Friday, May 25, 2012

Marketing Management Term Paper

Marketing Management Research Paper

Is Marketing Management an Art or a Science?

There is an ongoing dispute as to whether a scientific or practical approach is more suited to business and in particular to marketing. Knowledge of the market for goods and services and the way people and companies interact in it is a social and dynamic field. As such there is an important distinction to be made between practice and theory. The question: “Is marketing an art or a science?” leads to the underlying problem of whether generalizing and formulating theories is a help or an obstacle for the development of the marketing discipline. Does the term science bring value in itself, or is it simply an overcomplicating factor which distracts us from the essence of the art of marketing?

The article “Art or Science?: Fifty Years of Marketing Debate” by S. Brown summarizes the debate over whether it is appropriate to place marketing in the field of science or art. The discussion was sparked by the publication of Converse’s 1945 article “The Development of the Science of Marketing”. In his work the academic introduces a new perspective into the field, by bringing in the then fashionable term “science” into his research S. Brown (1996). The study was a questionnaire including a sample of 64 marketing researchers who were asked to rate a variety of subjects relevant to the development of the discipline Dix (2003). This publication introduced a new perspective on marketing management.


Although Converse’s contribution may be considered the beginning of the debate it is by no means the main argument on the science-art scene. The main idea of marketing as a science was considered first by him, but the scholars who followed, namely Brown (1948), and Alderson and Cox (1948) were the ones who formulated specific demands as to the formation of a marketing profession S. Brown (1996). They introduced into the debate the idea that it was necessary for the discipline to develop in a more scientific direction if it was to ever become a true field of knowledge. Here emerged the argument for the scientific approach. The idea that the transformation of marketing into a profession would be possible only if given a systematic and structured approach and many theories with which to generalize away the phenomena so far observed emerged.

As it is to be expected these arguments promptly found opposing ones. In 1949 Vaile contended that marketing is an art which needs innovation, creativity and a communication with the social environment S. Brown (1996). In further discussions it was suggested that the scientific method was not a valid description of what actually goes on in marketing and therefore the word science was not a valid term. The former argument was introduced by Bartels in 1951. He went on to speculate that there is indeed a scientific character to marketing research and therefore with a little adjustment and specification, marketing could become a discipline of scientific character.

After the introduction of a few more opposing and supporting arguments by scholars such as Hutchinson it became clear that the debate had a set goal. Its universally accepted objective was to convert marketing into a scientific discipline S. Brown (1996). This prompted a series of arguments as to whether this goal had been reached, and if so, to what extent. Many suggested criteria emerged as a result of the debate. They all had suggested methods for confirming the status or converting marketing into a systemized base of knowledge. An example of this is Buzzell’s argument that marketing lacked the strictly organized body of knowledge organized around a few central theories, required to make it a science S. Brown (1996). There were many suggestions and arguments. Some declared marketing management to be a fully fledged branch of scholarship, while others had more severe expectations, but one thing was clear, no one opposed turning marketing into a science.

After this strict attempt to associate marketing with a purely scientific domain, came the period of relativism. This era in the development of the debate was characterized by a different approach toward the term science and the place of marketing in the society. Anderson argued in 1983 that the world is more complicated and dynamic from a social point of view and therefore it cannot be judged from a classically scientific perspective S. Brown (1996). This would mean that marketing is not a science, but rather a dubbed science, equipped with the adequate social tools necessary for interpreting the environment it studies. Another interesting idea is represented by Peter and Olson in 1983. According to them science is so social that it is, in a way, a form of marketing S. Brown (1996). The explanation for this is that the success of scientific ideas depends entirely on the marketing skill of their authors. This suggestion adds a new perspective as to the relationship between science and marketing. Must the latter be defined by the laws and principles of the former or is it the other way around?

Yet another argument in the disputation is one provided by those who examine science in itself and view its method as being inadequate and false. This was suggested by Kuhn 1970 and Feyerabend 1987 – 88 who resorted to the argument provided by Popper in his legendary “Conjectures and Refutations”. In his work Popper argues that the level of scientific worthiness of a theory is determined by its refutability Popper (1963). Therefore, it is suggested by Feyerabend and Kuhn, scientific theories are usually not reached by a true scientific method of refutation, but rather by a pseudo one in which their creators try to protect them from being disproven S. Brown (1996). These arguments as to the social and scarcely structured character of science lead to a controversy in the field. It could be concluded that the relativist approach was a step toward viewing marketing as knowledge apart from science. This perspective proved to be a driver for further thought in that direction.

The final period of development in the fifty year debate is the postmodernist era. This portion of the argument gives an entirely new perspective on the domain of marketing knowledge. It focuses on a more reasonable question: “Does classifying marketing as a science contribute positively?” The postmodernists have a clear answer to the question. They consider science to be cold and calculating, devoid of any social perspective, and isolated from the needs and specifics of society S. Brown (1996).

Although this may seem like a harsh and extreme point of view it does bring us closer to discussing a more reasonable and meaningful question. In view of this ruthless conclusion we could ask ourselves whether marketing fits the profile provided above. Is the base of knowledge we have today isolated from society and based instead on a purely numerical and self serving principle? A closer look at what marketing does could tell us that on the contrary it is a discipline based on the connectedness of companies and products to people, no matter whether those people are the consumers or the staff of the business. Marketing preaches that the only way to keep on top is to constantly update the picture an industry has on the world around it. The number one principle when planning marketing activities is to know who is around and what is happening. This perspective can hardly be qualified as socially detached. Before any marketer makes an assumption based on knowledge, he has already acquainted himself with the specifics of the situation. We can therefore conclude that it is hardly appropriate to call marketing a science, because it neither makes refutable assumptions, nor does it depend entirely on hypotheses. It is a dynamic and ever-changing field of experience and knowledge, which requires constant reality checks and updates.

And now comes the question of whether depriving marketing of scientific status makes it more difficult to use or more inadequate. Would it pose a threat to the utility and sense it contains? The answer is undoubtedly, no. It is more than clear that marketing has been a crucial part of business and the development of the economy. The principles and knowledge acquired and given this name have been an invaluable help in determining market trends and predicting consumer behavior. The more experience is gained in this domain the easier it becomes for businesses to find an appropriate strategy and adapt it to the overall conditions. The fact that it is a discipline better described as art, rather than science only makes it more flexible. Marketing is there for the making. It is a division of human social experience which is always open to innovation and improvement. What better way to incorporate business into society than having an open and continuous dialogue between the two.
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