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Philosophy and Theory of Marketing

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

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

Baker (2000 p19)

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

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

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

The History of Marketing

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

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