Virtual Special Issue: Revisiting Marketing History and the History of Marketing Thought*

Editorial Introduction

We believe that historical research plays a vital role in the marketing discipline. It broadens and deepens our understanding of our subject. It provides a context and perspective for contemporary marketing practices and ideas. Without historical awareness, we have no baseline for evaluating the significance of new knowledge. Marketing history and the history of marketing thought are also, quite simply, valuable in their own right and for their own sake. Nevertheless, historical scholarship has struggled to find a place in the marketing discipline.** This said, over the past twenty or so years, the Journal of Marketing Management (JMM) is one of those outlets that have welcomed historical research.

For this virtual special issue, we have gathered together eleven articles published in the JMM. There are at least three broad sub-fields of historical research in marketing – marketing history (history of marketing management practices), history of marketing thought, and historical methods – and all three are represented in this issue.

Overview of the Development of Historical Research in Marketing: This virtual special issue begins with a major review article that was published in 2014. Tadajewski and Jones (Historical Research in Marketing Theory and Practice: A Review Essay) use the editorial position statement of the JMM which outlines areas of interest for prospective authors to craft a narrative that explores the last three decades of historical research in marketing. Their paper identifies key studies in multiple areas: marketing management, market research, market segmentation, product management, and marketing thought and practice (among others). To foreground important new avenues for research, they also incorporate scholarship under the rubric of “marketing and the consumer society”. The latter deals, in the main, with the shaping of human subjectivity by the culture industries. This enables them to segue into material published within the interpretive, CCT and critical marketing traditions which is starting to use some element of historical analysis to reveal the longstanding structuring and sedimentation of consumption practices in society. Within each of the broad areas that Tadajewski and Jones survey, they encounter a rich stream of publications that should merit the attention of academics trying to position their work in any of these domains. More than this, their overview of historical research in marketing indicates the growing use of various forms of philosophical and social theory to make sense of the objects of their attention (e.g. Actor Network Theory). They applaud the growing sophistication of historical research and conclude on a positive note, suggesting that the future for this scholarly approach looks “bright”.

Historical method and the justification of historical research are the focus of one of the earliest articles in this collection. Vink’s (1992) (Historical Perspective in Marketing Management, Explicating Experience) criticisms of historical ignorance in the marketing discipline continue to resonate today. He focuses on how history can be used in studying, teaching and practicing marketing management. Although historical scholarship in marketing has grown considerably in the past twenty years, Vink’s suggestions for studying and teaching marketing history have largely been ignored.

Marketing history or the history of marketing management practice is the subject of three articles published in this collection. Alan Morrison and Robin Wensley’s (1991) “Boxing up or Boxed in?: A Short History of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Share/Growth Matrix” unravels the formative influences on the well-known portfolio model, describes its conceptual development, and reports on a survey of academics about the contributions of the model. As an aside, given the continuing popularity of the BCG matrix in marketing textbooks today, we think it would be interesting to repeat their survey now with over twenty more years of perspective.

The history of branding is the focus of Ruth Herman’s (2003) paper (An Exercise in Early Modern Branding). She provides a useful review of some of the sparse literature on branding history. Most of the article is dedicated to describing the branding efforts of an early eighteenth century writer who integrated her persona into her published writings to form a brand. Part of the contribution of this article is its rich description of marketing practices in the bookselling trade of the eighteenth century.

In her paper on the use of various forms of marketing communications by concert promoters in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Catherine Harbor (‘At the Desire of Several Persons of Quality and Lovers of Musick’: Pervasive and Persuasive Advertising for Public Commercial Concerts in London 1672–1749)  rethinks the emergence of persuasive advertising. By contrast to many studies which assert a linear trajectory in the development of advertising from largely informational adverts (much like the basic “for sale” ads in the back of newspapers) to persuasive communications, Harbor argues that early concert advertising was more complex. An advertisement does not need to be simply informative or persuasive. It can be both.

