Virtual Special Issue

While intellectual activity in marketing is often depicted in fairly one-dimensional terms by those outside of our discipline, the reality is that our subject is paradigmatically and methodologically pluralistic, covering a diverse range of topics and themes (Tadajewski & Hewer, 2011; Tadajewski, O’Shaughnessy & Hyman, 2014). Pluralism, of course, does not mean that each paradigmatic community or scholarly topic is treated equally (McDonagh, 1995). Attention is skewed by academic reward systems and influenced by gatekeepers who can circumscribe the boundaries of research (Hackley, 2009; Hearn & Hein, 2015; Tadajewski, 2010), as well as by dubious beliefs exhibited by scholars that they should only read a tiny subset of outlets (Thanks to Rick Bagozzi for pointing this out) (Tadajewski, 2016). Close attention can bring depth, but it can also lead to incrementalism, myopia and further disconnect us from the varied range of groups that could benefit from our ideas, insights and know-how (Dholakia, 2009).

As an academic subject, we have the potential to contribute to the world in many different ways (Dunnett et al., 2016). Given the historical ‘conditions of acceptability’ (Foucault, 2015) of knowledge in our discipline (i.e. its conventionalised business, rather than social science, basis), many of our publications will seek to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the economic system (Finch et al., 2015; Sun and Price, 2016). What we must never forget is that issues of efficiency and the hunt for profit should not override distributive justice (Hill, 2016; Hutton, 2016; Jones & Monieson, 1990) nor the human needs of recognition and support that have to be placed, in conjunction with attention to our ecosystem, at the centre of discussions about the role of marketing in society (Chatzidakis et al., 2012; Downey, 2016; Ford et al., 2016; Fraser & Honneth, 2004; Saatcioglu & Corus, 2016).

Marketing, clearly, has much to offer. It is a force for provisioning. It can produce, articulate and extend new ways of thinking, acting and being in the world. But what it promotes must not come with the price tag of alienation, damaged intersubjective relationships and an unwillingness to think that life as we know it cannot be rethought, changed, and improved in many different ways (Hartmann & Honneth, 2006; Honneth, 2006). Academic research at its best encourages us to think differently, to question things we have previously taken-for-granted (whatever these may be) and to work toward a brighter future for all those currently living on this planet without compromising the claims of future generations to ecological justice (Falchetti et al., 2016; Ford et al., 2016; Padilla, 2002; Rettie et al., 2012; Tadajewski et al., 2014).

The papers in this virtual special issue have all been chosen to reflect the pluralism of marketing theory, thought and practice. They range across the various traditions from managerial research on customer ecosystems through to value creation and on to an ever present theme in the Journal of Marketing Management, issues of sustainability and materialism. Together they embody cutting edge research from major thought leaders. Our first contribution by Grönroos represents an attempt to encourage scholars to look to the past for ideas about how we can understand the complexities of value co-creation in the present day. It proffers a fascinating historical overview of the development of service marketing from the 1970s onwards, tracking ideas about co-creation.

Grönroos unites material from the servuction and interactive marketing models to deepen our thinking about co-creation. This discourse has typically been articulated in a positive key – a common enough move in the marketing literature – but he underscores how value can be destroyed, how service experiences can be negative, and organisational relationships with their markets liable to fracture and explode without due attention. The metaphor of co-creation, as he argues in compelling terms, should sensitise us to the fact that there are multiple parties to any exchange event, and these need to benefit from co-creation exercises.

On a related theme to Grönroos, Maslowska et al provide a seminal contribution to the literature on brand-consumer relationships and interactions. Their work is important for a number of reasons. First, it engages in conceptual clarification. After clearing the terrain they logically build up a conceptual model of customer engagement, stressing how the changing media and technological environment has had profound effects on the way companies reaffirm their relationships with customers, potential consumers, non-customers and other pertinent important actors (e.g. the state and regulators). Valuably, they underline that we need to think about engagement with customers beyond their purchasing behaviour, taking cognisance of the manifold ways in which people engage with a brand (or not). Their ‘customer engagement ecosystem’ helps us to understand the nested and interconnected nature of the various factors that contribute to the successful management of customer experiences.

Taking us in a slightly different direction but still with a technological and consumer experience theme, Russell Belk reflects upon how digital technology is pluralising and extending our sense of self. He provides a potted history of the impact of earlier technologies and their contribution to the disembodiment of the consumer (e.g. the telegraph). These technologies, while revolutionary at the time, were largely one-way. Newer technologies (e.g. virtual technology, virtual reality and avatars), by contrast, fundamentally change the relationships we have with people who live in different parts of the world. The technologically driven products we use on a daily basis (e.g. mobile phones) are continuing to modify human interaction and consumption behaviour. These tools help digitally pluralise our identity, expand the knowledge we have at our fingertips and foster connections with others. Belk teases out the implications of the changing technological landscape for the concept of the extended self. The ideas in this paper will undoubtedly act as a platform for a great deal of conceptual and empirical research.

