as many faculty tongue-in-cheek state, ‘if it occurred before my Ph.D. it’s ancient history,’ or as one presenter at a recent marketing history conference suggested, ‘if it happened during my lifetime it isn’t history!’
Closely related to its value in serving as a baseline for recognizing change, history also helps us to frame the right questions to ask in teaching and research. A review of previous research on an idea or issue allows us to identify what has been previously studied and how extensively, which are the unanswered questions, and which are the unquestioned answers.
Perhaps the most practical value of history for students of marketing comes from its unique ability to provide a framework for building and integrating knowledge. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the work of Robert Bartels. His seminal study of the development of marketing thought, published in three editions (1962, 1976, 1988), provides us with one of the most comprehensive overviews of the development of marketing as a discipline during the past 100 years. At the same time, it gives us an introspective look at our discipline.
In addition to its practical value, history can be a thing of beauty. It is valuable for its own sake. It is a story worth telling. It adds perspective, richness, and context to marketing ideas. And, it gives us an intellectual heritage and sense of origin. It is difficult to understand how any serious student of marketing can possibly not be curious about what has changed and what has remained constant over the century of our discipline’s existence.
Approaches to the History of Marketing Thought
There have been several different approaches used, separately or together, to study the history of marketing thought. Perhaps the most obvious and relevant approach is the study of ideas or concepts. The simplest version of this is a literature review where an author traces previous work on the topic or idea in question. This chapter might be considered as an example. Strictly speaking, however, few historians would consider such reviews as history. A better example is provided by the historical studies done by Hollander (1986) and Fullerton (1988) of the marketing concept, or by Shaw (1994) of the four utilities concept.
A second approach, one that might be considered a natural extension of the study of ideas or concepts, is to study schools of marketing thought. Now called the traditional approaches to marketing thought, by 1930 three such schools had emerged: functional, commodity, and institutional, and a good deal of historical research has involved those schools of thought. More recently, Sheth et al. (1988) have identified and examined the evolution through the twentieth century of 12 schools of marketing thought, including the three traditional ones.
Perhaps the earliest approach to studying the history of marketing thought, one that continues to have relevance and popularity, is a marketing discipline approach. Disciplinary studies refer to the history of the associations, organizations, and journals, identified with the marketing discipline. For example, as journals in marketing have reached milestones in their history, historical accounts of their development have been written (e.g., Berkman, 1992; Grether, 1976; Kerin, 1996; Muncy, 1991).
As an approach to the history of marketing thought, biography has been used to trace the contributions of pioneer scholars in the marketing discipline. This approach began during the 1950s and continues today. Between 1956 and 1962, the Journal of Marketing published a series of 23 biographical sketches that seemed to establish a tradition continued by Converse (1959), Bartels (1962, 1988), Hollander (1995), Jones (1994), and others. Often, biography is applied in combination with other approaches, as it was by Bartels (1988).
Organization of the Chapter
Naturally enough, this review of historical research on marketing thought proceeds chronologically, beginning with studies of the marketing ideas of ancient scholars through medieval times to the industrial revolution. Those earlier ideas about marketing began to crystallize in the writings of economists during the late nineteenth century. Most historical research has focused on developments during the twentieth century, which we have divided into two broad eras. The first, from 1900 to 1957, deals with the emergence of the marketing discipline. This was a time during which the first university courses were offered, the first textbooks were written, the traditional schools of thought emerged, and so on. With the publication of Wroe Alderson’s (1957) Marketing Behavior and Executive Action, the modern era of marketing began. This more recent era has seen a proliferation of schools of thought (e.g., marketing management, consumer behavior, macromarketing), and with it a dramatic increase in historical study. In the final section of the chapter we reflect on the current status of historical research on marketing thought and make some suggestions about what research needs to be done.
Ancient and Medieval Marketing Thought
The birth of trade has disappeared in the mist of time, but the archeological evidence for trading goes back more than 10,000 years (Dixon et al., 1968). Trading continued for many millennia in a rudimentary form of barter known as the silent trade, first noted by Herodotus ([fifth century bce] de Selincourt, 1972: 336), the Father of History. Barter in any form is relatively primitive and, as necessity is often the mother of invention, with the growth of civilization a more sophisticated trading mechanism emerged—marketing.
The earliest historical statement about the origin of marketing activity was made by Herodotus (de Selincourt, 1972: 80): ‘The Lydians were the first people we know of to use a gold and silver coinage and to introduce the retail trade.’ Marketing, in the sense of selling and buying, originated in the seventh century bce, in Asia Minor (now modern Turkey). Because marketing was so much more efficient than barter, it quickly spread to neighboring Greek cities along the Mediterranean, and then rapidly diffused throughout the civilized world.
Marketing represented a strange new form of behavior. Emphasizing individual gain and competition, marketing activity appeared detrimental to maintaining the social bonds uniting the members of societies traditionally based on altruism and cooperation. During a famine, the socially acceptable thing to do was share the plight of one’s neighbors, but marketers were more likely to raise prices. Deep thinkers of the time, such as the Socratic philosophers (fourth century bce), were concerned with how this newly emerging, rapidly growing, form of human behavior would affect the social order. Their discussions represented the earliest thinking about marketing from the social perspective, what is now termed macromarketing thought. After the fall of Rome, marketing thought was developed largely by the medieval scholars, from St. Augustine of Hippo (fifth century ce) to St. Thomas Aquinas (thirteenth century), then by a variety of Enlightenment philosophers and scholars, leading to the early economists.
Some of the earliest writers discussing the history of ancient and medieval thought in the marketing literature include Cassels (1936), Kelley (1956), Steiner (1978) and Dixon (1979a). Cassels (1936), an economist by training, was probably invited to introduce the origins of marketing thought to the marketing discipline in the newly published Journal of Marketing. Laying the groundwork, Cassels noted that the central reason for studying the historical development of marketing thought was to shed light on a current question:
the amount of systematic study given to [marketing] problems has increased tremendously since the beginning of the present century; but the great central problem of marketing, the problem of carrying on efficiently from the social point of view this final stage in the general production process, has remained essentially the same since it was so intelligently discussed by Plato twenty-three hundred years ago. (1936: 129, italics added)
Unfortunately, Cassels did not methodically discuss Plato’s explanation of the efficiency of the marketing system. Yet Plato provided a systematic framework for discussing macromarketing thought that has been followed (knowingly or unknowingly) by almost every thinker since. Although the terms are modern, the concepts are Plato’s, stated simply and succinctly:
In summary, Plato has shown that because people are not self-sufficient societies evolve to satisfy human needs. Since individuals have different skills, their comparative advantages lead to a division of labor, which results in increased efficiency in production. The division of labor, however, also results in a separation of producers and consumers. To bridge this gap, market exchange—selling and buying—is necessary. The exchange process requires work, work takes time, and time has an opportunity cost. Hence, marketing intermediaries emerge because of their increased efficiency in market exchange. (Shaw, 1995: 10)
Attempting to provide a relatively balanced treatment of the views of the Socratic philosophers, Cassels noted ‘the views of Aristotle on marketing are strikingly at variance with those of Plato.’ However, their differences in viewpoint are due less to their actual arguments than to Cassels selectively choosing comments attributed to each. For example, Cassels (1936: 130) greatly exaggerated ‘the views of Aristotle [toward marketers] as useless profiteering parasites.’
On the other hand, Cassels astutely attributed Plato’s view of middlemen as ‘unsuited to more strenuous occupations’ to his recognition of the importance of comparative advantage in the division of labor, with a contrary view proposed by Adam Smith:
Plato … recognized the existence of innate differences between individuals and attached much importance to the advantage of fitting people into the occupations for which their ‘natural gifts’ best suited them, whereas Smith, writing in an era of revolutionary democracy and liberalism, accepted the general view that men were born equal and was obliged, therefore, to develop an explanation of division of labor in which ‘natural gifts’ play no part at all. (Cassels, 1936: 130)
Cassels’ observation is particularly noteworthy, because subsequent writers (e.g., Kelley, 1956; Steiner, 1978) regarded Plato’s views as no less hostile than those of Aristotle. For example, both Kelley and Steiner mistakenly attributed Plato’s concern with comparative advantage to hostility, even prejudice, against middlemen.
Tracing the favorable and unfavorable views of trade in the early and medieval Christian church Cassels compared viewpoints ranging from the simple, e.g., Cassiodorus, who preached that ‘he who in trading sells a thing for more than he paid for it must have paid for it less than it was worth or must be selling it for more than it is worth’ Cassels, 1936: 130 to the perceptive, e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas, who argued that a trader may sell for a higher price ‘either because the price has changed with a change of place or time, or because of the risk he takes in transporting the thing from one place to another’ (p. 131), anticipating place (and possibly time and possession) utility in what is now termed the four utilities concept.
Cassels also commented on a few early British philosophers who held favorable opinions of marketing, including Thomas Mun and David Hume, as well as a couple of French Physiocrats, whom he said did not, including A.R.J. Turgot and Richard Cantillion. The problem with Cassels’ work is that, lacking a framework to organize marketing thought, only a few favorable and unfavorable comments by historically noteworthy writers are offered. They are interesting as historical facts, but they do not advance our knowledge of marketing thought very far. Based on his observation that ‘it is widely recognized’ that ‘pure competition’ is lacking in marketing, ‘even where the number of middlemen in the market is large and the rivalry between them … keen, their policies may nevertheless be non-aggressive,’ Cassels concluded ‘the system as a whole may be wastefully inefficient from a social point of view’ (1936: 133). Thus, Cassels subjected himself to the same type of criticism Kelley and Steiner make about other historical figures who ‘denigrate’ marketing.
In contrast to Cassels, who at least sought to provide a balanced perspective, Kelley’s (1956) study focused exclusively on unfavorable views of marketing to support the position ‘when we go back into early history we find that the trader was not well regarded by society’ (p. 62). Similarly, Steiner (1978: 2) took the same position: ‘The prejudice against marketing and marketers is of ancient origin.’ As evidence for this notion of bias, both Kelley and Steiner started with Plato’s comment about marketing being delegated to those people ‘weakest in bodily strength,’ leading both to conclude: ‘The marketer … was considered a rather immoral person by nature and his status was low indeed’ (Kelley, 1956: 62). This was not bias, however; it was a logically thought-out position. The weak were more suited to sitting in the marketplace, exchanging goods for money, which does not require heavy lifting, rather than toiling in the fields or performing hard labor. As Cassels noted above, Plato placed great significance on a division of labor based on comparative advantage.
Kelley (1956) based his arguments for bias on the eighteenth-century Physiocratic philosophers’ position ‘that all value was thought to come from the land’ (1956: 62); consequently, agriculture ranked higher (provided greater value) than manufacture, and manufacturing ranked higher than trade. Steiner (1978: 5) also linked this notion to the now discredited Marxian theory of value, ‘Already in the minute when the commodity is finished, before it leaves the hands of its first vendor, it must be worth as much as the final purchaser, i.e., the consumer, pays for it in the end.’ Steiner’s main argument for prejudice rested on the four utilities concept that was developed by nineteenth-century American Institutional economists and refined by marketing academics of the twentieth century (Shaw, 1994). According to Steiner: ‘By the prejudice against marketing we mean an attitude that denigrates the economic role of the three marketing utilities [time, place and possession] and magnifies the importance of form utility’ (1976: 2). This was an argument often invoked by twentieth-century marketing pioneers to justify the idea that marketing, like agriculture and manufacturing, provides value.