Concert promoters used advertising from 1672 onwards as a vehicle to attract attention and increase desire for their offerings. They were quick to use new vehicles for promotion – most notably the newspaper – and their strategies were quite sophisticated. Indeed, Harbor claims that concert promotion strategies are the genealogical foundation for many contemporary practices. Put slightly differently, what the reader will see are concert promoters putting the logic of AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action) first articulated by E. St Elmo Lewis in an abstracted format at the end of the nineteenth century, into practice many years before he inductively generated his framework.

The attentive reader will appreciate that Harbor’s contributions run deeper that charting the use of novelty, quality, class and identity oriented appeals in the marketing communications these practitioners employed. She also gestures to the use of a form of integrated marketing communications, where multiple channels are used to engage the attention of the consumer. Moreover, the paper outlines why formal consumer research was unnecessary for those involved with concert promotion, especially when they were musicians staging their own performances. As she explains, musicians often lived in proximity to their audiences. They were constantly interacting with them and this informed performers about hot trends and fashions. This knowledge, in turn, ensured the appeal of their concerts for their target market.

Of special importance is Harbor’s methodology. She outlines in detail the strategy she employed to make sense of these early marketing communications. Her justification is rigorous, and she provides examples of her sense-making approach to convince the reader of the veracity of her interpretations. The detail provided means that interested scholars can pursue their own studies along similar lines using the type of “interpretive content analysis” that she deploys.

The history of marketing thought has been the most popular sub-field of historical research published in the JMM. Six of the articles in this special issue deal with this subject. Michael Enright (2002) (Marketing and Conflicting Dates for its Emergence: Hotchkiss, Bartels, the ‘Fifties School’ and Alternative Accounts) discusses three different historical perspectives on marketing and the various ways “marketing” is understood through the prism of these accounts. Bartels’ work is well-known to most marketing historians. Enright also engages with the less-known book published in 1938 by George Burton Hotchkiss. The “Fifties School” is invoked to refer to the textbook literature that developed during the 1950s which helped further stimulate the managerial approach to marketing (cf. Tadajewski and Jones, 2012). One of the interesting things about Enright’s analysis is his comparison of a book explicitly about the history of marketing ideas (Bartels), another book focused upon marketing history (Hotchkiss), and a collection of textbooks used primarily to teach marketing as it was then conceptualised. These different orientations to the subject and practice explains much of the divergence he finds in their respective understandings of marketing.

Chris Hackley (2009) writes about “Parallel Universes and Disciplinary Space: The Bifurcation of Managerialism and Social Science in Marketing Studies”. Hackley uses a brief and selective history of marketing thought to distinguish the political, institutional, and ideological influences that have created two parallel paradigms in marketing studies today: one managerial, the other social scientific. For our purposes here, Hackley correctly notes that a more historically informed and intellectually engaged marketing discipline might lead to a critical reorientation and reconnect with its original focus on social welfare. Hackley also points out the central role played by the marketing concept as a source of tension in marketing and that provides a neat link to three articles by Mark Tadajewski, all dealing in one way or another with the history of the marketing concept.

In his (2009) paper, Tadajewski (Eventalizing the Marketing Concept) draws upon the Foucauldian concept of “eventalizing”. This entails analyzing an event according to the multiple processes that constitute it (i.e. the emergence of the marketing concept). Tadajewski focuses on the social, political, and economic changes in America which impacted upon the marketing discipline when it was fleshing out its core concept.

Tadajewski (2010) (Reading ‘The Marketing Revolution’ Through the Prism of the FBI) continues the critique of the emergence of the marketing concept. The “marketing revolution” refers to Robert Keith’s infamous 1960 article in the Journal of Marketing that heralded changes in marketing practice at the Pillsbury Company. Keith’s article has, of course, been routinely cited over the years as the first articulation of what today is known as the marketing concept. While other historians have challenged Keith’s claim to being the first, Tadajewski questions the accuracy of Keith’s actual claim that Pillsbury was following the marketing concept. To do so, he uses FBI files to uncover the traces of anti-competitive practices by Pillsbury as early as 1958, two years prior to the publication of Keith’s article. Pillsbury was ultimately charged and fined for its involvement in a price-fixing cartel. All in all, this deflates Keith’s claim that Pillsbury was oriented around customer needs.

