A case of mistaken identity: theory, practice and the marketing textbook

Ardley, Barry (2008) A case of mistaken identity: theory, practice and the marketing textbook. European Business review, 20 (6). pp. 533-546. ISSN 0955-534x

Full content URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09555340810913548


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One field in business where there is a purported gap between theory and practice is in marketing. This paper examines one area of the debate, the degree of congruence between the established textbook theories of marketing and the practical activity of marketing managers.


Phenomenological interviews were carried out with senior marketing managers from a diverse range of organisations. The aim was to establish what types of factors inform manager’s approaches to practice. Meaningful comparisons were made possible, as a range of marketing texts were also examined.


Textbook theories represent a flawed view of the practitioner’s world. Many texts are very similar, based on an implicitly systems based paradigm. Universal truths are seen as indispensable modes of representational language. In contrast, the interviews with managers show that marketing is a locally contingent activity, occupying a discursive space separate from textbook theory.


Scholars desire to reduce real world activity to over arching explanations has led to the simplification of theory. Textbooks should embrace an approach based on interpretative insights into the realities of marketing practice. Moves away from the `one size fits all’ theory need to occur, to a situation where marketing is recognised as being about a socially mediated, multifaceted approach to business activity.


Substantial attention has been paid to what many commentators regard as an academic practitioner divide in marketing. Most of this concerns the status of research into marketing. Considerable less attention is devoted to the position of the marketing textbook. This paper helps to remedy the situation. Ideas are offered up for the development of marketing knowledge and ways are suggested to help close the theory practice gap in the discipline, through the medium of the textbook.

Keywords:textbooks, phenomenology, contingent, practice, theories
Subjects:N Business and Administrative studies > N500 Marketing
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
ID Code:2412
Deposited On:04 May 2010 12:58

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