Beyond Marketing: In Praise of Societing
This a sneak preview into a brand new article on the future of Marketing, courtesy of Bernard Cova, Olivier Badot and Ampelio Bucci. This article is now available for download in pdf format from the visionarymarketing website. (includes graphics and diagrams)
note: electronic painting courtesy of Sabin Corneliu Buraga (Rumania)
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Working Version April 2006
“Beyond Marketing: In Praise of Societing”
This paper seeks to contribute to the general discussion of the evolution of the dominant logic in marketing by constructing an exhaustive list of all the panaceas appearing during the past twenty years, and then determining the underlying logics for each of these panaceas. This permits the structuring of the panaceas into groups according to the principal logics identified. The result brings into question the validity of the word marketing as the denomination of the human activities which we study. Whereas some authors propose to reform marketing by dropping the suffix ‘ing’ and to concentrate on the ‘market’, we conclude to the contrary, that it is necessary to keep the suffix ‘ing’ and to get rid of the word market, as its logics of action no longer have the market as the focal aspect. We then propose the term ‘societing’.
For the past twenty years, there has been an energetic debate throughout the marketing scientific community concerning a possible change of paradigm (Dholakia and Arndt, 1985; Littler and Tynan, 2005; Vargo and Lusch, 2004; Sheth and Sisodia, 2006), in which a great majority of authors using a relatively top down approach argue about the reasons of an evolution from one perspective to another. These authors, often distinguished academics, identify and discuss a change of paradigm and its resulting implications in developing certain positions with respect to the theory and practice of marketing, sometimes describing in detail the models, the methods and even the tools. In particular, this is the case in the transition from a transactional perspective to a relational perspective in marketing (Gronröos, 1997; Gummesson, 1997).
We propose here to nourish this debate by taking an opposite approach: using a bottom up approach we will start from the production of “marketing panaceas” (Brown, 1995) and alternative approaches (Morris and al., 2002) – model, best practices and other miracle approaches – to which managers are exposed, in order to reconstruct the various structural pillars of the multitude of panaceas, and to ultimately highlight major changes (or not) from a paradigmatic perspective. This approach seems more suitable to account for the fragmentation of marketing, its thought, its research topics including managerial implications, which is said to be characteristic of this fourth era of the marketing we have encountered since the Eighties (Webster, 2005; Wilkie and Moore, 2003).
This paper seeks to contribute to the general discussion of the evolution of the dominant logic in marketing through: 1) constructing an exhaustive list of all the panaceas appearing during the past twenty last years; 2) seeking the underlying logics with each one of these panaceas, thereby permitting the structuring into groups panaceas according to the principal logics identified; 3) discussing the validity of the word ‘marketing’ to encapsulate logics which no longer have the market as the central aspect.
- A panorama of marketing panaceas
As highlighted by Brown (1993a and 1993b), marketing panaceas form a vast practical literature intended to provide managers “solutions to marketing’s ills” (Brown, 1995, p. 50). These solutions are generally announced by their authors as being the base of a conceptual restorative of marketing and often in a very humble (!) way, as in ‘new marketing’. “Talk about a ‘new marketing’ has attracted considerable interest”, (Palmer and Ponsoby, 2002, p. 177). Following in the footsteps of McKenna (1985) and Gummesson (1987), numerous authors have come forward – from Brookes (1988) to McDonald and Wilson (2002) – to announce the emergence of a new marketing redemptive based on a particular point of view: theirs! Some such as Brookes, who one decade after having published a book entitled ‘New Marketing’ (1988), publish a second work on ‘New Marketing’ (Litlle and Brookes, 1997) have gone on to become experts in the field of the new marketing. Certain authors become militant apostles of the cause of ‘New Marketing’ and design manifestos of ‘New Marketing’ (Grant, 1999). Others stylize their approach by using a prefix of Greek origin ‘neo‘ to propose a ‘Neo-Marketing’ (Badot and Cova, 1992; Moutinho and al., 2002; Zyman, 1999) a plural combination of various innovative approaches. The great majority of authors suggest through their text that they are the initiators of a form of new marketing and use a title rather like a brand on which they will be able to capitalize thereafter; for example Schmitt (1999) with his work Experiential Marketing. In all cases, their new marketing panacea is supposed to challenge kotlerian marketing (‘old school marketing’) described by Smithee (1997) as in continuous crisis, if not already departed: it is the enemy which the panacea confronts to save companies and/or consumers, and it is also a way one calibrates oneself to show their difference and raison d’être. And it works! Towards the end of 2005, a chart made a tour of the world’s web sites and blogs dedicated to marketing and consumption. It proliferated rapidly and is defended as a social cause by many actors on the Net, not only marketers, but also consumers and players such as programmers and developers. It was posted by Kathy Sierra, a Sun java instructor, on a blog in August 2005 (Figure 1) and points out how the open source/cluetrain world is causing traditional old-school kotlerian marketing to give way to a “neo-marketing.”
