Marketing: Victim of Its Own “ing”?

I was recently paging through Everett Rogers’ classic “Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition” (Everett M. Rogers, Everett Rogers) when I bumped smack into the following passage:

“Marketing” has a negative connotation in some academic circles because the term is narrowly construed as synonymous with manipulating human purchasing behavior for commercial advantage. Undoubtedly, marketing may sometimes seek to sell products to people who do not really want them, like refrigerators to Eskimos.

Ouch! For those of us “in marketing” this ungenerous characterization is particularly painful because “marketing” is narrowly construed this way not only within academic circles but in the general public as well, although I have more often heard people assert that marketers find ice cubes to be the Eskimos’ product of choice.

I would submit that one of the reasons that the concept of “marketing” is so maligned stems from the incorporation of an “ing” in its name. In the first sentence of the quote it seems that Rogers uses “marketing” as a verb. Let’s alter this first sentence slightly and replace “marketing” with “managing”.

“Managing” has a negative connotation in some academic circles because the term is narrowly construed as synonymous with manipulating human work behavior for commercial advantage.


Now let’s replace “managing” with “financing”.

“Financing” has a negative connotation in some academic circles because the term is narrowly construed as synonymous with manipulating human borrowing behavior for commercial advantage.

.
Each of these sentences sounds equally plausible and yet, in academic circles, the comparison is not usually made because, although we have “marketing departments” in universities, we do not have “managing departments” or “financing departments”.

Somehow “finance” and “management” have attained noun stature and are easily recognized as fields of study. So, whereas a management department is expected to examine organizational structure, a marketing department is thought to be more concerned with selling products and services than with the structure of markets. In fact the field of “strategic management” gained prominence due in part to the belief in corporate and academic circles that marketing was not the right perspective from which to study the competitive market landscape.
In fact, at the most recent meeting of the American Marketing Association here were a few of the major research tracks:

  • Consumer Behavior
  • Public Policy and Ethical Issues
  • E-Commerce and Technology
  • Marketing Communication and Branding
  • Channels of Distribution and Supply Chain Management
  • Marketing Research
  • Marketing Strategy
  • and , oh yeah

  • Selling, Sales Management, and Direct Marketing
  • Marketing is a rich and significant field of study. It is ironic that a field that is purportedly about changing human behavior can’t seem to sell people on the idea that marketing is much more than a formulaic recipe for creating value. I think it’s the “ing”. Perhaps “Marketology” or “Marketplace Behaviorism” might sound more comprehensive or respectable.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *