Marketing Reflections for Our Reform and Reset

Marketing Reflections for Our Reform and Reset

Brent Smith (Saint Joseph's University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6295-5.ch002

Abstract

From time to time, we marketers should reflect upon what we have done for the world and to the world. We should examine the paradigms, practices, and broader impacts that have shaped our reputation. As a community of practitioners, scholars, and teachers, we have grown accustomed to common criticisms about what we do and how we do it. In calling consumerism the shame of marketing, Peter Drucker left us a prompt to consider for our reform and reset. In our ongoing journey to satisfy consumers and achieve organizational objectives, we must not lose sight of our responsibilities to create value, maximize our positive impact on society, and minimize our negative impact on society. In this brief chapter, the author presents thoughts on how we marketers might improve our discipline.
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One's first step in wisdom is to question everything - and one's last is to come to terms with everything. - George Christoph Lichtenberg, Physicist

In a special way, questions, reflections, and criticisms can help us calibrate our measures for success. Our present era is unlike any before it when one considers the vast and varied means that individuals now have to express their satisfaction, disdain, or disappointment with companies’ marketing activities.

As marketers, we have grown accustomed to accusations that we push people to purchase things they do not really need. Of course, such accusations are not entirely true, but they are not entirely false either. After all, who really is a marketer anyway? The ease of entry into our discipline regrettably allows for many people to claim they (can) do marketing without producing much credentials or other evidence to support their claim. Our community traditionally has not been that credentials and certifies individuals’ competency as our counterparts in accounting (e.g., certified public accountant, certified management accountant) or finance (e.g., chartered financial analyst, financial risk manager). Despite that issue, we must deal with the reality that people are generally suspicious about how we view them, relate to them, and respond to their concerns.

I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is that they must change if they are to get better. - George Christoph Lichtenberg, Physicist

Just over one decade ago, Sheth and Sisodia (2006) posed an import question: Does marketing need reform? That question seems to demand renewed attention from time to time, especially when marketing finds itself, in some regards, having diminished influence within the firm (Homburg, Vomberg, Enke, & Grimm, 2015; Verhoef & Leeflang, 2009). On more than one occasion, marketing has been caught up in the throes of productivity crises. It has featured too little real productivity and accountability (Sheth & Sisodia, 2002). Arguably materialism predates marketing. However, marketing admittedly has pushed consumers to not only expand their needs and wants, but also exploited their emotions to emphasize symbolic value over functional value of products (Lambin, 1997; Yani-de-Soriano & Slater, 2009).

If we are to reduce the risk of allowing consumerism to become (or remain) the “shame of marketing” (Drucker, 1969), then we should reflect carefully on the public’s suspicions about our discipline and take steps to improve our standing—one which our students and future marketing leaders will inherit. We need to think more carefully about what should motivate, inform, and ensure marketing’s value-driven activities in relation to consumers and broader society. Yet, given a checkered history with some admirable achievements and some questionable antics, we should raise our aspirations for marketing and recognize that it also “needs the guiding hand of public policy, especially to weed out as much “lowest-common-denominator” marketing activity as possible” (Sheth & Sisodia, 2007, p.142). We must challenge ourselves to do good while doing well. We must assess any identifiable impacts and externalities resulting from marketing activities. We must be receptive to view that regulation (still) may be necessary to discourage harmful marketing practices and/or limit their outcomes (e.g., single-use plastic products like bottles and straws overwhelming our waste management resources and littering oceans).

It could be argued that marketing academics and practitioners alike are suffering from “marketer myopia”; that is, they are so focused on what they do that they fail to notice significant changes in the environment around them. (Sheth & Sisodia, 2005, p. 10).

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