Figure 1: Neo-Marketing versus Old-School Marketing according to Kathy Sierra
While the global movement of ‘New Marketing’ has previously been examined, most notably by Palmer and Ponsonby (2002) whose work studied the social construction of new marketing in such areas as one-to-one marketing, minimal work has been conducted into counting and categorizing these new marketing panaceas. Some work has been undertaken, but in a limited way and directed towards only one paradigmatic perspective (Brown, 1993a; Brown 1993b; Morris and al., 2002). Brown (1993a) chose eight marketing panaceas to highlight their common concerns – postmodernism according to him: an emphasis on dealing with the customer as an individual; a desire to retain existing customers rather than searching for new ones. Morris and al. (2002) analyzed thirteen marketing panaceas to determine their common entrepreneurial features: efficiency in marketing expenditures by leveraging resources, creative and alternative approaches for managing marketing variables, and an ability to effect change in the environment. In both cases, the marketing panaceas chosen were accurately selected to serve the re-conceptualization a priori of the authors.
In contrast, our approach is intended to be the inverse of the previous authors’ deductive work. Using an inductive process, we examine existing marketing panaceas that exhibit broad representation in order to determine common threads among them, thus allowing us to carry out regroupings. In our research, only trans-sectoral and trans-segmentary panaceas are utilized. Indeed, it is our opinion, that these are the only ones that allow for universality in their approach, and thus consequently, can signal when a paradigm change in the discipline occurs. Thus, marketing panaceas dedicated to specific: sectors (aeronautical, arts and culture, banking and insurance, industry, construction, high-tech, luxury, fashion, NGO, policy, retail, sports, cities and territories…); types of offers (products, services, projects…); exchange and means of communication (blogs, the Internet, mobile phones, television, point of sale…); specific segments, such as generational (youth, generation X or Y, seniors…), geographical markets (Mediterranean, Pan-European, Global…), or dedicated organizations grouped as a function of size (SME, MNC’s…) are not included in this research.
Furthermore, we retained only panaceas which integrated into their name the word ‘marketing’. This led us to deliberately eliminate an extensive selection of B2B panaceas developed which do not use the term ‘marketing’, but rather terms such as ‘selling’ or ‘management’ to describe their approaches. These types of relational approaches include: key partner management, key account management, client portfolio management, customer value management, as well as terms such as network management and supply chain management. Similarly, commercial approaches such as consultative selling, solution selling, value selling or enterprise selling (de Vincentis and Rackham, 1998) were omitted, as were contractual approaches such as full service contract or one stop shopping. Along the same lines, B2C approaches such as brand management or category management were not included.
In spite of these deletions, we easily arrived at more than seventy panaceas proposed in papers, articles, or web sites (see Table 1). One can therefore understand the confusion of the marketing layman in the search of a valid and current approach to replace or improve on traditional kotlerian marketing. The landscape can be seen as a shapeless and shifting marketing panaceas in which all proclaim the title of ‘new marketing’ by stressing marketing’s ‘new paradigm’. Panaceas can come from academics such as Philip Kotler (Kotler and al., 2002), industry consultants, or practitioners in search of fame and recognition. It should be noted that the majority of panaceas that have attained broader international recognition originate from America, whereas European or Asian initiatives have achieved more limited acknowledgement.
