Marketing management has been defined as the process of planning, organizing, implementing and controlling marketing activities to facilitate exchanges effectively and efficiently (Elliot, Rundle-Thiele, Waller & Paladino 2008, p.18). Now is marketing management and art or a science? This has been the subject of discussion during the last five decades among the most famous marketing scholars but the debate was launched after Converse’s article in the Journal of Marketing. This paper is aimed at showing how marketing management can be regarded as an art from one extreme and also as a science viewed from the other extreme. Then should follow a discussion on the nature of marketing itself viewed by the different schools of thought with regards to its artistic and scientific aspects. Finally we shall see why marketing management is undoubtedly a real art with its subjectivity and capabilities to adapt to changing situations and environment.
We cannot embark on this debate without mentioning that the question of whether marketing management is a science is two fold. First we have the semantic approach to the question according to which the marketing scholars scrutinize the dictionary meanings, twisting them until at the end marketing is seen to have fulfilled most of the requisite characteristics of a science (Hutchinson 1952, p.288). Science has been defined as “â€¦a classified and systematized body of knowledge,â€¦organized around one or more central theories and a number of general principles,â€¦usually expressed in quantitative terms,â€¦knowledge which permits the prediction and under some circumstances the control of future events” (Buzzell 1963, p.33). But according to Buzzell marketing is not a science because the requisite central theories is missing (Hunt 1976, p.25). This is very true in the sense that marketing theories are frequently based on volatile assumptions that may apply in a particular time frame only. Consequently marketing practitioners have to constantly readjust their actions to adapt to the new situation. This is where we see the emergence of the artistic nature of marketing and marketing management in general. The second approach to demonstrating the scientific or artistic character of marketing management is to consider its nature and the task involved. “Marketing management is a normative science involving the efficient creation and offering of values to stimulate desired transactions. Marketing management is essentially a disciplined view of the task of achieving specific responses in others through the creation and offering of values” (Kotler 1972, p.52). This implies that marketers require some solid background in scientific methods in order to deliver the appropriate marketing mix. This also requires that the marketing practitioners are very disciplined and objective in analyzing, planning, implementing and controlling the marketing activities.
Numerous marketing literatures showed that marketing has evolved into a full fledged science and made a long way since its embryonic stage. It was originally founded as a branch of applied economics devoted to the study of distribution channels. Later marketing became a management discipline devoted to engineering increases in sales. More recently it has taken on the character of a behavioral science that is concerned with understanding buyer and seller systems involved in marketing goods and services (Kotler 1972, p.52). If we look at the marketing tools used in marketing research we can see that it is commonplace for marketers to have recourse to hypothesis testing which is one of the pillars of any scientific method. Hypothesis is a derivative of a theory. A well crafted hypothesis is a statement of what a theory predicts and therefore provides a test of theory (Stewart, Zinkhan 2006,p. 479). On the other hand sales forecasting, which is closely related to market research, is very often accomplished though executive judgment where sales is forecasted based on the intuition of one or more executives(Elliot, Rundle-Thiele, Waller & Paladino 2008, p.141). When we talk about intuition we cannot deny that like an artist the marketing manager will let his creativity and talents guide his decision.
However as from late 1980’s, some marketing scholars began to reject the “scientific” approach of marketing research and moved to a postmodernist or interpretivist approach. (Goldsmith 2004, p.13). The world is no longer viewed from an objective and rational perspective but rather as very subjective (Goldsmith 2004, p.13). At the very beginning of the art or science polemic most scholars were tempted to accept the scientific paradigm for marketing. But lately there was a shift by some of the prominent marketing scholars for whom science was considered to have some dark side such as heavy social, environment and political price. “For postmodernists, then, the appellation of ‘science’ is no longer considered as honorific” (Brown 1996, p. 251). To some extent this sparked a kind of artistic era of marketing. But even earlier Vaile reckoned that due to the complexity of market place behaviours it was almost impossible to formulate general theories and that marketing is consequently an art where innovation, creativity and extravaganza prevail (Vaile, cited in Brown 1996, p. 245). Other marketing scholars argued strongly that marketing cannot be viewed as a science because the work that is being performed by market researchers has nothing to do with scientific tasks (Bartels, cited in Brown 1996, p. 245). Even of marketing researchers could use scientific knowledge to study marketing phenomenon the science of marketing itself was not a generally accepted concept. By this we can work out that marketing practitioners should instead use the knowledge from other well established sciences such as economics and sociology (Brown 1996, p. 245).
The practice of marketing management itself is a dynamic process as marketers have to constantly create the proper marketing mix to cope with all the changes in the external environment (Goldsmith 2004, p.10). This is also fueled by globalization where organizations and marketers can no more pretend that they can predict market trends with sophisticated scientific tools. Recall the recent economic crisis around the globe. This paradoxical marketing sphere is pushing organizations to be global and local, large and small, planned and flexible, to serve mass and niche markets and all this with the same limited resources. Consequently the scientific way of analysis, planning, implementing and controlling is no longer appropriate to extricate from this turmoil (Brown 1996, p. 252). Most of the successful organizations are those who possess high caliber marketing executives capable of deploying their artistic skills where their scientific-oriented counterparts failed. By this it is understood that those marketers who stick to the conventional, rigorous and static scientific mindset of doing things will struggle. Instead they should adopt a more broadened attitude and have a bird eye view of the whole world. This can be achieved when the marketer has special skills, generally not acquired through any formal education. We all know how some big organizations are headed by self taught marketing practitioners but who can be considered as artists.
Another point that warrants marketing management to bear the artistic appellation is ethics and corporate social responsibility. Marketing, views as a science, was criticized for its lack of moral, spiritual and ethical fibre (Kavanagh, cited in Brown 1996, p. 252). Those organizations engaged in corporate social responsibility and consider ethics in their marketing strategy are simply demonstrating an artistic attitude. No scientific methods, no complex sales forecasting tools can help marketing manager to show, or at least pretend to show, that their organization is not only running after tremendous profits but also care for the well being of the society. Only talented artists can do this by showing the aesthetic side of marketing management.
In the same vein promotion, one of the components of the marketing mix, is another aspect that shows the artistic affinities of marketing. Like art, marketing is now reflecting, producing and transmitting values and belief to its audiences (Fillis I 2009, p. 18). The marketers around the world are constantly digging in their imagination to find the most creative, appealing and aesthetic concept and publicity to promote new products and ideas.
As a summary this paper has shown that marketing management can have this dual nature of being both an art and a science. The question of whether marketing is a science can be seen from two different perspectives namely, semantic and intrinsic nature. Viewed from the first perspective marketing cannot be considered as a science due to the lack of central theories. In spite of this marketing management is still relatively scientific because the marketing practitioners require some solid background in scientific methods such as market research and hypothesis testing in order to perform their daily task. But using executive judgement, which is related to market research, can reveal the artistic nature of marketing because here sales is forecasted based on intuition of marketing executives. With the postmodernist approach science is no longer considered as the preferred paradigm for marketing and the trend is instead to go closer to art. This is mainly because of the rapidly changing market conditions that demands marketing professionals to be very creative as opposed to be systematic and objective. In the light of the above marketing management is and art and will remain are art and this can be illustrated by considering the marketing managers as talented sculptors, poets, novelist and musicians armed with palettes of pricing, promotional, product and place-related possibilities, from which they can create their marketing masterpieces which is of course the proper marketing strategy (Brown 1996, p. 256).
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