There is one point on which these two writers diverge, when the bias against marketing ended. Kelley (1956: 67) believed that ‘by the early part of the twentieth century, most of the community accepted [marketing] as useful and necessary,’ although early marketing academics up to almost the mid-twentieth century found themselves defending marketing against the popular criticism of ‘high costs, wastes, and inefficiency’ (Bartels, 1988). Alternatively, Steiner (1978: 2) suggested that ‘the prejudice against marketing … is a presence very much to be reckoned with today.’ Although with the advent of non-profit marketing, social, political, religious and charitable causes seem quite comfortable embracing modern marketing techniques.
The most comprehensive and exhaustive treatment of the history of marketing thought prior to the twentieth-century is found in the works of Dixon (1978, 1979a, 1979b, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1991). One article in particular (1979a) refuted the bias issue raised by Kelley and Steiner. Using Ambrose’s definition of prejudice as ‘a vagrant opinion without visible means of support’ (1979a: 39), Dixon argued that the Greek philosophers, medieval schoolmen and many subsequent scholars ignored in the literature, offered well-reasoned arguments for their opinions of marketing. To present his case Dixon used a cost-benefit framework. On the social benefits side, he pointed out classical Greek philosophers argued that marketing was not only useful to society, but it was essential.
According to Plato, ‘The natural purpose for which all retail trading comes into existence is not a loss, but precisely the opposite for how can any man be anything but a benefactor if he renders even and symmetrical the distribution of goods’ (1979a: 37). According to Aristotle, ‘One of the essential activities of states is the buying and selling of goods to meet their varying needs’ (p. 38). Consequently, Dixon concluded that the ancient Greek philosophers clearly recognized the importance of marketing and ‘The specialists who … do the work of marketing have an important place in the system, and perform socially beneficial work’ (1979: 38).
This classical analysis carried over to the church fathers of the early medieval period, seeking to understand under what conditions profit making was morally justifiable. Early churchmen struggled with the notion of profit making or the value added by marketing, and Dixon (1979a) discussed the thinking of several. For example, St. Jerome (fifth century) believed marketing a zero-sum game, so ‘the seller’s gain must be the buyer’s loss.’ Pope Leo argued marketing was not sinful unless the profit was unreasonable: ‘The nature of the gain either convicts or excuses a man doing business, for there is a gain which is honest another which is disgraceful’ (1979a: 38). But a conceptual breakthrough was made by St. Augustine, who distinguished between marketing as an activity and the people who perform marketing. By separating the two, he could focus on the nature of marketing itself, rather than confound the issue with honest or sinful marketers. St. Augustine, giving words to an imaginary merchant, makes the argument ‘I bring merchandise from afar’ to those places in need. This is socially useful work, not without risk; consequently, ‘I ask a wage for my labor, so that I buy more cheaply than I sell.’ Profit is the wage, because ‘the laborer is worthy of his hire’ (p. 38).
Thus, contrary to Steiner’s (1978: 3) assertion, ‘By the fall of the Roman Empire, the major foundations of the anti-marketing bias had been sunk deep into intellectual soil,’ Dixon reached a diametrically opposite conclusion. According to Dixon (1979a: 38), ‘Hence, by the fall of the Western Roman Empire (c. 476), the best known of the early church writers not only had demonstrated the marketer made a social contribution by creating “place utility” but he had also shown that the profit earned represents nothing more than a wage paid for the labor expended.’
Later medieval church fathers also recognized the beneficial nature of marketing. Dixon cited several examples:
Alexander of Hales (13th C.) remarks that trading is in harmony with the law of nature. St. Thomas (13th C.) says that ‘Buying and selling seem to be established for the common advantage of both parties.’ … Duns Scotus (14th C.) says that ‘Trade is necessary and useful for the well being of society.’ Martin Luther (1524) remarks that ‘It cannot be denied that buying and selling are necessary. They cannot be dispensed with. (Dixon, 1979a: 39)
Along with social benefits, there were also social costs. Dixon contended that discussions of costs should not be confused with hostility or prejudice but with the logic of the cost-benefit analysis. For example, he cited Plato, ‘Let us see wherein trade is reputed to be … not respectable … in order that we may remedy by law parts of it’ to show that Plato wished to fix the illegal and immoral aspects of retailing so that it ‘will benefit everyone, and do the least possible injury to those in the state who practice it’ (1979a: 39-40).
Marketing had other social costs. It reduced a state’s self-reliance and preparedness for war, as well as encouraging foreign merchants with strange customs. Dixon quoted St. Thomas Aquinas:
The State, which needs a number of merchants to maintain its subsistence, is liable to be injured in war through a shortage of foods … Moreover, the influx of strangers corrupts the morals of many of the citizens … whereas, if the citizens themselves devote themselves to commerce, a door is open to many vices … the pursuit of a merchant is as contrary as possible to military exertion. For merchants abstain from labors and while they enjoy the good things of life, they become soft in mind and their bodies are rendered weak and unsuitable for military exercises. (1979a: 40)
Steiner (1978: 2) stated, ‘An inevitable corollary of the hostility toward marketing institutions and practices is the “rub-off” to individuals engaged in them. Marketers thus get portrayed as less worthwhile persons than the honest farmer.’ Dixon argued the contrary, however: the directionality of the causal arrow should be reversed; sinful marketers were corrupting the activity of marketing.
Dixon noted a variety of Greek and Roman writers (e.g., Herodotus, Dionysius) who disapproved of manual labor in general, not marketing in particular; citing Cicero (first century bce), as just one example, ‘vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labor … Vulgar we must consider those also who buy from wholesale merchants to retail immediately … and all mechanics [artisans and manufacturers] are engaged in vulgar trades’ (1979a: 40). Cicero also differentiated among types of marketing based on the scale of operations: ‘Trade, if it is a small scale [such as retail] is to be considered vulgar; but if it is wholesale and on a large scale … is not to be greatly disparaged’ (p. 40). There was no bias against trade per se, but these writers were mostly aristocrats, and having the leisure to think and write they disdained all forms of manual labor.
The medieval churchmen, concerned with morality, condemned a variety of marketing practices as sinful. Dixon (1979a: 41) cited several marketing ‘stratagems’ including ‘selling a different article for more than was first bargained, hiding the fault of a thing, as horse dealers do, and making a thing look better than it is, as do cloth sellers who choose dim places to sell their cloth.’ Many all-to-common trade practices, such as using false weights, hiding defects in merchandise, and adulterating food, however, were condemned in the earliest codified laws, back to the Code of Hammurabi (eighteenth century bce), and such practices are also illegal today.
It was, however, clearly recognized that the fault lay in the man, not the activity. As one of many writers in the early literature, Dixon (1979a: 41) cited Gower (fourteenth century): ‘There is a difference between the merchant whose thoughts are set on deceit, and he whose day is spent in honest work, both labor alike for gain, but one cannot be compared with the other.’ Thus it is apparent that marketing activity was not looked down upon because of prejudice. The problem lay mostly with dishonest marketers. As Plato stated: ‘The class of men is small … who when assailed by wants and desires, are able to hold out and observe moderation, and when they might make a great deal of money are sober in their wishes and prefer a moderate to a large gain, but the mass of men are the very opposite’ (Kelley, 1956: 62). It was the concern with excessive profits that was the issue. Marketers were violating the ‘golden mean’—everything in moderation, nothing in excess. They were confusing the means (making money) with the ends (the good life). Thus, Plato concluded, ‘If the best men were to follow the retail trade, the latter would be an honored occupation’ (pp. 62-3). St. Augustine says much the same, ‘I do not approve of a covetous trader … but these failings are in the man and not in his trade, which can be carried out honestly’ (Dixon, 1979a: 42). Because it dealt with money, there were few who could avoid such temptation, and Plato recommended limiting the number engaged in marketing and assigning the work to those whose corruption would cause society the least harm, namely resident aliens. Again, this was not evidence of prejudice, but the logic of his analysis. Medieval writers were concerned with the same problem. Dixon (1979a: 42) cited St. Cyprian’s criticism of churchmen, who after ‘deserting the people … sought the market places for gainful business … they wished to possess money in abundance.’
Thus, from the earliest discussions of marketing to the close of the medieval period, it is clear that many scholars were seeking to understand the impact of marketing on society. Their discussions have contributed significantly to our knowledge. The Socratic philosophers produced the earliest framework that integrated marketing into society. It was expanded and deepened by subsequent scholars. During the medieval period church writers were concerned with the morality of profit making, because it caused marketers to fall into temptation. Consequently, classical philosophers suggested laws to moderate the excesses, and medieval churchmen preached against greed. Throughout history thinking about marketing has evolved through a distinguished lineage of scholars who have enriched our heritage of marketing thought.
Economics and Marketing Thought during the Late Nineteenth Century
Marketing historians agree that the discipline emerged as a branch of applied economics at the turn of the twentieth century (Bartels, 1988). There is some variance of evidence and opinion, however, about which economic ideas and schools of thought were most influential. The late nineteenth century was a time of division and debate among different economic schools, especially in North America, and it was from such diverse streams of economic thinking that the study of marketing emerged in the academy.
One of the first detailed studies of this era was Coolsen’s (1960) examination of the collected works of four ‘selected empirical liberal economists,’ Edward Atkinson, David Wells, Arthur Farquhar, and Henry Farquhar, writing in the US between 1870 and 1900. Coolsen considered this a time during which marketing emerged as an important problem of modern capitalism, but just prior to the emergence of marketing as a field of inquiry in its own right. When marketing problems and issues were considered, it was as part of the study of economics. As was common at that time, these four economists used the phrase ‘distribution of products’ instead of the term ‘marketing.’ Coolsen made it clear that they did not intend, nor did they, develop an organized body of marketing knowledge (1958: 210). They did, however, provide a fairly comprehensive view of the scope and importance of marketing at that time. Their primary interest was in promoting laissez-faire—a belief in free trade and economic liberalism. They conducted studies of the effects of changes in transportation on market size and product availability, of credit and consumption, of the relationship between the marketing of commodities and income distribution, and of the effects of buying and selling on aggregate consumption. In this way, their work had an unmistakable macro-marketing focus, but it also highlighted the relatively sophisticated marketing techniques of that time period. Coolsen concluded that these four economists did not have as much impact on the early development of the ‘science’ of marketing as they might otherwise have, because their discussions of marketing were imprecise and somewhat vague, and because they were neither academically trained nor academically employed (1958: 215). As a result, their influence on early students of marketing is uncertain.
Shortly after Coolsen’s work, Bartels published his seminal book titled The Development of Marketing Thought (1962), in which he included an early chapter surveying some of the various economic theories, ideologies, and philosophies on which the emerging marketing discipline might have been founded. He pointed out that the ‘traditionally trained marketing economist around 1900’ would have studied the writings and ideas of classical economists, including Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill; the neoclassical school, particularly Alfred Marshall; and the marginal economists, such as Menger and Bohm-Bawerk; concerning market, value, government and business, the consumer, and the state of the economy. Bartels was equivocal, however, about the precise nature and extent of various influences noting, for example on the issue of laissez-faire, that there was much disagreement among economists (and presumably, therefore, among early students of marketing). He added, ‘By 1900, the body of economic thought consisted of many theories that had been developed in England, France, Austria, Germany, the United States, and other places. Their suitability to our own [American] problems at that time was strongly debated’ (1962: 12).