Table 1: List of marketing panaceas 1985-2005
Cause Related Marketing
Customer Centric Marketing
Grass Roots Marketing
Life Event Marketing
Non Business Marketing
Real Time Marketing
Symbiotic Marketing Time Based Marketing
Total Relationship Marketing
Though, marketing has in the past adopted and adapted concepts from other disciplines, and has borrowed from other fields, for example metaphorical names such as guerrilla marketing, in reading this long list of panaceas, one can, like Smithee and Lee (2004) be initially struck by the strange couplings which it suggests. With the explosion of marketing panaceas over the past twenty years, this phenomenon seems to have taken an even greater hold and generates such odd names as tribal marketing or viral marketing. Smithee and Lee (2004) thus envisage a development of the use of the metaphor in names marketing: “given the many successful outcomes of past interdisciplinary sorties in search of metaphor, much may be gained from focusing on virgin territories. Marketing has been slow to grasp the manifold opportunities that exist in fields as diverse as the medical sciences, the physical sciences and information sciences, to name just a few” (Smithee and Lee, 2004, p. 150) – and thus bet on the arrival of panaceas such as “marketing by osmosis” or “marketing transgenics”.
- An organization of marketing panaceas according to their logic
As specialists, rather than laymen, we attempt to interpret this group of panaceas by organizing them into categories concerned with the same underlying logic. With this intention each panacea was initially analyzed according to the following checklist allowing it to be characterized by:
– history and raison d’être of the panacea according to its authors;
– central concepts;
– principal processes and/or tools;
– pre-requisites of implementation;
– type of strategy of offer;
– type of strategy of relation;
– assets and weaknesses.
Information which made it possible to feed each checklist comes from the articles, the works, the interviews, or the web sites of their proponents.
Then, in an inductive way we sought to emphasize the family of subjacent logics most relevant to categorize the whole of the panaceas. After trying a number of different approaches between the panaceas and the categorization tests, it appeared to us that the most rigorous way to organize these panaceas was to consider the way in which their authors see or don’t see the core object of marketing: the market. Indeed, marketing, even from its etymology, is centered on the market and, more precisely, on its actions on the market. Kotlerian marketing does not escape from it: the first key concept of marketing as described in the textbook Marketing Management is the market, and more specifically, its market-target, i.e. the segments on which the company will act. To a great extent, the majority of the marketing panaceas try to differentiate themselves from the kotlerian view of the market as a group of segments, to rest on alternative perspectives for the market which go beyond and/or beneath this view (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Alternative Perspectives of the Market Introduced by Marketing Panaceas
The first group of panaceas distinguishes itself from kotlerian marketing by focusing on the market environment, i.e. on the cultural, natural, political and social structures which encompass the market, and on the actors outside of the market who act on the market: Cause Related Marketing, Eco-Marketing, Environmental Marketing, Green Marketing, Holistic Marketing, Macro Marketing, Maxi Marketing, Mega Marketing, Network Marketing, Non Business Marketing, Social Marketing, Societal Marketing, Stakeholder marketing, Sustainable Marketing, Symbiotic Marketing, Trend Marketing. The logic mobilized by this first group of panaceas, is one of the embedding of the market in a broader unit which at the same time conditions and makes it possible (Hadjikhani and Thilenius, 2005).