The paper by Shrum and colleagues is an extraordinary literature review that offers innovative conceptual insights and suggestions for future research. It engages with a concept that is close to our disciplinary heart: materialism. What is especially insightful about this manuscript is that it does not simply assume that materialism – our use of products, services, experiences and a number of other practices for social signalling and symbolism – is a bad thing.

There is a vast literature that points out how consuming more products does not make us happy. However, bewailing materialism and marketing is all too easy. If people are being materialistic, the first thing we need to ask is why they are doing so: what benefits and costs does this incur for them? For Shrum et al, when we start to look more closely at the topic, materialism can be beneficial. As an example, we might consider those people who suffer from various forms of interactional difficulties. For them, consumption might be a psychological, sociological or behavioural outlet which is less uncomfortable, less subject to criticism and, in short, more liveable than patterns of life that are considered more conventional (whatever ‘conventional’ means anyhow). A priori critiques of materialism lack the nuance and sensitivity that a responsible – and medically, psychologically and sociologically informed – market, marketing and consumption analysis can provide.

This said, there is an ‘ugly’ side to materialism that we cannot fail to subject to rigorous attention. This discussion is a major contribution of the article. Shrum et al point out that people often engage in materialistic behaviour and practice, yet their engagement with materialism does not have the effect on the audience or intended public that they expect. The signals we communicate via conspicuous consumption are not always received in an undistorted fashion by the people we target or who function as a collateral audience. Someone might want to mention this to Donald Trump. In short, this is a superb overview of the debate about materialism. It will pluralise the way the topic is understood; it offers useful indications about future research and is essential reading for anyone teaching marketing, consumer behaviour or the sociology of consumption.

The paper by Tadajewski and Jones is one of a number of literature surveys appearing in this virtual special issue that are meant to encourage us to rethink how we understand our subject. It traces historically oriented scholarship likely to appeal to the audience of the JMM. If you are conducting research into product development, pricing theory, market research, market segmentation, advertising theory and practice or marketing theory and thought, then the huge range of papers cited in this article will help you to avoid reinventing the wheel or making dubious statements about the origins and development of whatever debates pique your interest (a perennial problem for pedagogy and research publications in our discipline: mention the ‘eras’ framework to a marketing historian, then quickly step back and watch them spark and splutter like a Catherine wheel).

Handily, the authors go beyond managerial topics to explore areas of interest to those involved with Consumer Culture Theory and Critical Marketing Studies (e.g. dealing with issues like the management of consumer subjectivity and processes of subjectification). They highlight how an historical component is creeping into many publications and Tadajewski and Jones expect this trend to continue. For researchers, there is much to consider. For lecturers and teachers, the material reviewed in the pages of this publication can historically ground introductory lectures, principles and practices courses as well as more specialist modules. Like all of the articles in this issue, it contains much food-for-thought.

Victoria Wells provides the next overview of the literature. This astounding piece of scholarship brings together the many different strands of research on behavioural psychology. It is historically well embedded, differentiates behavioural psychology into a number of schools of thought, unpacks major areas of research and outlines an agenda for future enquiry. For those new to marketing psychology, this is a great starting point. For those who have limited knowledge of this variant of psychological research, this will underscore that behaviourism is far more complex and has undergone substantial modification since John B. Watson was writing. This work deserves attention from researchers and teachers alike and would serve as an excellent resource for standalone lectures, as a major input into consumer psychology courses and is essential reading for Ph.D. students striving to identify their place in the academic firmament.

The final paper deals with sustainability and sustainability marketing. The JMM has been a major supporter of research into green and sustainable marketing for many years (e.g. McEachern & Carrigan, 2012; Prothero, 1990). We have published multiple special issues dedicated to the area and frequently publish contributions on this topic. It is clear that our ecological system is the condition of possibility for our economic system. It supports it, we cannot do without it, and we are gambling with the future of our planet at present. This is casino capitalism on the ecological frontier.

As McDonagh and Prothero stress, our community of intellectual practice has yet to take ecological concerns and sustainability very seriously. This was obvious when the definition of marketing underwent a rethink a few years ago. The fact that these endeavours initially ignored the emplacement of marketing in wider society was a severe abdication of responsibility. It was a wake-up call that a managerial myopia was blinkering us to the fact that marketing and business practice exists within society to serve it. What is given by corporate charters and preferential economic arrangements can very easily be revoked (Tadajewski et al., 2014). This is worth remembering. Society does not exist for business and marketing professionals to plunder.