Jones and Monieson (1990) used Bartels’ work as a point of departure (inasmuch as it had identified the original universities and teachers associated with the academic study of marketing at the turn of the century) and traced back a generation the late nineteenth-century economists who were the teachers of those earliest students of marketing. Their research was among the first to make extensive use of primary, archival data such as personal correspondence, diaries, and unpublished manuscripts and records belonging to many pioneer marketing scholars, as well as to their teachers. Using that evidence, they examined the ideas and teachings of economists at Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin to identify the methodological, philosophical, ideological, and pedagogical assumptions that may have influenced early marketing scholars. They discovered that the German Historical school of economics and its American offspring, the Institutional school, played a profound role in determining which marketing issues were studied and why, how those issues were studied, and why pedagogies such as the case method were used. At the University of Wisconsin, under the well-known Institutional economists Richard T. Ely and John Commons, early marketing students such as Edward Jones, Henry Taylor, Benjamin Hibbard, and James Hagerty used historical, statistical, descriptive studies of marketing problems such as efficiency in the marketing process, distributive justice, and the basic functions of marketing—believing, as their teachers did, that their inductive approach would eventually result in the development of theory. They also held a critical view of the effectiveness and efficiency of the marketing process.
At Harvard, German-trained economists such as Edwin Gay and Frank Taussig were the teachers of early marketing students such as Arch Shaw and Paul Cherington, who later became pioneers in the marketing discipline. There, the same philosophical ideas of the German Historical school were influential in creating an intellectual environment receptive to the ideas of Scientific Management, which, when applied to marketing problems, resulted in Shaw’s work on the basic functions of marketing (Jones, 1997; Jones & Monieson, 1990). An argument is also made that the German Historical school’s pedagogy may have some claim to laying the foundations of the case method that was developed and popularized by the Harvard Business School. This is relevant because, as odd as it may seem today, the case method was later considered one of the most important ‘concepts’ in the early development of the marketing discipline (Converse, 1945).
Generally, however, the philosophy of German Historical economics led to the collection of marketing facts rather than the development of marketing theory. That began to change during the 1950s with the work of Wroe Alderson, who is now widely recognized as the most important marketing theorist of the twentieth century. Many of Alderson’s concepts and theories can be traced to earlier ideas developed by economists from a wide range of eras and schools of thought.
For example, the role of marketing in creating utility or satisfaction was better understood by Alderson (1957), who relied on a ‘value-in-use’ reasoning, than by most marketing writers of recent generations who never read Alderson’s work. Dixon (1990) traced Alderson’s value-in-use concept of marketing back through the ideas of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Nicholas Barbon (the seventeenth-century English economist), Ferdinando Galiani (an eighteenth-century Italian economist), Etienne de Condillac (a French philosopher of the eighteenth century), J.B. Say (a nineteenth-century French economist), and Karl Menger (an Austrian economist of the same period). At the same time, Dixon traced Theodore Beckman’s (1957) value-in-exchange concept of marketing through Classical economists such as Adam Smith, James Mill, and John Stuart Mill, the neoclassical economist Alfred Marshall and his American disciple Frank Taussig, as well as late nineteenth-century American economists including the Institutionalist, Richard T. Ely. Both streams of economic thought provided justification for Alderson’s rejection of the notion that different aspects of utility should be attributed to production and marketing, but Alderson failed to recognize any of those earlier economic arguments. Dixon concluded that by the turn of the twentieth century economists had developed a clear concept of marketing as a productive process—something early marketing theorists seemed to understand, but whose arguments have since been forgotten.
Shaw’s (1994) study of the four utilities concept followed historical lines similar to Dixon’s work, but focused on the efforts by American Institutional economists during the late nineteenth century to separate the concept of value, or utility, into four component parts. In particular, Shaw noted the work of John Bates Clark (1886) and Richard T. Ely (1889), who used the four utilities concept to distinguish between different types of labor (originally: elemental—linked with farming; form—related to manufacturing; time; and place—associated with marketing), thereby crediting anyone who produced utility of some type for creating economic value. Early students of marketing, especially those trained under Institutional economists, seized on this concept because it served to distinguish marketing from production, and at the same time demonstrated that marketing activities created value. Economists eventually dismissed the four utilities concept, but marketing scholars made it a cornerstone of their discipline.
Where Shaw’s work departs significantly from Dixon’s is in tracing the evolution of the utility concept in marketing from the earliest principles of marketing texts to marketing management texts of today, and in describing efforts by marketing scholars throughout the twentieth century to relate the four utilities concept, first to the marketing functions, next to the nature and scope of marketing, and later to the four Ps of marketing management. Shaw concluded, as the neoclassical economists had a century earlier, that the four utilities concept offers little that isn’t better explained by the value-added concept. As Alderson had done a half century earlier, Shaw observed that what is needed is a marketing interpretation of the whole process of creating utility.
Alderson was also concerned with the role of marketing in system-environment interactions, but apparently overlooked earlier writings by economists on that same issue (Dixon, 1999). Dixon examined work done during the late nineteenth century by Alfred Marshall and by Austrian economists such as Carl Menger, Eugene von Bohm-Bawerk, and Fredrich von Wieser, describing late nineteenth-century theories of the consumer, production and exchange, marketing effort (especially pricing), system structure (firm size), and interactions between the system and its environment. Dixon then compared them with Alderson’s mid-twentieth-century treatment of the same concepts in his attempts to develop a general theory of marketing. Many similarities were identified between Alderson’s theories and those of Marshall and the Austrians, but the main difference was in their respective recognition of the interactions between marketing and its environments. Here, Alderson’s focus was decidedly more micro-analytic because he was concerned with developing a theory of the firm usable by marketing executives. Because of that difference, Dixon suggested that the contributions of those late nineteenth-century economists have not been recognized, leading him also to wonder whether the focus of marketing theory on the behavior of the firm was a cause or result of the failure to appreciate this intellectual heritage.
System interrelationships were also at the root of an issue that dogged marketing scholars through much of the twentieth century, even though it had been largely solved by economists a century earlier -the cost of distribution. A debate about whether or not distribution cost too much culminated in well-known studies designed to estimate those costs, first by Stewart and Dewhurst (1939), and later by Cox et al. (1965). According to Dixon (1991), both studies were flawed because they did not fully appreciate concepts and approaches to measurement of the structure of economic systems developed by economists between the eighteenth and late nineteenth centuries. As a result, those early estimates of the cost of distribution by marketing scholars were overestimated and then repeated for half a century. It is only in the last 20 years that a better application of input-output models to understanding marketing system structure and its relationship with the environment has been made.
Another of Shaw’s studies (1990) complemented Dixon’s work by distinguishing between marketing costs and marketing productivity. Shaw reviewed five cost studies for a single year, and seven productivity studies carried out between 1869 and 1968. In response to the often-asked question, ‘Does distribution cost too much?’ he concluded the question of costs cannot be answered without considering the benefits provided. On the other hand, input costs and output benefits are considered in the productivity ratio and Shaw discovered a rising secular trend, concluding that over the past century marketing has become more productive.
It is ironic that while the marketing discipline was founded by scholars trained in economics, so much of that economic thinking, some of it very relevant today, has either been misunderstood or forgotten. Fortunately, the relationship between the history of economic thought and history of marketing thought remains a topic of considerable interest to marketing historians, and so may ultimately be rediscovered.
Emergence of the Marketing Discipline: 1900-1957
Most of the research on the history of marketing thought has dealt with the era when marketing was first taught in universities and a clearly recognizable body of literature began forming. No historian has been more dedicated to the genesis of marketing in the academy than Robert Bartels.
Robert Bartels and the Development of Marketing Thought
No other scholar has become so identified with the history of marketing thought as has Robert Bartels. He is credited with ‘almost single-handedly [keeping] interest in the history of marketing thought alive through his book on the subject and his doctoral seminars’ (Hollander, Nevett & Fullerton, 1990: 267). Bartels’ books on the History of Marketing Thought (1962, 1976, 1988) contain discussions of the meaning of marketing, early theories of marketing, and the beginnings of marketing thought, as well as a number of special areas of marketing thought, such as advertising, sales management, retailing, and marketing research, among others. Although the period prior to 1960 dominates Bartels’ History, marketing management and several other areas of thought since the 1960s, such as marketing systems, channels, and international marketing are included in later editions of the book. In all this, Bartels regards the general literature as most important, because it represents ‘A distillation and integration of thought … in the specialized areas … [And in it] are found the best measures of marketing thought: its scientific character, its historical evolution, its social orientation, its philosophic, economic, and cultural characteristics’ (1988: 141). To describe the marketing thought literature Bartels divided the period from 1900 to the 1970s into eleven-year decades:
- 1900-1910—The Period of Discovery
- 1910-1920—The Period of Conceptualization
- 1920-1930—The Period of Integration
- 1930-1940—The Period of Development
- 1940-1950—The Period of Reappraisal
- 1950-1960—The Period of Reconceptualization
- 1960-1970—The Period of Differentiation
- from 1970—The Period of Socialization
It is not clear why Bartels overlaped the beginning and ending year of each decade, but it presents an immediate source of confusion. He regarded 1910 as the year the term ‘marketing’ was first used to identify the discipline. Consequently, given the overlap in decades, Bartels was forced to include the origin of the term marketing both at the end of the Period of Discovery as well as the beginning of the Period of Conceptualization—one of several sources of confusion that would not otherwise arise if his eleven-year decades followed the standard dating convention of ten years per decade!
Before tracing the evolution of marketing thought from 1900, there is the question of those who influenced the early academics who first started thinking about marketing. This is discussed in a chapter on ‘The Beginnings of Marketing Thought’ based on Bartels’ (1951) article ‘Influences on the Development of Marketing Thought, 1900-1923.’ Tracing the lineage of marketing influence provides a particularly useful reference source for understanding the history of marketing thought. In a genealogical chart, Bartels (1988: 28) primarily credited the Institutional economists at Wisconsin, such as Richard T. Ely and John Commons, and economists at Harvard, such as Frank Taussig and Edwin Gay, for training several early marketing pioneers.
In the Period of Discovery, 1900-1910, Bartels noted the first American college marketing courses were taught in 1902 and identified the early teachers and universities, including Edward Jones at Michigan, Simon Litman at California-Berkeley, and George M. Fisk at Illinois. He regarded the Report of the Industrial Commission on the Distribution of Farm Products (1901), dealing with the costs of distributing agricultural goods, as the first book on general marketing. Most early scholars focused on understanding this distribution system because of concerns with the large price spread in agricultural products between producers and consumers, and popular criticisms of high costs, waste and inefficiencies in marketing.
Bartels believed he found the origins of marketing thought, placing it in America ‘between 1906-1911’ (1988: 3), with his best approximation ‘about 1910’ (1988: 143). His argument was based on when the term ‘marketing’ was first used as a noun and where academic thought about marketing began. There is disagreement on both counts—time and place. In regard to time, Bartels apparently erred on the year marketing entered the language as a noun, signifying marketing thought, rather than its use as a verb, indicating marketing practice. One writer traced the ‘academic use of the term marketing’ back to 1897 (Bussiere, 2000: 142), and even before marketing emerged as an academic discipline, another author discovered marketing as a noun in 1856, implying it might be even earlier (Lazer, 1979: 654); still another writer tracked the term back to 1561 (Shaw, 1995). Bartels also believed that marketing thought originated in university courses in the US. However, there is contrary evidence that marketing courses were offered in Germany before those offered at American institutions (Fullerton, 1988; Jones and Monieson, 1990).
Bartels named the first epoch in the history of marketing thought the Period of Conceptualization, 1910-1920, because the ‘commodity, institutional, and functional approaches … were conceived’ (1988: 143). Now known as the traditional approaches to (or schools of) marketing thought, they dominated academic thinking about marketing until the mid 1950s. The functional approach was concerned with the activities of the marketing process (e.g., buying and selling, transporting and storing, advertising, research, credit, standardizing and grading). The institutional approach focused on the types of organizations known as marketing institutions (e.g., merchant wholesalers, agents, brokers, rack jobbers, catalog, general, specialty and department store retailers) that performed marketing activities on various products. And the commodity approach centered on the products (e.g., farming, forestry, fisheries, mining, manufacturing, and occasionally services) that were processed by marketing institutions.
