Wednesday, December 4, 2013

From: "Relationship marketing and a new economy: it’s time for de-programming"

Fragment: Relationship Marketing
Evert Gummesson


Research in both consumer goods marketing, services marketing and B-to-B marketing currently converge and come together under the label of relationship marketing. Within the spirit of grounded theory, relationship marketing could be appointed the core variable, with relationships, networks and interaction as sub-core variables, thus offering the beginnings of a general marketing theory. The relationship marketing label is perhaps new, the phenomenon is not. It had just not been properly observed and conceptualized; marketing professors seem to be the last to notice the reality around them.

Directions in a new economy

Fresh foundation 

New knowledge is sometimes accumulated on old knowledge. At some point, however, we have to start with a fresh foundation; we have to shift the paradigm. To learn, we must unlearn. Even if part of the old merges with the new, it has lost its lead role and will have to step down to a humbler position. I have used the more theatrical language of brainwashing versus de-programming to accentuate the gravity of the situation.

Surveying perceived trends – not just falling in love with the popular hype but settling for the solid and sustainable – is a laborious task. Despite the uncertainty, we need to wrestle with the trends to design future scenarios in our marketing and business plans. The following review of conclusions and recommendations is here to serve as food for thought

Need for theory and context. 

Marketing management today suffers from theory anorexia and cannot properly feed on and digest what is happening in a new economy. Both practitioners and academics are vulnerable to con men offering panaceas and explanations supported by the ever-present media hype. There is need for more healthy and vitamin-rich feeding of the marketing mind. We need marketing theory, good theory, essential for scholars and practicing managers alike. There is currently no general theory of marketing in existence, just reminiscences of outdated microeconomics and fragmented models or concepts, often called theories but so out of management context that they do not survive beyond the shelter of an academic ivory tower.


Healthier marketing theory
General marketing theory in the making.

Relationship marketing and CRM with a focus on relationships, networks and interaction submit the most promising approach to a more valid and general theory of marketing, replacing a dinosaur marketing management and marketing mix consumer goods paradigm from an old economy. Relationship marketing and CRM help us give context on a comprehensive, conceptual and general level, that is, generate healthier marketing theory.
The total offering. We must eventually learn to see the offering trade-off between eCRM and hCRM. We need to properly absorb the values of relationship marketing or CRM will forever be no more than an expensive computer system.
Value and networks. A new economy has been described from two perspectives, as value output and network input. We need to think in those terms, but thinking is not enough; we also need to commit ourselves and take action. It includes viewing the roles of the supplier and the customer in a dimmer light. We must accept that a supplier can add value but the customer also adds value.


Viable research strategy
Inductive research.
It means that we also use our senses and our common sense, intuition, tacit knowledge, and experience in conjunction with systematic, scholarly research and everyday observations from practice. Grounded theory has already been mentioned as a viable research strategy. Personally I embrace its merger with action research, introspection, narrative research, and case study research packaged in what I recently named interactive research (Gummesson, 2000, 2001).

Complex and ambiguous
Complexity and ambiguity.

The world is bewildering and so is marketing. It is complex and ambiguous. Research in marketing must put a halt to the excessive, even obscene indulgence in quantification and surveys. We need less deductive hypotheses-testing of isolated concepts out of context, and more inductive research where true observation is encouraged. Our observations as practitioners, consumers and researchers must be given priority over repositories of old theories, concepts, axioms and other claims of marketing. In discussions, a new economy is more often than not treated on the terms of an old economy, using its concepts and trying to squeeze a reluctant reality into it.

Balanced centricity. The marketing concept, holding that companies should focus on customer needs and not become navel watchers of their own products and manufacturing, is the foundation of today’s interest in the customer. However, both perspectives are needed. Customer-centricity and production-centricity need one another. They must shake hands and make friends in a balanced production-consumption centricity.

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