A second group of panaceas positions itself differently from kotlerian marketing, by taking the perspective of the market niche, i.e. fragments of consumers of minimal size compared to the traditional segments, and integrating the regroupings – permanent like transitory – based on a common origin (ethnos group, territory) or a common passion (tribes, virus): Community Marketing, Ethnic Marketing, Ethno-marketing, Family Marketing, Geo-marketing, Micromarketing, Niche Marketing, Street Marketing, Tribal Marketing, Viral Marketing. This group gave rise to a specific development, not always ethical, that relates to the mode of communication that is specific to certain niches considered to not respond to direct commercial messaging: Buzz Marketing, Exponential Marketing, Stealth Marketing, Undercover Marketing. The logic mobilized by this second group of panaceas is at the same time, one of hyper fragmentation of the consumption of the postmodern type (Firat and Venkatesh, 1995), while also a recombining of consumption in a form borrowed from the archaic and pre-existent social forms of the market: community, soil, tribe… (Maffesoli, 1996).
A third group, which was a dominating factor in the Nineties, opened the way to a redefinition of the market through the form of client relationships, i.e. of relations between the company and their customers (direct or indirect) designed to increase and recognize loyalty to a company, its brands, products and services. Contributions from industrial marketing, especially from the IMP Group (Hakannson, 1982; Hakansson and Snehota, 1995), as well as from services marketing (Gronröos, 1997; Gummesson, 1997) support the panaceas concerned: Co-Marketing, Customer Centric Marketing, Database Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Loyalty Marketing, Multilevel Marketing, One-to-One Marketing, Relationship Marketing, Total Relationship Marketing, Trade Marketing. The logic concerned with this third group of panaceas is one of moving from a market of mass (and segments) to one of a mass of markets: each specific client relationship being a market.
A fourth group of panaceas that has emerged strongly since the beginning of 2000, is one that is concerned with the subjective experiences of the customer, i.e. what the customer experiences (emotions, feelings, feelings…) with the offers coming from the market. The contributions of Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) (Arnould and Thompson, 2005) are noticeable in a number of panaceas: Cult Marketing, Emotion Marketing, Event Marketing, Experience Marketing, Life Event Marketing, Multi-Sensory Marketing, Neural Marketing, Olfactory Marketing, Sensory Marketing, Situational Marketing. This group is so significant today that one can consider that it gave rise to the following sub-groups:
– Panaceas organized around the temporality of the subjective experiences of customers: Chrono-marketing, Convergence Marketing, Contextual Marketing, Real Time Marketing, Slow Marketing, Time Based Marketing, Turbo Marketing, Yield Marketing;
– Panaceas organized around the authenticity of the subjective experiences of customers: Authenticity Marketing, Nostalgia Marketing, Retro-marketing, Scarcity Marketing.
Logic subjacent with this fourth group of panaceas is to take the individual consumer whose traditional role is as a purchaser and destructor of goods, and turn them into an active actor (customer agency) in their everyday life in which consumption and the market are integrated (Arnould and Thompson, 2005).
A fifth group of panaceas, for the moment the least significant, takes as its perspective the competences of the customer, i.e. it does not focus on part of the market, nor on the relationship or customer experience as elements of the target market, but rather on the competences of the customer as a basis of interaction, dialogue and especially of rebalancing: Anti-Marketing, Counter Marketing, Empowerment Marketing, Grass Roots Marketing, Knowledge Marketing, Permission Marketing, Reverse Marketing, Solution Marketing, Value Marketing. Logic subjacent with this group of panaceas concerns an obliteration of the border between producer and consumer who thus together, become co-creators of solutions, meanings and values for the life of the consumer, as well as the activity of the company (Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2004).
Finally, a restricted group of panaceas concerns itself not with a specific perspective of the market, but takes for a starting point the company, its resources and its means (limited): Creative Marketing, Entrepreneurial Marketing, Expeditionary Marketing, Guerrilla Marketing, Radical Marketing.
- Beyond the panaceas and their underlying logics
What is astonishing in this reorganization of the panorama of marketing panaceas into five distinct logics (if we put aside the sixth one), is the fact that marketing whose etymology is tied to the word ‘market’ tries essentially to draw beyond (environment, social groups, social relations) and on this side (personal experiences and competences of the individuals) of the market to renew itself.