Bartels described the Period of Integration, 1920-1930, as the ‘Golden Decade,’ because Principles texts were integrating knowledge in marketing and many sub-disciplines such as advertising, credit, sales management and salesmanship. Bartels credited Ivey (1921) with the first use of the title Principles of Marking, as well as one of marketing’s best known principles: ‘the middleman himself can be eliminated, but his functions cannot’ (Bartels, 1988: 148). Other early marketing textbook writers during this period include Cherington (1920), Converse (1921), Clark (1922), Brown (1925), and Maynard, Weidler and Beckman (1927).
The years 1930-1940 are called the Period of Development. The most notable comment about the decade is that ‘The “principles” texts were kept up to date.’ Revisions of Converse and Hugey’s Elements of Marketing (1930, 1935, 1940), Clark’s Principles of Marketing (1932), and Maynard and Beckman’s Principles of Marketing (1932, 1939) dominated sales of entry-level college textbooks. Consequently, only one new principles text by Phillips (1938) was able to break into the market. Some newly published books focused on the commodity approach for non-agricultural products (and occasionally services) such as Breyer’s Commodity Marketing (1931) and Comish’s Marketing Manufactured Goods (1935). However, the most important new book of the decade was largely overlooked—then and now. Described as ‘unorthodox,’ Breyer’s The Marketing Institution (1934) provided the most systematic and theoretical approach in marketing thought to that date. Bartels regarded Breyer’s work as rising ‘above the mechanistic concept of marketing … portrayed as separate functions … in conventional works … to present a theory of a compound operation; [however,] his effort failed to make much impression on the market for ideas at the time’ (1988: 155, italics in original).
One of the most significant developments affecting marketing thought during this decade, and indeed the entire century, is noticeably absent in Bartels’ treatment of the history of marketing thought. Only mentioned in a single sentence, in one section of chapter dealing with Associations, the American Marketing Journal was first published in 1934, became the National Marketing Review in 1935, and then theJournal of Marketing in 1936 (Bartels, 1988: 29). Of all the publications in marketing, the ‘JM’ undoubtedly represents one of the most dominant influences on the development of marketing thought.
The Period of Reappraisal, 1940-1950, saw the incipient development of two new conceptual approaches to marketing—management and systems. The seeds of marketing management were planted in the 1940 text Marketing by Alexander, Surface, Elder and Alderson. This book focused on planning and controlling marketing activities within a business firm. Following Breyer’s 1934 work, another systemic treatment of marketing was that of Duddy and Revzan (1947), who viewed ‘the marketing structure as an organic whole made up of interrelated parts, subject to growth and change’ (Bartels, 1988: 156). For unexplained reasons, the 1952 work of Vaile, Grether and Cox is also included in this decade, rather than the next. Their book, Marketing in the American Economy, is yet another early systematic approach to marketing.
The developing conceptual approaches of the prior decade reached maturity, according to Bartels, in the 1950-1960 Period of Reconception. The distinction between this and the previous decade ‘was thin,’ according to Bartels, but rested on the ‘degree of concern with a theoretical statement of marketing knowledge’ and ‘the replacement of the “functional-institutional-commodity”’ schools of marketing thought. One of the earliest theoretical works, Cox and Alderson’s Theory in Marketing (1950), offered a collection of essays that included a diverse array of marketing topics with a theoretical bent. In addition to the usual economic theorizing, essays included theories related to consumer psychology, demographics and organizational behavior, among others.
The early developments in marketing management and systems thinking of the previous decades, were both more fully developed in Wroe Alderson’s seminal work Marketing Behavior and Executive Action(1957). Bartels regarded this work as ‘unquestionably the most fully developed theoretical exposition of marketing up to that time’ (1988: 238). This book represents a landmark in distinguishing ‘modern marketing thought’ from the ‘traditional marketing thought’ that had gone before. Alderson combined management and systems into a single unified approach, focusing on firms (and households) as ‘organized behavior systems’ processing inputs into outputs. Most subsequent writers, however, focused on either the ‘micro’ firm perspective of marketing management, or the more ‘macro’ view of marketing systems (which often included firms as a sub-system) as alternative perspectives to marketing thought.
With the growth of these two new conceptual schools, the traditional functions-institutions-commodities approaches to marketing thought followed the life cycle of ideas into decline. Most writers of the time (e.g., Howard, 1957; Kelley and Lazer, 1958; McCarthy, 1960) pursued the growing interest in marketing management, which since the 1970s developed into the dominant paradigm of marketing thought, replacing ‘principles’ as the entry-level course in the marketing curriculum. Marketing systems, and several other approaches to marketing thought awaited developments in the next and subsequent decades.
During the Period of Differentiation, 1960-1970, a few principles texts remained but they were laggards and the traditional approaches to marketing thought were almost entirely replaced by an increasing array of specialty areas of marketing thought, including marketing management, marketing systems, quantitative analysis in marketing, international marketing, and consumer behavior. Although given impetus in earlier decades, marketing systems analysis was greatly enhanced and significantly expanded by Alderson’s (1965) Dynamic Marketing Behavior, another seminal work in marketing thought during the last half century. Despite its popularity across a wide variety of disciplines among the physical, biological and social sciences, the systems approach attracted only a few adherents in marketing, fewer books, and a brief flurry of journal articles. These were mostly written by Alderson’s students, such as Fisk’s (1967) Marketing Systems, Fisk and Dixon’s (1967) Theories for Marketing Systems Analysis, Dixon’s (1968) ‘Social Systems,’ and Narver and Savitt’s (1971) The Marketing Economy. The area of marketing systems has been relatively quiescent during the past few decades. This is surprising, because the systems approach offers the only possibility of providing a unity to all the other sub-areas of marketing thought in the general theory that was an underlying concern of Bartels’ work (e.g., 1988: 241, 287).
Marketing models and quantitative methods also became popular during the 1960s (e.g., Bass et al., 1968; Buzzell, 1964; Day, 1964; Frank & Green, 1967; King, 1967; Kotler, 1971 Langhoff, 1965). Also popularizing this specialty, the Journal of Marketing Research increasingly moved from qualitative articles to those more quantitatively oriented. There was also an array of International Marketing books (e.g., Fayerweather, 1965; Hess & Cateora, 1966; Kramer, 1964; Leighton, 1966) and more recently several journals published in the international marketing arena. Unexpectedly, Bartels ignored consumer behavior in his decade-by-decade coverage—the specialty attracting the greatest number of adherents after marketing management. He did include it, however, in his chapter on ‘Influences on the Development of Marketing Thought, 1950-1987.’ For the most part the area started its rapid growth with the development of extended and complex consumer/buyer behavior models. The two most notable books were Engel, Kollat and Blackwell’s (1968) Consumer Behavior and Howard and Sheth’s (1969) Theory of Buyer Behavior. Spurring its rapid growth, several dedicated journals were published in the 1970s, including the Journal for Consumer Research.
The Period of Socialization, beginning in 1970, only discussed work until the mid-1970s, because the 1988 History of Marketing Thought is largely a reprint of the previous 1976 edition, with one new chapter bringing the book up to date. Bartels’ discussion of this half decade is more tentative than other periods, as he noted ‘the 1970s are distinguished by a larger social element in marketing thought.’ He specifically cited in that connection Kotler’s (1975) work on Marketing for Non-Profit Organizations, which translated marketing terminology and technology to social causes. Social marketing is a result of more fundamental concepts that Bartels glossed over. They pose a critical problem for marketing thought, however, because they define marketing’s nature and scope. The latter is based on Kotler and Levy’s (1969) ‘broadening concept’ of marketing, and the former on Kotler’s (1971) ‘generic concept’ of marketing. Both are very briefly described in Bartels’ History but neither is critically examined. This is surprising, because in other publications (1974, 1983, 1986) Bartels regards these views as limiting and diverting marketing thought.
‘Broadening’ is the notion that all organizations, including government agencies, political parties, and charities deal with stakeholders, of one type or another, and could therefore benefit from using marketing concepts and techniques, such as target marketing, focus groups, survey research, and persuasive communication ranging from advertising to personal selling. The ‘generic’ concept expresses the idea that market transactions can be generalized to any social or economic form of exchange. The problem this poses for marketing thought is whether marketing is determined by subject matter or by techniques (Bartels, 1974: 74-5).
It is a weakness of his history books that Bartels seldom integrated new material into old chapters, but simply added newer chapters onto his older editions. Consequently, the later books have more of a layered, than integrated, quality about them. For example, in addition to the decade-by-decade approach in the 1962 book, Bartels added a chapter on the ‘Maturing of Marketing Thought’ in the 1976 book, which includes subheadings of ‘The Development of Thought − 1900 to 1960,’ and ‘The Development of Thought Since 1960.’ These two periods in the revised book clearly overlap his decade-by-decade coverage in the original 1962 book. Similarly, in the 1988 book, one new chapter is added: ‘Influences on the Development of Marketing Thought 1950-1987.’ However, this chapter starts with a discussion of the early influences of turn-of-the-century marketing pioneers, and overlaps both the 1962 decade-by-decade history and the 1976 ‘Maturing of Marketing Thought’ chapter.
As a reference source for the historian of marketing thought, Bartels’ appendices are invaluable. A notable achievement of the books is Bartels’ biographical sketches of 18 leaders of marketing thought from the first half of the twentieth century, and 20 more thought leaders since 1950. Another notable historical accomplishment is Bartels’ chronological listing of marketing books, organized by topic area, from the turn of the century up to the 1970s. Taken as a whole, despite the criticisms, this work is a monumental contribution to the literature of marketing. No other work in the discipline offers such a sweeping, detailed perspective of marketing thinking in twentieth-century America as Bartels.’
Emergence of a Marketing Literature
Bartels wasn’t the only marketing historian who considered the general literature a starting point for studying the academic history of marketing thought; he wasn’t even the first. With all the usual caveats that go with that claim, this review suggests that the first publication by a marketing academician to look at the history of marketing thought was an article titled ‘The First Decade of Marketing Literature’ by Paul D. Converse, published in 1933 in the NATMA Bulletin (National Association of Teachers of Marketing and Advertising). Converse identified several books published between 1915 and 1924 as the first to be written about marketing. The earliest was Arch Shaw’s (1915) Some Problems in Market Distribution, which, Converse also pointed out, initiated the functional approach to marketing. Converse considered Butler’s (1917) Marketing Methods and Policies to be the first ‘teachable’ book. Interestingly, the editor of the NATMA Bulletin was critical of Converse for omitting several books believed worthy of inclusion, some of which were published prior to 1915.
There is also clear historical evidence of an even earlier periodic literature dealing with marketing, and not surprisingly it was found in economics. Bussiere (2000) studied the early publications of the American Economic Association and identified articles dealing with marketing topics as early as 1894. The first use of the term ‘marketing’ there, in a manner consistent with modern use, was by Hammond in 1897. Prior to the formation of the NATMA, most marketing professors belonged to the American Economic Association and its periodic publications, especially the American Economic Review (AER), were probably the most popular publishing outlets for marketing academics. According to Bussiere, the number of marketing articles published in the AER increased until 1925, when marketing academics began to organize their own associations, culminating in the American Marketing Association.