Even with the additional reference to ‘society’ in the later and official definition of marketing, we are still left with a basic anthropocentric definition that does not reflect the importance of other species beyond our own or the ecological supports that sustain us. As such, it is hard not to concur with McDonagh and Prothero that a systemic and institutionally oriented conception of sustainability needs to form the core of our axiology. Nested within this are managerial concerns. It is not the other way around. Let us hope that our major institutions including the American Marketing Association, the UK Academy of Marketing, the Marketing Science Institute and so forth, read the piece by McDonagh and Prothero and start to take seriously their argument that we orient ourselves to the ecosystem; that we do not leave it in a worse state when our individual lifetime is up; and that we pluralise our responsibility beyond the boundaries of homo sapiens. Our claims to this planet do not override those of everything else currently in existence.

Virtual Special Issue Papers

Conceptualising value co-creation: A journey to the 1970s and back to the future
Christian Grönroos
“Service-Dominant (S-D) Logic asserts that firms and customers always co-create value. This article argues that the co-creation of value term, as used by Vargo and Lusch (2008), is strongly metaphorical in its construction, and this metaphoric form acts as a barrier to focused empirical analysis. An alternative conceptualisation is offered. It is argued that value co-creation can be defined as the joint actions by a customer (or another beneficiary) and a service provider during their direct interactions. Value creation in such interactive contexts was studied as early as the 1970s in the early days of modern service marketing research. This article relies on two models from that time to develop a value co-creation logic and a conceptual model of value co-creation as an alternative schema to S-D logic …” Read more>

The customer engagement ecosystem
Ewa Maslowska, Edward C. Malthouse & Tom Collinger
“Consumer engagement has been widely discussed in both the academic and practitioner literature, but there is no consensus about its meaning, what phenomena constitute engagement or what its antecedents and consequences are. Therefore, we propose that the term engagement should be eluded and that more specific terms should be used for the different phenomena. Building on the previous literature, we propose the customer engagement ecosystem, a conceptual model that encompasses brand actions, other actors, customer brand experience, shopping behaviours, brand consumption and brand-dialogue behaviours …” Read more>
Read the blog >

Digital consumption and the extended self
Russell Belk
“There are numerous and substantial effects of the use of digital technologies on consumers. I focus here on the ways in which these technologies have brought changes to the extended self. This review builds on earlier work considering digital subjectivities. I find that the human–machine digital interface results in a series of challenging theoretical issues. In considering these issues at the broadest level I also address how the affordances of digital technologies may cause us to rethink the notion of extended self, the body and the relationship between objects and consumers in digital environments …” Read more>

Materialism: the good, the bad, and the ugly
L. J. Shrum, Tina M. Lowrey, Mario Pandelaere, Ayalla A. Ruvio, Elodie Gentina, Pia Furchheim, Maud Herbert, Liselot Hudders, Inge Lens, Naomi Mandel, Agnes Nairn, Adriana Samper, Isabella Soscia & Laurel Steinfiel
“Materialism has a generally held connotation that is associated with character deficiencies, self-centeredness, and unhappiness, and most extant research views materialism as having a negative influence on well-being. In this article, we review and synthesise research that supports both positive and negative outcomes of behaviours associated with materialism …” Read more>

Historical research in marketing theory and practice: a review essay
Mark Tadajewski & D.G. Brian Jones
“This paper reviews 30 years of interdisciplinary scholarship that deals with marketing history or the history of marketing thought. We have ranged across the humanities and social sciences to review the very best scholarship that these domains have produced which speaks to issues likely to concern the readers of the Journal of Marketing Management (JMM). These domains include: the history of marketing management, history of market research, history of market segmentation, product management history, retailing and channels history, promotion history, advertising history, the history of marketing thought, and marketing and the management of subjectivity, among others …” Read more>

Behavioural psychology, marketing and consumer behaviour: a literature review and future research agenda
Victoria K. Wells
“Psychology, along with a wide range of other academic disciplines, has influenced research in both consumer behaviour and marketing. However, the influence of one area of psychology – namely, behaviourism – on research on consumers and marketing has been less prominent. Behaviourism has influenced consumer and marketing research through the application of classical and operant conditioning, matching and foraging theories, amongst other frameworks, during the past 50 years. This article provides a review of research and applications of behavioural psychology in the area, as well as a brief introduction of behavioural psychology for scholars unfamiliar with the area. The article also suggests avenues for further research examining the potential development of behavioural psychology approaches for both consumer and marketing researchers …” Read more>

Sustainability marketing research: past, present and future
Pierre McDonagh & Andrea Prothero
“This paper provides a synthesis and critical assessment of the sustainability marketing literature, from the period 1998–2013, building on a previous assessment from 1971 to 1998. It details research within major marketing journals and critically assesses this research in relation to the on-going conversation which focuses on marketing’s relationship with the natural environment. Differences in the content and depth of sustainability coverage in marketing journals are considered. Potential avenues for future sustainability marketing research are proposed, with a particular call for theoretical and managerial reflections which tackle broader systemic and institutional issues within the discipline …” Read more>


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Mark Tadajewski

Mark Tadajewski

Professor Mark Tadajewski is the Editor of the Journal of Marketing Management.

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