The final installment in Tadajewski’s (with Jones, 2012) historical reexamination of the marketing concept highlights the seminal work of Percival White who was deeply influenced by Scientific Management. In this article, Tadajewski and Jones (Scientific Marketing Management and the Emergence of the Ethical Marketing Concept) document important connections between Scientific Management and early twentieth century marketing ideas through the work of White. They make the case that White was the first (1927) to articulate a clear and complete statement of the marketing concept that was also unique for its explicit ethical orientation.

Critical marketing uses critical social theory to scrutinize marketing activities, theories and concepts. In “Towards a History of Critical Marketing Studies”, Tadajewski unpacks the heritage of a variety of critical perspectives in marketing. In doing so, he reviews a range of literature that few will have read. In this undertaking, Tadajewski focuses on the period from 1940 to 1990 and describes a much richer heritage for critical marketing than is usually cited in the literature.

Table of Contents

Section One: Overview of the Development of Historical Research in Marketing

Mark Tadajewski & D.G. Brian Jones (2014). Historical Research in Marketing Theory and Practice: A Review Essay. Journal of Marketing Management, 30,(11-12), 1239-1291.

Section Two: Method and Justification of Historical Research in Marketing

Nico J. Vink (1992). Historical Perspective in Marketing Management, Explicating Experience. Journal of Marketing Management, 8(3), 219-237.

Section Three: Marketing History (Management Practice)

Alan Morrison & Robin Wensley (1991). Boxing up or Boxed in?: A Short History of the Boston Consulting Group Share/Growth Matrix. Journal of Marketing Management, 7(5), 102-129

Ruth Herman (2003). An Exercise in Early Modern Branding. Journal of Marketing Management, 19(7-8), 709-727.

Catherine Harbor (2017). ‘At the Desire of Several Persons of Quality and Lovers of Musick’: Pervasive and Persuasive Advertising for Public Commercial Concerts in London 1672–1749. Journal of Marketing Management, 33(13-14), 1170-1203.

Section Four: History of Marketing Thought

Michael Enright (2002). Marketing and Conflicting Dates for its Emergence: Hotchkiss, Bartels, the ‘Fifties School’ and Alternative Accounts. Journal of Marketing Management, 18(5-6), 445-461.

Chris Hackley (2009). Parallel Universes and Disciplinary Space: The Bifurcation of Managerialism and Social Science in Marketing Studies. Journal of Marketing Management, 25(7-8), 643-659.

Mark Tadajewski (2009). Eventalizing the Marketing Concept. Journal of Marketing Management, 25(1-2), 191-217.

Mark Tadajewski (2010). Reading ‘The Marketing Revolution’ Through the Prism of the FBI. Journal of Marketing Management, 26(1-2), 90-107.

Mark Tadajewski & D.G. Brian Jones (2012). Scientific Marketing Management and the Emergence of the Ethical Marketing Concept. Journal of Marketing Management, 28(1-2), 37-61.

Mark Tadajewski (2010). Towards a History of Critical Marketing Studies. Journal of Marketing Management, 26(9-10), 773-824.

*This updates, and adds new articles published since the appearance of, ‘Marketing History and the History of Marketing Thought’ first published in 2013 (Online  / Book: Routledge Key Issues in Marketing Management series).

** (There are also some excellent papers available via the Conference on Historical Analysis and Research in Marketing website.)

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Mark Tadajewski

Mark Tadajewski

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

D.G. Brian Jones

D.G. Brian Jones

D.G. Brian Jones is professor of marketing at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT, USA. He was the founding editor of the Journal of Historical Research in Marketing and has published extensively in the area of marketing history.

Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this posting are the views of the Author(s), and are not necessarily the views of the JMM Editors, Westburn Publishers Ltd. or Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.