A Perspective on the Evolution of Marketing Management
Frederick E. Webster Jr.
s a field of study, marketing has not always been viewed from a management perspective. At different phases in its evolution, marketing thought leaders have variously emphasized commodities, institutions, functions, markets, consumers, management of firms, and society at large. Wilkie and Moore (2003) identify four eras of marketing thought development:
Era I: Founding the Field, 1900–1920. Era II: Formalizing the Field, 1920–1950. Era III: A Paradigm Shift—Marketing, Management, and the Sciences, 1950–1980. Era IV: The Shift Intensifies—A Fragmentation of the Mainstream, 1980–Present.
In the academic arena as reflected in its literature over the past three decades or so (late Era III into Era IV), marketing has trended from a managerial focus to an analytical one, two perspectives that need not be but often are, in fact, in competition. There is evidence that marketing has lost its importance and relevance as a management function in many companies (Day and Montgomery 1999; Lehmann 2003; Webster, Malter, and Ganesan 2003). Perhaps marketing thought development has lagged behind shifts in the market environment and has become less relevant for managers, particularly those who are responsible for strategy and general management. Most recently, however, marketing thought leaders have pointed the way toward a customer-oriented, service-dominated concept of marketing as the definition, development, and delivery of customer value that focuses on marketing as a set of business processes rather than as a separate management function (Haeckel 1999; Srivastava, Shervani, and Fahey 2001; Vargo and Lusch 2004; Webster 1992, 2002).
nificant environmental trends drove this transition, one in the marketplace and one in education. In the economic and social environment, the post-World War II marketplace offered huge business opportunities that were created by pent-up demand, rapidly increasing consumer affluence (with commensurate economic and political power), and the dramatic development of television as a low-cost mass medium (Cohen 2003). Although the concept of market segmentation had appeared many years before as a means to improve marketing efficiency and effectiveness, the practice gained widespread acceptance in this hyperactive market environment, stimulated by the publication of Smith’s (1956) article. Marketing strategy came to rely increasingly on statistical analysis of market research data. Market segmentation strategy was entirely consistent with the philosophy of customer orientation. Among the most notable developments at the beginning of Era III were the publication of several important statements of the marketing concept (Borch 1959; Drucker 1954; Keith 1960; Levitt 1960; McKitterick 1957), the growth of marketing staffs (for market research, product planning, advertising, and so on) to support sales operations in many companies, the continued development of the product- or brand-management form of organization, and the appearance of several pathbreaking texts with a managerial focus (Alderson 1957; Davis 1961; Howard 1957; Kotler 1967; McCarthy 1960). These managerial texts (especially McCarthy’s) produced a consensus definition of marketing strategy decisions as the four Ps: product, price, promotion, and physical distribution. As Day (1992, p. 324) observed, “In retrospect, the 1960s were the era of marketing’s widest influence and greatest promise.”
Marketing as Management
A distinct view of marketing as a management discipline (rather than an economic activity) emerged in the 1950s (Drucker 1954; McKitterick 1957), though marketing management had certainly been evolving as a practice for some time, with origins as a form of support for the sales function. This transition was marked by two major developments: first was the perspective of the marketing concept as a management philosophy emphasizing customer...
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