If one looks at all this from an external view of the discipline, as opposed to what Smithee and Lee (2004) proposed, one can even find it almost indecent to want at all costs to unite certain terms that are completely external to the market with the word marketing. That resembles a set of attempts to maintain marketing through an IV drip of fresh blood coming from fields external to the market: the metaphorical coupling of marketing with such a term suggests that marketing is able to seize some parts without inevitably marrying them to values that are subjacent to them (Cornelissen, 2003; O’ Malley and Tynan, 1999). These attempts seem to go hand in hand with the marketization of goods and values which remained up to that point out of the commercial sphere (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2006): capitalism to regenerate itself must draw from outside the commercial sphere from what one can call the layers of authenticity of the company. The case of eco-marketing and the marketization of products derived from ecological agriculture is a good example of this operation in binomial marketing/capitalism. Unfortunately, as Boltanski and Chiapello (2006) showed, this led to an over-riding result: a suspicion increasingly directed towards capitalism and marketing. Pairing marketing with an idea, a good, a value… but coming from beyond the market casts a certain doubt on the resulting marketing panacea.
Thus, there not only remains the issue of the change of the disciplines’ dominant logic, but also one of its fields of investigation. A first reflection can lead researchers to drop the suffix ‘ing’ and to re-concentrate on the study of markets (Venkatesh and Penaloza, 2006). Indeed, Venkatesh and Penaloza (2006, p. 137) highlight “the need to shift the disciplinary emphasis, not by disregarding the role of marketing, but by enlarging its scope to the market and in turn embedding such markets within the social and historical contexts. The discipline of marketing has centered over the past four decades on firm-level actions and managerial perspectives; in such an approach, either the larger context of the market was considered as given or it was assumed to be unchanged or unchangeable. This rather restricted approach has served and outlived its purpose and one consequence of continuing with it will result in ignoring the critical role of the broader institutional context called the market, whether it is local or global”. The market must thus be comprised as “a set of institutions and actors located in a physical or virtual space where marketing-related transactions and activities take place” (Venkatesh and Penaloza, 2006, p. 136).
A second reflection, on the contrary, can result in dropping the word ‘market’ while keeping only the suffix ‘ing’. Can we in effect, always speak about marketing when the action (-ing) required proceeds in the society and not only in the market. Perhaps instead, the neologism ‘societing’ proposed more than dozen years ago appears more adaptable (Badot and al., 1993)? What is societing? It is a term introduced by Latin researchers through the crossing of marketing and sociology (Badot and al., 1993), which generated a review by the same name (http://members.xoom.virgilio.it/societing/) and which means according to the authors either ‘put in the society’, for the marketers, or ‘to make society’, for the sociologists. This term regularly disappears then reappears in European literature on marketing and sociology (Cova, 1999; Cova and Cova, 2002 , Earls, 2003 ; de Leonardis, 1999 ; Morace, 2002 ; Woolgar, 2004 ; Woolgar and Simakova, 2004). In societing, “the company is not a simple economic actor who adapts to the market, but a social actor embedded in the societal context” (Badot and al., 1993, p. 51). This means for the company (Morace and al., 2002) to put in the market, and also to put in society a product, a service, a brand, an experience… In the same vein, actors not marketers, as Kathy Sierra notes, seek another word other than marketing to qualify their actions: “There’s still the problem of the word ‘marketing’. We need a word that distinguishes the kinds of things we (developers/programmers, ministers, realtors, authors) do from old-school traditional marketing… My ‘neo-marketing’ label is just lame… If framing it with a new word/phrase helps, perhaps that’s a better approach than trying to give the word ‘marketing’ a massive makeover”(http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/).
Rather than a shift of a paradigm to another type of transition, from the transaction to the relationship, from product to service, from product/service to experience, from product/service to solution, from creation to co-creation, from the individual to ‘tribe’, from market to network, from customer to stakeholder…, what the adoption of the term societing will allow, is the taking into account all these swings in a responsible way: our sphere of activity is not any more the market, but the society with all the consequences that it comprises. One of the consequences in particular is not to consider this approach as paired with the development of capitalism, thereby avoiding the trap of over-marketing (Johansson, 2004).