The history of the American Marketing Association (AMA) actually goes beyond the NATMA and was chronicled by Agnew in 1941. In 1915 the National Association of Teachers of Advertising was formed under the leadership of Walter Dill Scott. There were 13 original members, including Agnew. In 1926 its name was changed to the National Association of Teachers of Marketing and Advertising in order to recognize the broadening membership that included marketing professionals and teachers. NATMA published the NATMA-Graphs, which later became the NATMA Bulletin. In 1933 the name of the association was changed again, this time to the National Association of Teachers of Marketing, as it became increasingly recognized that advertising was part of the broader field of marketing. NATM first published the American Marketing Journal in 1934, which became the National Marketing Review in 1935, and began publication of the Journal of Marketing in 1936. Finally, in 1937 the NATM and the American Marketing Society merged, to form the American Marketing Association (AMA).
In 1947 the first of several retrospectives (others appeared in 1952, 1976 and 1996) was written about the Journal of Marketing’s development and contribution to the marketing literature. Applebaum (1947) described the various sections of the Journal and provided copious statistics about the publishing activities over its first 10 years including, for example, the number of articles by subject (by far the most popular were marketing research and government regulation of marketing) and by type of author/occupation (practitioners, university teachers, and government employees). Surprisingly, business practitioners wrote approximately half of the 435 regular articles published between 1936 and 1947. Because the history of the Journal was so intimately tied to that of the AMA, Applebaum also included several facts about the history of that association. For example, the total membership of 584 at inception in 1937 had quadrupled to 2300 members by 1947. Five years later, Applebaum (1952) published a post-war update to his statistical summary of the Journal’s activities. Among the changes reported, government regulation as a subject in the journal had retreated significantly in importance. Marketing research was still the most common subject, followed by wholesaling, then teaching of marketing. Practitioners still dominated as authors.
It is disappointing that the subject categories used in those first two retrospectives did not include ‘marketing history,’ because we know that history was a relatively common theme during that period. Many of the articles dealing with the teaching of marketing (the third most common category in 1952) were retrospectives on early experiences of marketing teachers.
The notion that a marketing ‘literature’ first appeared after the turn of the twentieth century was challenged by Lazer (1979), who pointed out that early writers did not use the term ‘marketing,’ but rather, terms like ‘commerce’ and ‘distribution,’ which were synonymous with ‘marketing.’ If marketing historians redirected their research based on that broader interpretation of terminology, they would find new insights into the development of marketing thought. Viewed from this perspective, Lazer traced the development of marketing thought to a pre-1800 stage that focused on the role of middlemen, ideas of mercantilism, the acceptance of capitalist thought, and the development of national markets. That was followed by a period from 1800 to 1900 when marketing was seen as part of economics and the marketing literature was characterized by books such as The Retailer’s Manual, published in 1869 (Hoagland and Lazer, 1960).
Similarly, an advertising literature developed earlier than, and separately from, the general marketing literature and some of that development was chronicled by Coolsen (1947). Using The American Catalogue, 1876-1905, and The United States Catalogue, 1912, as publication records, Coolsen identified 10 books on the technique of advertising which pre-dated 1895, four more published between 1895 and 1900, and another 75 volumes published between 1900 and 1910. Coolsen grouped the contributors to this literature into three categories: advertising practitioners (especially copywriters and agents), academic psychologists, and correspondence textbook writers. The earliest book, according to Coolsen, was Edwin T. Freedley’s (1852) Practical Treatise on Business.
Goodman (1996) also noted that there was a periodic literature before the Journal of Marketing and its contributors were often not marketing academics. Goodman reviewed the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, which began publication in 1890, as an outlet for marketing ideas and discovered articles by economists, practitioners, and government officials as far back as 1903. Between 1903 and 1940 various issues of the Annals dealt with marketing-related topics such as intermediary sorting, retailing practices, price controls and inflation, pricing legislation and controls, channels of distribution, government regulation of marketing, and a wide variety of agricultural marketing and food marketing topics. The latter was by far the most common general marketing subject covered in theAnnals during the time period reviewed by Goodman. Its contributors ‘viewed marketing phenomena largely as seen by outside, often critical, observers whose goal was to improve the system’ (Goodman, 1996: 142). A 1940 special issue, titled ‘Marketing in Our American Economy,’ dealing with marketing costs and efficiency, for the first time included a significant number of marketing scholars as contributors, such as Wroe Alderson, Theodore N. Beckman, Paul D. Converse, and N. H. Engle. The timing was noteworthy because in 1939 Stewart and Dewhurst had published their critical book Does Distribution Cost Too Much?
There is little doubt that a literature focusing on marketing education existed outside the US. However, there is almost no published discussion of this in the American marketing literature. The few exceptions mentioned here deal with translations of American work. Fullerton (1994) translated and analyzed a book published by H.F.J. Kropff (1939) in Germany. The misleading title, The Totality of Promotion, obscured the fact that it included a chapter reviewing and evaluating marketing practices and education in the US. The book dealt with market and advertising research, applied psychology, and the state of marketing education. Similarly, Usui (2000) cited examples of Japanese publications as early as 1929 that looked at American marketing practices. The American pioneer scholar who most captured the attention of the Japanese was Arch Shaw, whose work has been the subject of no fewer than 27 historical studies.
Collegiate Education in Marketing
A development paralleling the marketing literature was higher education; indeed, those two are, perhaps, the most tangible residue of the origins of a marketing discipline. Once marketing in the academy was recognizable, its professors began to reflect on the first courses, programs, and people involved. A stream of biographical and autobiographical research during the 1950s and 1960s contributed in a tangential way to the history of university teaching, but several earlier publications focused specifically on identifying the origins of higher education in marketing.
The very first volume of the Journal of Marketing featured an essay by one of the discipline’s first professors, James Hagerty, who began a tradition of pioneer teachers reflecting on their experiences. Hagerty (1936) identified several of the earliest American universities to offer marketing courses, including the University of Illinois (1902), New York University (1902), the Ohio State University (1905), the University of Pittsburgh (1909) and the Harvard Business School (1908), although he focused on early curriculum development at the Ohio State University, where he was a faculty member and later dean. Hagerty also pointed out the difficulty that had characterized efforts to identify early books about marketing; that marketing was originally thought about under names other than ‘marketing.’ For example, until 1916 the marketing course at OSU went by several different names including ‘Mercantile Institutions.’ Since there was little or no literature on the subject, teachers of that era relied on local businessmen and students’ interviews of them. Hagerty added, however, that The Distribution of Farm Products, volume six, published by the US Industrial Commission in 1901, was one of the earliest studies used as a marketing textbook.
L.D.H. Weld, who began his teaching career at the University of Minnesota in 1912, was another pioneer teacher to publish his reminiscences in the Journal of Marketing. Weld (1941) credited the University of Michigan as the first to offer a course in marketing in 1902, followed by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (1904) and Ohio State (1905). According to Weld, the course at Wharton was the first to use the word ‘marketing’ in its title, but he questions whether or not the subject matter of some of those early courses bore much resemblance to marketing at that time.
In that same issue of the Journal of Marketing, Harold Maynard (1941a) wrote about marketing courses prior to 1910, with the specific objective of determining once and for all which university course was the ‘first’ to teach marketing. All the institutions cited above were also mentioned in Maynard’s article. He dealt with the issue of course title by arguing that actual subject matter, rather than title, should establish when marketing was first taught in universities. Based on that position and his extensive research, Maynard determined that the first university marketing course was offered in 1902 at the University of Michigan and taught by Professor Edward David Jones. Maynard included as evidence the university calendar course description, and followed up by describing other marketing courses offered by Jones at Michigan in subsequent years. Interestingly, Maynard published an update later that year (1941b) in response to comments he received from other pioneer teachers. They led Maynard to acknowledge courses offered by George M. Fisk at the University of Illinois in 1902, one semester following Jones’ course at Michigan, as well as previously ignored contributions (albeit in 1910) by Ralph Starr Butler at the University of Wisconsin. However, the status of being first remained with Jones and Michigan.
The University of Illinois’ distinction, mentioned above, motivated one of its pioneering teachers, Simon Litman, to write about his early teaching experiences (1950). Litman actually began his career at the University of California and believed that west coast institutions had been overlooked in the efforts to identify original course offerings. He had taught a marketing course in 1902 at the University of California, although because it was offered in the second semester that year, could only claim a second place tie with the University of Illinois’ offering that same year. Litman described in detail the content of his first marketing courses, including the lack of an established literature, his attempts to use local businessmen in class, and the topics about which students wrote in their papers.
Another study of origins warranting mention is Schultze’s (1982), which examined the early development of university education in advertising. Schultze documented the role played by advertising clubs and the ad industry, a perspective largely ignored in retrospectives on higher education in the general field of marketing.
Most of the writings summarized above were echoed in an article by Bartels (1951) that anticipated his seminal book on the development of marketing thought in 1962. By that time, the debate about the origins of collegiate education in marketing appeared settled, at least as far as such development in the US was concerned. The history in other countries has largely been ignored. A study by Jones (1992) looked at Canadian university courses in marketing and credits Queen’s University, the University of Western Ontario, and the University of Toronto as the pioneer institutions in that country with the earliest courses offered in 1919 at Queen’s.
In a follow-up study, Cunningham and Jones (1997) examined the early development of collegiate education in international marketing at Queen’s University in Canada and compared it with similar developments at the University of Illinois and the Harvard Business School. In addition to dating courses and writings on international marketing much earlier than previously believed, Cunningham and Jones discussed some of the differences between Canadian and American marketing education at that time—those differences being driven by Canada’s relatively heavier reliance on international trade.
As previously mentioned, Bartels’ research relied quite heavily on interviews with pioneer scholars still living at the time of his dissertation research and many of those interviews formed the basis of short biographical sketches included as an appendix to the various volumes of his book (1962, 1976, 1988). Numerous other biographical sketches and longer, biographical articles have since contributed to our understanding of the thinkers of marketing ideas over the last century. Converse (1959) wrote a collection of 25 short biographical sketches of early marketing scholars including the four nineteenth-century economists studied by Coolsen, discussed on p. 44 above. Each of the 25 sketches is only a page or two in length, but highlights the major contributions of its subject. Between 1956 and 1962 the Journal of Marketing featured 23 biographical sketches of ‘Pioneers in Marketing’ as the series was known. Several of those were later revised with additional information and two others added in a compilation by Wright and Dimsdale (1974). More recently, a series of article-length biographies has been published by Jones (1993a, 1993b, 1994, 1995, 1999) about pioneer marketing scholars, including H.C. Taylor, E.D. Jones, T.N. Beckman, G.B. Hotchkiss, and W.R. Davidson, some of whom were included in the shorter JM pieces. Hollander, whose career began in the pioneer era and continues to flourish, has published an autobiography (1995) that stands on its own as a contribution to the history of marketing thought. And finally, Shaw and Tamilia (2001) have written a biography/historiography on ‘Robert Bartels and the History of Marketing Thought.’ Taken together, this body of biographical research has contributed many insights into the influences, motivations, approaches, and ideas of the scholars who built the marketing discipline.
From the teachers, courses, and schools, we move to the larger picture of collegiate education. Following World War II, there was an explosion of attendance at universities in western countries that led to phenomenal growth in the number of institutions offering business programs, and the number and variety of marketing courses. Statistics on such growth in the US between 1930 and 1950 were included in Hardy’s (1954) study of collegiate marketing education. This period was later described by Lazer and Shaw (1988) as one of ‘expansion and diversification’ when the academic quality of marketing education was open to question, course specialization was rampant, and many practitioners taught in universities on a part-time basis due to a lack of sufficient faculty members. That period was followed by one of ‘reassessment and reorganization’ with growth in graduate programs, increased emphasis on quantitative methods, social and behavioral sciences, and the addition of doctorally qualified faculty members (Lazer and Shaw, 1988). The period from 1960 to the late 1980s was described as one of ‘differentiation and legitimization,’ marked by the recommendations of the Ford and Carnegie Foundation reports of 1959. Of particular interest is the commentary by Lazer and Shaw on the negative reactions in universities to the founding of business schools at the turn of the century. This explains in part the characterization of the latter period as one of legitimization.