But, this second reflection has a taste of ‘deja vu’ if it is poorly understood: this occurs quite simply by “broadening the concept of marketing” (Kotler and Levy, 1969) in a hidden way, by transforming it into societing. This turn would be played and the managerial perspective applied via kotlerian marketing to the market would extend now to the entire society: “the broadening movement was an effort to free the marketing paradigm from the narrow confines of commercial marketing and to show its application to a far large number of contexts in which exchange and relationship activities take place” (Kotler, 2005, p. 114). This idea has no place however. With the word societing, it is not a question to broaden the field of application of the marketing techniques in a colonialist way applicable to all human activities, but on the contrary, to take into better account all the actions undertaken by the company agents including brands, the consumers, the marketers, the stakeholders…. While the study of marketing techniques privileges the perspective of marketing managers, the societing approach requires attention to the perspectives of marketers, as well as consumers and other operative agents. In this direction, the societing approach offers consumers a major role in the play in addition to companies (Arnould and Thompson, 2005): they can, similar to companies or other agents introduce a meaning, an idea, etc. in to society. It is what certain consumers and other actors suggest such as Kathy Sierra, when they call it a “neo-marketing” of their wishes (see Figure 1).
We believe that the future of the societing is promising, with significant development to come from approaches centered on elements associated with the competences of the consumer. Whereas knowledge marketing is only in its first steps and is not yet a stabilized notion, the concept of customer empowerment seems to be the rallying cry of today’s innovating thinkers. Recent experiences have clarified the difficulty that can exist for some companies in interacting with a type of consumer more qualified than ever due to the Internet: consumers today appear: more active, more participative, more resistant, more activist, more recreational, more social and community-minded than they ever have been before. The shared passion of certain consumers for a brand is translated through systems of group learning, bringing expertise and competences to bear; and therefore legitimate marketing provides the consumers more and more value. The presence of impassioned, linked and expert consumers, thus involves a rebalancing of the capacity in the relationship between the company and the consumer which societing must know to take into account. This will necessitate a genuine marketing revolution, and we hope for once not sully this word, as it is so often used for unimportant changes in marketing. Whereas, the idea of knowledge of the consumer is central to marketing, it is often considered in a restricted and manipulative manner as to know everything about the consumers in order to satisfy them, and thus secure their loyalty. Seldom, has the idea been proposed in marketing that the consumer has knowledge that can be interesting to the company. On the contrary, we believe that societing will push the company to take into account the ‘Other’, the consumer, not while leaning on him but while learning from him, his expertise, his experiences…
The extensive analysis of the marketing panaceas appearing over the twenty last years and the union against-nature between the market and of elements taken out of the market, result in us questioning the validity of the word marketing as the denomination of the human activities which we study. Whereas some propose to reform marketing by dropping the suffix ‘ing’ and to concentrate on the ‘market’ (Venkatesh and Penaloza, 2006), to the contrary we conclude that it is necessary to keep the suffix ‘ing’ and to get rid of the word market, as its logics of action no longer have the market as the focal aspect. We then propose the term ‘societing’ to indicate the study of the actions undertaken by the various actors such as consumers or companies on society.
Rather than broadening the concept of marketing, societing applies limits to it. It acts in fact, as a catalyst for a company to give up the fundamentalism taken on by marketing management. There is generally a very simplistic vision of fundamentalism. One imagines it covered by a turban or one limits it to a monk. But, in fact, fundamentalism relates to all those which think they have the truth, and even to be the truth, and thus consequently regard the others as in err. Fundamentalism is a behaviour which is often thought as the good solution and never as the problem. Marketing management is fundamentalism. Conversely, societing is against the idea of fundamentalism: it is a movement to support the differences of others and perhaps more importantly, to start to learn from others whether consumers, stakeholders or other actors in society.
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