The period of expansion and diversification referred to above included some positive developments in the marketing discipline. As it grew, the ideas and concepts appearing in its articles, books, and university course offerings had matured into schools of thought.
Traditional Schools of Marketing Thought
By the 1920s, the study of marketing was becoming organized into three approaches. The functional approach focused on marketing activities—the basic work done in marketing. The commodity approach focused on goods (originally agricultural goods, hence the name ‘commodity’) classified according to common product characteristics. The institutional approach was concerned primarily with the various organizations that did the work of marketing. While they came to be known individually as schools of thought, it would have been rare as well as difficult for any comprehensive discussion of marketing at that time, say, in a principles text, to rely on just one of those basic approaches because of their interrelationships. Organizations (institutions) performed activities (functions) with goods (commodities). Hollander (1980) pointed out this problem in his attempt to describe early examples of the institutional approach. Nevertheless, historians have studied the origins and development of these three schools individually and collectively.
As part of a broader study of 12 schools of marketing thought, Sheth et al. (1988) examined the three traditional schools in some detail. While their attempts to categorize and meta-theoretically evaluate the schools detracted somewhat from the historical description, the latter provided sufficient material to understand the origin, essence, and major contributors to each school. In fact, their criteria for status as a school included association with a ‘pioneer thinker’ and with a ‘significant number of scholars who have contributed toward the thought process’ (Sheth et al., 1988: 19). Accordingly, the functional school was said to have originated with Arch Shaw’s (1912) article titled ‘Some Problems in Market Distribution’ (lengthened and published as a book under the same title in 1915). This claim was reinforced by Converse, among others, whose 1945 survey of early twentieth-century marketing scholars also pointed to the functional approach as the ‘most valuable concept’ in marketing at that time. Other notable contributors included Weld, Vanderblue, Ryan, and numerous other scholars who alternately elaborated or condensed the list of basic marketing functions over the years, until the work of McGarry (1950) which served to bridge our thinking from the functional school to the four Ps of marketing management.
Jones (1997) recently examined Shaw’s (1912) use of machine metaphors in the latter’s seminal work on marketing functions, and offered some insights into Shaw’s thinking about those functions. Shaw believed that marketing involved the application of motion to material. He felt that scientific study of marketing should focus on identifying the motions operating in the marketing system. Shaw identified five such motions, but insisted that the analysis was incomplete. Once it was completed, he suggested, the ultimate goal of the marketing system should be to identify and eliminate all nonessential motions in order to make the marketing machine operate more efficiently. Shaw’s motions became known as the basic functions of marketing.
Usui’s (2000) detailed history of Japanese scholarship in marketing focuses on the profound and lasting influence that Arch Shaw has had in that country, especially through his pioneering work on marketing functions. Both Jones (1997) and Usui also pointed to the influence of Scientific Management on Shaw’s work in this area.
Hunt and Goolsby (1988) used a life-cycle metaphor to study the history of the functional approach, suggesting that it survived a contest with the commodity and institutional schools, growing and outnumbering the latter in applications between 1920 and 1940, then reaching maturity with McGarry’s analysis in 1950. Its decline began with McCarthy’s four Ps and the managerial approach that followed the Gordon and Howell report in 1959. Their conclusion was that the functional approach is dead, swept away in the dustbin of history.
Sheth et al. (1988) dated the origin of the commodity school to a classification by C.C. Parlin in 1912, although most historians would probably cite Copeland’s (1923) article in the Harvard Business Review, which proposed the now familiar convenience-shopping-specialty goods classification. Copeland himself credited Parlin for the convenience and shopping goods categories. Just as the functional school had generated numerous lists of different functions, the commodity school generated a number of variations of the original three classes and a plethora of methods for assigning goods to the various classes. Long after the functional school faded away, discussions of good classifications continued to the present day. Nevertheless, Zinn and Johnson (1990) wondered whether the commodity approach was ‘obsolete,’ citing numerous papers during the 1970s that had proclaimed it dead. They carried out a content analysis of the Journal of Marketing (1936-1989) and AMA Proceedings (1957-1989), and determined that the commodity approach had exhibited a cyclical adoption rate, that with each cycle different commodities were studied, and that more recent articles have attempted to develop the theoretical side of commodity classification systems.
According to Sheth et al., the institutional school focused on organizations in marketing channels and how they performed functions to achieve channel efficiency. It originated with L.D.H. Weld’s book The Marketing of Farm Products (1916), followed by important contributions from Butler (1923), Breyer (1934), Converse and Huegy (1940), and Duddy and Revzan (1947). As with most marketing thought during the first half of the twentieth century, institutionalists relied on ideas from economics to develop their thinking. During the 1970s an influx of behavioral science ideas helped change institutionalism into what Sheth et al. (1988) called the organizational dynamics school of thought, which is examined later in this section.
Hollander’s 1980 study of early institutional work was cited previously in connection with the problems historians have had in differentiating between functional, commodity, and institutional approaches. Hollander also pointed out that the traditional approaches were not mutually exclusive. The differences between them were not as obvious or substantial as, say, the differences between economic schools of thought. It is relatively easy to find applications of different traditional approaches in a single scholar’s work and Hollander cited Weld, credited by Sheth et al. (1988) with originating the institutional approach, in that connection. It is also not uncommon to find one pioneer’s work categorized as one approach by some historians, and a different approach by others. With the institutional approach, the root of the problem is multiple definitions. Institutionalism is almost always said to deal with channel intermediaries, although some believe the discussion must involve the struggle by various intermediaries to survive. Some scholars even define marketing institutionalism in terms of economic institutionalism, which is based on philosophy and methodology as much as on subject matter. Economic institutionalism typically held a critical view of the economic system, which was not always the case for marketing institutionalists. Ultimately, Hollander advocated a definition of institutionalism based on the writings of the nineteenth-century economist Amassa Walker, summarized as the ‘description and prescription of methods for organizing marketing agencies and practices’ (Hollander, 1980: 46).
Although not generally considered one of the traditional schools in marketing, another body of ideas emerged during the 1930s with a focus on the geographic or spatial gaps between buyers and sellers. This approach is associated with what Sheth et al. (1988) labeled the regional school. Its founders are E.T. Grether and William Reilly, whose 1931 book Law of Retail Gravitation was most responsible for the initial interest in the regional approach. Brown stated that Reilly’s book ‘ranks among the classics of marketing thought’ (Brown, 1994: 117). Babin et al. (1994) noted that the earliest contributions to the regional school coincided with great technological improvements in the transportation infrastructure in North America. They went on to trace the connections between Reilly’s seminal work and that of Converse in the 1940s and Huff in the 1960s, concluding that those early writings were conceptually simple, yet provided a scientifically rigorous framework for studying the attraction of trade centers through space and time. But it was Grether, who used geographic concepts to develop a fairly broad perspective of interregional trade, who is most identified with the approach (Sheth et al., 1988).
Other Ideas and Concepts
There are several topics relevant to the first half of the twentieth century that do not fall neatly into the major themes used in this section. Included is research that examined influences from Scientific Management on marketing ideas, changing definitions of the term marketing, and early developments in consumer/buyer behavior theory.
In connection with previously cited work by Jones and Monieson (1990) and Usui (2000), mention was made of the influence of the pioneers of Scientific Management, such as Taylor (1911) and Gilbreth (1911), on Arch Shaw’s (1912) ideas about marketing functions. It is surprising there hasn’t been more historical study of the influence of Scientific Management. One such history by LaLonde and Morrison (1967), focused on the period from World War I to 1930 and described applications of Scientific Management to sales force management by such writers as Lyon (1926) and Hoyt (1912), and applications to marketing more generally by Shaw (1912) and White (1927). An interesting point made by LaLonde and Morrison was that in 1924 the Bulletin of the Taylor Society cited the J. Walter Thompson Company as the first to apply the concept of market segmentation. While the historical claim is debatable, it is interesting that efficiency experts regarded segmentation as an application of Scientific Management.
While many marketing historians have commented on the problems associated with early terminology and meaning, one study has traced the definition of marketing as presented in principles textbooks from 1900 to 1980. Lichtenthal and Beik (1984) identified five distinct periods associated with changes in that definition over 80 years. Early periods saw marketing defined informally, as part of economic production, or in terms of functions as marketing developed into a discipline separate from economics. Not surprisingly, they found that definitions shifted towards a marketing management orientation beginning with Alderson’s 1957 book, Marketing Behavior and Executive Action.
A subdiscipline of marketing with a curious history is consumer behavior. Neoclassical consumer theory never seemed very useful to marketing practitioners and, therefore, marketing academics pretty much ignored it. But neither did they develop many ideas of their own during the early twentieth century. In fact, Sheth and Gross (1988) listed no concepts before 1930 in their study of the parallel developments of the marketing discipline and consumer behavior. During the 1930s, the most interesting and potentially relevant consumer theory was developed by home economists, most of whom were women, and it is in that area that we find a lone historical voice for the contributions of women to marketing thought (Zuckerman and Carsky, 1990). In particular, Zuckerman and Carsky have documented the contributions of Hazel Kyrk (1929), Elizabeth Hoyt (1928), and Christine Frederick (1923) as pioneers in educating consumers and in providing some understanding of consumers to marketers.
Despite some important works on consumer theory by home economists during the 1930s, as marketing grew apart from economics, buyer behavior received less and less attention from both groups with a resulting lack of much focus on consumer behavior until the formation of the Association for Consumer Research in the early 1970s. The events of that period, especially those between 1930 and 1950, were described by Mason (1994), who focused on the causes of tension between marketing practitioners, marketing academics, and economic theorists during that period.
Chronologically as well as substantively, those developments constituted a bridge with the modern marketing management era that was marked by the publication of Wroe Alderson’s Marketing Behavior and Executive Action in 1957. Among the many other fields of knowledge from which Alderson borrowed, the behavioral sciences were the most important.
Marketing Management Era: Post 1957
This section begins by examining historical analyses of the work of Wroe Alderson who pioneered the development of marketing management. Alderson’s work focused on developing a theory of the firm that would enable marketing executives to make better decisions. Thus Alderson moved the discipline from a macro functions-institutions-commodities framework to a micro marketing management paradigm. Before Alderson, marketing academics were primarily concerned with description and classification. Alderson developed marketing theory in his own writings, but he also played a major role in stimulating others to do theoretical work by organizing his renowned Marketing Theory Seminars.
Alderson’s ‘school’ of functionalism signaled the beginning of a multidisciplinary movement in marketing that led to several new schools of thought. In this section we also review historical studies of those developments. Part of that history includes the formation of new associations and journals as well as milestones celebrated by some of the original institutions in the marketing discipline. Those have also received historical attention and are discussed in this section. Finally, this section ends with an examination of research into the history of the marketing concept.
Wroe Alderson and Functionalism
In his comments about Wroe Alderson’s Marketing Behavior and Executive Action, Bartels observed ‘with one sweeping stroke [Alderson] created a new pattern for considering marketing management’ (1988: 178). Together with Dynamic Marketing Behavior in 1965, these two books represent the fullest exposition of what Alderson called his ‘functionalist theory’ of marketing. Sheth et al. (1988) admitted that, while they included functionalism as one of their schools of marketing thought, it was largely the result of a single scholar’s work. Similarly, Barksdale (1980) noted that, while Alderson had many followers, he did not establish a tradition or school of scholars to continue his work. As we discuss below, Alderson was widely recognized as the leading marketing thinker of his time. Yet curiously, other writers pursued few of Alderson’s ideas after his death in 1965. The general consensus seems to be that Alderson’s work was unfinished, and only he could have finished it.
As Sheth et al. (1988) pointed out, functionalism is not easy to summarize. It should not be confused with the functional approach mentioned several times earlier in this chapter. The latter was simply concerned with identifying and classifying the basic activities or work performed in marketing. Functionalism was based on a systems approach to the study of marketing and developed around three core concepts: organized behavior systems, heterogeneous markets, and a unique concept Alderson termed ‘transvections’ (1965). A transvection is a set of sequential transactions from the original seller of raw materials, through intermediate purchases and sales, to the final buyer of a finished product. The transvection concept parallels a channel of distribution. Whereas a channel represents structure and is analogous to the banks of a river, a transvection represents process and is analogous to the flowing water.
Alderson was much more concerned with developing theory than had been scholars working in the traditional schools of thought. Dynamic Marketing Behavior included 150 hypotheses in one appendix, titled ‘Research Agenda for Functionalism.’ Unfortunately, few of those hypotheses have been tested and little was ever done to further develop Alderson’s theory subsequent to his untimely death in 1965. The most common reason for that given by those who have studied Alderson’s work is that his writings were difficult to comprehend. While he was widely recognized as a brilliant and creative thinker, his writing has been criticized for its confusing terminology (Sheth et al., 1988), a lack of close reasoning, and poor development of concepts (Barksdale, 1980). In fact, many of the historical reflections on Alderson’s work have consisted of attempts to interpret various aspects of his theory.
Barksdale, for example, presented a detailed summary of Alderson’s core concepts, mentioned above, although he focused on the narrower concept of ‘sorting functions’ rather than ‘transvections.’ He singled out the hypotheses proposed in Dynamic Marketing Behavior as a goldmine for Ph.D. students searching for dissertation topics, and lamented the lack of empirical work on them since their initial publication in 1965. Monieson and Shapiro (1980) focused on biological and evolutionary dimensions of Alderson’s writing in order to clarify ideas he had borrowed from the life sciences and sociological thought. In the latter they singled out writings by Talcott Parsons in social systems theory and C. West Churchman in general systems theory, and then speculated about how Alderson might have used them to develop his general theory of marketing. Monieson and Shapiro concluded that, ‘given Alderson’s prodigious and eclectic reading habits, contemporary life science thought and research findings would almost certainly have been incorporated into a re-fashioned Alderson theory of marketing behavior’ (1980: 7). Similarly, Rethans (1979) examined more recent work in general systems theory and used it to update Alderson’s theory of functionalism.
Dawson and Wales (1979) looked at Alderson’s writings in Cost and Profit Outlook, which was the bulletin published from 1947 until 1958 by Alderson’s consulting firm. Their focus was on Alderson’s ideas about consumer motivation, carefully documenting examples from 22 different issues of the bulletin. Like other historians of marketing thought, they concluded that little of Alderson’s work is now recognized and that almost none of his concepts appear in leading principles texts. Lusch (1980) also examined issues of Cost and Profit Outlook to develop a profile of how Alderson and his partner, Robert Sessions, viewed the role of theory in marketing practice. A brief history of the Alderson & Sessions consulting firm was given, followed by an analysis of the bulletin’s editorial content. It was clear Alderson believed that theory should be communicated to managers, that while marketing consultants and marketing scientists had different purposes it was in the best interests of consultants to foster the development of theory, and, more generally, the idea that theory and practice go together hand in hand (Lusch, 1980).
Much has been made of Alderson’s efforts to organize and stimulate other scholars to develop marketing theory. Barksdale (1980) suggested that Alderson’s efforts in this connection might have been more important than his own theoretical contributions. Dawson and Wales (1979: 222) agreed, writing ‘one of the greatest contributions made by Wroe Alderson to the field of marketing theory was his organization of and leadership in the Marketing Theory Seminars.’ These unusual and exclusive conferences were held from 1951 until 1963, first at the University of Colorado and later alternating between Colorado and the University of Vermont. As Sheth et al. described them,
These ‘invitation only’ seminars were used by Alderson to both encourage those present to think of marketing in conceptual ways and develop marketing theory, and also to develop and explain the functionalist approach to marketing. By his own powerful intellect and his dominating personality, he was clearly ‘in charge’ of these seminars and put his stamp on the introduction of a formal theory approach to marketing science. (1988: 86)
Despite their reputation, or perhaps because of it, the theory seminars suffered the same posthumous fate as Alderson’s unfinished theoretical work. It wasn’t until 1979 that the profile of marketing theory was renewed in the Marketing Theory Conferences, now named the AMA Winter Educators’ Conference.
Clearly, historians believe that marketing scholars have ignored Alderson and his functionalist ideas, and we have paid a considerable intellectual price for this ignorance. However, there is ongoing interest in Alderson’s work by marketing historians, and that pursuit may yet rekindle a broader interest in some of those ideas.
Functionalism is one the post-traditional ‘schools,’ but is treated separately here because of the relatively greater interest in it by marketing historians. Along with the institutionalism of Breyer (1934), Duddy and Revson (1947), and Vaile, Grether and Cox (1952), Alderson’s (1957, 1965) functionalism has evolved into the marketing systems school of thought. For example, Savitt (1990) elaborated on the ‘systemic’ ideas found in textbooks by Fred Clark (1922, 1932), Ralph Breyer (1934), Duddy and Revzan (1947), and Vaile, Grether and Cox (1952). These ideas clearly influenced Alderson’s thinking about marketing systems. Savitt traced several propositions, which he considered to be antecedents to both modern macro-marketing thought and systems analysis through the books listed above. All of them addressed such questions as: why society requires a marketing system? how the system operates? environmental and institutional factors affecting marketing, and the boundaries between marketing and other social institutions—harkening back to similar discussions by ancient and medieval scholars. These ideas were transmitted from Alderson to several of his students, such as Fisk (1967) and Dixon (1967).
The remainder of this section relies heavily on Sheth et al. (1988). In addition to the previously discussed schools of thought, Sheth et al. identified several others that emerged during or following Alderson’s work. Along with marketing systems, two other schools were linked directly to Alderson’s functionalism: marketing management, and social exchange.
Modern Schools of Marketing Thought
The managerial school emerged during the late 1950s and was represented in books such as Alderson’s Marketing Behavior and Executive Action (1957), Howard’s Marketing Management (1957), Kelley and Lazer’s Managerial Marketing: Perspectives and Viewpoints (1958), and McCarthy’s Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach. (1960) Ideas such as the marketing concept, marketing myopia, marketing mix, and market segmentation, were popularized in a series of influential articles by scholars such as Borden (1964), Keith (1960), Levitt (1960), and McKitterick (1957), and continue to be popular in textbooks today. One idea, the marketing concept, has more recently been the subject of intense, critical analysis by marketing historians, and that research is reviewed in a separate section below. Sheth et al. (1988) described the managerial school as the most comprehensive and influential in the discipline, a status that continues today. It has had a tremendous influence, not only in the classroom, but in the profession as well.
Next to the managerial school, the greatest impact on the discipline has been by the consumer/buyer behavior school. If economic thinking and approaches dominated the first half of the twentieth century, then the last half was dominated by ideas from the behavioral sciences. In contrast to functionalism, the buyer behavior school is not associated with any one dominant scholar, such as Alderson, and has benefited from ideas developed by numerous scholars in many different disciplines outside of marketing. Sheth et al. (1988) identified three areas of research that emerged during the 1950s which laid the foundation for the buyer behavior school: motivation research, social determinants of consumer behavior, and household decision-making. During the 1960s there was growing interest in brand loyalty behavior and a new research tradition based on laboratory experiments and experimental design. Comprehensive theories (Engel, Kollat & Blackwell, 1968; Howard & Sheth, 1969) of consumer/buyer behavior also gained popularity during this period. Research and interest in consumer/buyer behavior experienced phenomenal growth during the 1970s. This was stimulated by two important developments: the formation in 1970 of the Association for Consumer Research, and the publication of the Journal of Consumer Research beginning in 1974. Many of these developments were also described by Mittelstaedt (1990), who ascribed the status of ‘subdiscipline’ to consumer behavior.
While critics of the marketing process have long written about the imbalance of power between buyers and sellers and about marketing malpractices, Sheth et al. (1988) suggest it is only since the 1960s that marketing scholars have participated in that discussion. They label this the activist school of marketing thought. Similar concerns about the role of business in society gave rise to the macromarketing school, which has focused on the role and impact of marketing activities on society and vice versa. Of course, a macro focus on marketing existed, certainly in the traditional schools and even in the marketing ideas of earlier economists. Instititionalists were interested in how channels could be structured more efficiently for the ultimate benefit of consumers. During the 1970s a critical mass of research began to look at channels of distribution again, this time with a focus on the goals and needs of channel members. This organizational dynamics school added social psychological concepts such as ‘power,’ ‘conflict,’ and ‘cooperation’ to the discussion.
According to Sheth et al. (1988), books written by Holloway and Hancock (1964) and by Fisk (1967) signaled a new level of interest in macromarketing, and were accompanied by conferences beginning in the 1970s under the leadership of Charles Slater, and the publication of the Journal of Macromarketing, starting in 1981.
One last school of thought, according to Sheth et al., is also associated with Alderson, based on his 1965 Law of Exchange. The so-called social exchange school focuses on exchange as the fundamental concept of marketing. Some contributors to this line of research included Kotler and Bagozzi during the 1970s and Hunt during the 1980s (Sheth et al., 1988), along with critics of social exchange, such as Shaw and Dixon (1980).
Continuing Development of the Marketing Literature
In the previous section we mentioned the formation of the Association for Consumer Research and the founding of new journals, such as the Journal of Consumer Research and Journal of Macromarketing, connected with some of the modern schools of thought. Other scholarly organizations have formed in the past few decades, such as the Academy of Marketing Science, and there are too many new journals to list here. Indeed, the marketing literature has grown so much in size and complexity, including health care marketing, sports marketing, and non-profit marketing, that the sort of sweeping review conducted by Bartels in the 1960s may no longer be possible. The 1988 edition of Bartels’ History of Marketing Thought did not even attempt to update the vast number of new textbooks published since the previous edition of 1976.
Published since 1936, the Journal of Marketing (JM) is the oldest surviving academic periodical published about general marketing (in fact, the Journal of Retailing precedes JM by some 20 years). In 1976 the JM published a 40-year retrospective on its content by analyzing the number of articles over time in 12 subject categories (Grether, 1976). The ‘highest continuing interest’ was in marketing research, marketing mix variables, and marketing management. This reflected the dominant influence of the managerial school. Areas of ‘medium and relatively stable interest’ included consumer behavior, the role of government, marketing institutions, marketing theory, international marketing, and the role of marketing in society. In this grouping we see the rising interest that soon became associated with schools of thought such as consumer behavior and macromarketing. (Remember as well that Grether’s retrospective was published on the 40th anniversary of JM, just two years after the Journal of Consumer Researchand four years before the Journal of Macromarketing began publication.) Areas of ‘lowest relative interest’ in 1976 were marketing education, industry studies, and marketing history. One of these, marketing education, now claims its own specialized journal and another, marketing history, has become a regular section in the Journal of Macromarketing, as well as the subject of a new online journal that began publication in 2001. It is noteworthy that marketing history was included among the 12 categories in Grether’s 1976 review. Although the subject had disappeared from JMs pages by 1976, marketing history had been a theme for a substantial number of articles published during the first two decades of the Journal’s history.
Grether also commented about surveys of JMs readers carried out during the 1950s and 1970s. The first survey in 1956 left the impression that the JM was a ‘stodgy, long-hair booklet written by impractical scholars, in terminology not understood by laymen, containing boring articles arranged in a way which makes them hard to find’ (1976: 68). This was an image that became hard to shake. A subsequent survey in the 1970s reinforced the image as too academic, even for the academic readers!
In 1996 JM celebrated its 60th anniversary with a history of its editorial orientation and literary content (Kerin, 1996). This retrospective included insights into the tensions between the predecessors of the AMA and the JM. It also elaborated on the ideals and goals of the Journal, as well as the lack of direction JM seemed to experience during the 1950s. Further shifts in editorial policy occurred to make the JM more scholarly after 1979 and to narrow its scope so that articles dealing with methods and models were directed to its sister periodical, the Journal of Marketing Research. During this period, the JMtransformed itself into a scholarly professional journal, and various measures of impact suggest that its influence and quality were growing.
In his analysis of the literary history of the JM, Kerin developed themes for each of its six decades, which added insights to the frequency counts of earlier retrospectives. The changing themes again reflected the shift during the 1960s to managerial concerns, and during the 1970s to buyer behavior. Subsequent to those influences, Kerin described the period 1976-1985 as one which viewed marketing as a decision science. Not surprisingly, practitioner authorship had fallen to less than 1% by 1982, from the 42% reported in Applebaum’s original analysis in 1947. Finally, for the period 1986-1995, Kerin described the content of the JM as reflecting marketing as an integrative science. Average article length had grown considerably; the number of references per article had increased by 600% over those of the 1970s. These changes reflected attempts to integrate a larger literature. In addition, a quarter of the articles published in this last period featured integrative conceptual frameworks and an interdisciplinary approach. In his concluding comments, Kerin observed that more than 3000 articles were published during the JM’s 60-year history, making it an indispensable archive for those wishing to track developments and changes in marketing thought over time.
The Standard Chronology: Production-Sales-Marketing Concept Eras
One historical hypothesis has come to be cynically known by marketing historians as the ‘standard chronology.’ The standard chronology hypothesizes that marketing went through a sequence of three eras, from a production orientation to a sales orientation to the marketing orientation/concept. In 1960, Keith proposed that American business was undergoing a revolution in the way it treated customers. He called it the ‘marketing oriented era’ and its core characteristics have been immortalized in the ‘marketing concept.’ According to Keith, this marketing oriented era had been preceded, first, by a production era between 1870 and 1930 when businesses supposedly had to focus on production because of excessive demand for most consumer products. This was followed by a sales era, beginning around 1930, when a collapse in consumer demand forced businesses to emphasize selling in order to ‘dispose of all the products we make at a favorable price’ (Keith, 1960: 36). This inherently historical hypothesis of production-sales-marketing eras was based on evidence from a single company (Pillsbury) for which its author was then Executive Vice-President. Even the case for Pillsbury was based solely on Keith’s personal recollections and ignored the fact that it was a conservative company that was engaged primarily in a commodity business. It also ignored the tremendous amount of consumer marketing that its leading (and much more successful) competitor, Washburn-Crosby (later General Mills), had practiced for 30 or 40 years. Surprisingly, Keith’s chronology has become accepted wisdom in almost every principles textbook today. That status persists in spite of thorough and convincing historical scholarship that contradicts it.
One of those critics, Hollander (1986), began by carefully explaining the implications of the ordering and timing of the three eras for assumptions about the levels and types of consumer demand that would have necessarily accompanied each era. He also listed the sorts of marketing activities that would not have existed prior to the marketing era if businesses had not embraced the marketing concept prior to that period in time. Hollander presented economic statistics that clearly demonstrated that the US market absorbed a substantial and increasing amount of discretionary purchases between 1900 and 1941, including many new products and product modifications. He recounted well-known facts about developments in marketing education and the profession to demonstrate the sheer number and magnitude of marketing activities and institutions there must have been well before 1950 when the marketing era supposedly began. Examples of marketing activities, such as product planning to meet customer preferences, integration of promotional efforts, customer service, merchandising functions, and employment of a profit criterion, were detailed for firms such as Eastman Kodak, John Deere, General Electric, Washburn-Crosby (General Mills), and Proctor & Gamble, all of which suggested a marketing orientation. Statistics on the number of traveling salesmen in the US during the 1880s indicated the way in which firms reached out to their customers and competed for business. Examples of market research as early as 1911 were reported, and many large companies were doing an extensive amount of such research by the 1930s. Hollander identified 14 companies that carried out large-scale consumer surveys at that time. Evidence of internal coordination of marketing activities was given for DuPont and General Electric as well as in the reports of the Taylor Society. The simplification movement initiated by the Hoover government during World War I was used as evidence of the product diversification and market segmentation which simplification was designed to ‘correct.’ Product diversification and market segmentation, however, are hallmarks of the marketing concept. Hollander then drew on accounting history to demonstrate clearly a profit orientation that existed at least as early as 1940, and cited the views of department store magnate, EA. Filene, on profit-based pricing practices used in 1927. Hollander’s historical analysis leaves no doubt that sales era tactics and marketing era activities have been practiced and thought about at least as long as those associated with the production era.
Fullerton’s 1988 study came to similar conclusions by focusing on the case for, and against, a production era. His research uncovered evidence for Britain, Germany, and the US that confirmed that serious and sophisticated marketing is not a recent phenomenon, as suggested by the ‘myth of the production era,’ nor was it exclusive to America. Fullerton cited numerous examples of producers’ involvement with marketing mix strategies for the period 1870 to 1930 as well as examples of marketing education that developed in Germany and the US during the 1890s. His conclusion was that there was no production era, and the development of modern marketing was well under way by the time the Great Depression was supposed to have ushered in the sales era.
At the beginning of this chapter we suggested that the most obvious justification for history is that people who don’t know theirs are doomed to repeat past mistakes. There is no better example of this than the persistence of this infamous, misleading doctrine. Hollander included in his study a convenience sample of 25 general marketing textbooks from the mid-1980s that adhered to the ‘standard chronology.’ Surprisingly, and disappointingly, that situation has changed little since the publication of the two historical studies described above.
Looking Back to See Ahead: Future Research on the Past
It has been said that every generation re-writes history. That being the case, future marketing historians will continue to document and argue ideas about marketing behavior back to antiquity. They will continue to explore the connections between early scholarship in marketing, its parent discipline of economics, and its sister discipline of management. They will continue to trace their intellectual genealogy and interpret the achievements of their teachers and grand-teachers. And a discipline that has grown more tolerant during the past 20 years of its history being written will hopefully continue to welcome this work.
Since the early 1980s there has been a new level of interest in historical research in marketing. It has helped create what Hollander and Rassuli (1993) call the ‘New’ marketing history (p. xv). Beginning in 1983, under the leadership of Stanley Hollander and with the support of Michigan State University, a marketing history conference has been held biennially in North America with a steadily increasing level of participation from scholars around the globe. Proceedings have been published for all 10 conferences to date including a total of 313 papers.∗ An Association for Historical Research in Marketing has been formed as a support structure for CHARM (Conference on Historical Analysis & Research in Marketing), and to promote interest and research in marketing history and the history of marketing thought. Other marketing history conferences have been organized and two were held at the University of Reading in the UK in 1991 and 1993. Both the Academy of Marketing Science and American Marketing Association held conferences in 1988 where marketing history was a major theme. And the Association for Consumer Research hosted a conference in 1985 on historical perspectives in consumer research. The Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Retailing, and Journal of Public Relations have all published special issues focusing on marketing history. Since 1994, the Journal of Macromarketing, which has always been hospitable to historical research, has featured a regular section on historical research and, as of the summer of 2001, had published 64 marketing history articles, commentaries, and reviews. And, an online journal titled the Journal of Marketing History has recently been established. The ‘new’ marketing history has sought to build on the tradition of history developed during the early decades of marketing scholarship, but it has primarily focused on marketing history and only secondarily on the history of marketing thought.
The opening section of this chapter started with Hollander’s observation about the symbiotic relationship between marketing thought and marketing practice. Hollander has gone even further.
The long-standing distinction between economic history and the history of economic thought provides a model for a similar dichotomy in marketing. Perhaps the two types of histories in economics is not a perfect model for us … I have come to really wonder why we want to teach our doctoral students the history of marketing thought without teaching them the history of marketing. (1980: 45-6)
Hollander’s (1986) own historical analysis of the standard chronology, discussed in the previous section, serves as a model for integrating the two. He weaves together evidence of both the ideas and practice of modern marketing. We will write better history of marketing thought if we consider the work of both marketing scholars and marketing practitioners.
Hollander also raises the issue of doctoral seminars on the history of marketing thought. Once a fairly common requirement in Ph.D. programs in North America, that is no longer the case. There are only a few universities that regularly offer its doctoral students a full course in the subject. Some include a session or two, but it is embarrassing how little exposure doctoral students receive to what should be an indispensable aspect of graduate education in any discipline. More needs to be done about this.
Very little research has been written about the role of women in the development of marketing thought. The sad truth is that most business teachers during the early twentieth century were male, but there have been exceptions. Zuckerman and Carsky (1990) looked in an unconventional place—home economics—to find their women pioneer marketing scholars. Perhaps we need to look for more such sources.
Very few historical studies have been made of marketing thought outside the US. We now know some of that history for Canada, Japan, and Germany. Hollander (1998) recently cited a rich collection of interesting marketing books published in England during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The first university business program in the British Empire was started at the University of Birmingham in 1901 when there still were only a handful in the US. But we know little more about the development of marketing thought in England. More historical research should be done on marketing thought outside the US.
As discussed in an earlier section, even in his last, (1988), edition Bartels virtually ignored the burgeoning literature in the field of consumer behavior. One reviewer of Sheth et al.’s 1988 book lamented the lack of detail and scope in the discussion about the consumer behavior school (Johnson, 1990). The same could be said of their discussion of the managerial school of marketing thought. Other historians have examined the development of particular ideas or concepts, but no one has attempted a careful and comprehensive historical analysis. These two bodies of research, marketing management and consumer behavior, have dominated the literature for the past 30 or 40 years, yet there has been little historical study of that development.
There should be more use of primary source materials in our historical research, and they are becoming available in surprising quantities. Most university archives collect, as a matter of policy, the papers of important faculty members. As a consequence there are often considerable collections of personal papers that have been donated to universities by their retired or deceased marketing professors, providing important source materials for biographical research. The contents of these collections range from curriculum vitae to unpublished autobiographies, diaries, lecture notes, unpublished papers, and correspondence. Typically, such collections are held closed for a certain period of time, a waiting period to provide some measure of security and privacy, before opening them to researchers. Many such collections are now open to researchers and the list of available collections reads like a who’s who of pioneer marketing scholars. Jones (1998) recently summarized the contents of several such collections.
Ultimately, for almost any marketing idea in which the reader is interested, there is a history. Whatever your subject of interest, we heartily encourage you to investigate its history. History provides insights not found in other forms of analysis. It will help you appreciate the subject’s complexity. It will teach you to recognize changes and consistencies in its meaning over time. It will add a new dimension to your understanding of the issues. And we suspect you will find the task interesting and enjoyable. All research should be such fun!