Marketing management
: applying the concept of the mix

  • Claudio Vignali

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    One of the key concepts within the marketing literature remains the 'marketing mix.' An unexamined element of this mix remains, to pursue the cooking metaphor, the way in which the chef is able to balance the various ingredients to achieve a palatable dish. Therefore, the impetus behind this thesis is this lack in the literature. The approach to remedy this lack is developed through Action Research. The original notion of the marketer as a mixer of ingredients strongly suggests that marketing was (and remains) largely a craft. As practitioners within the craft, managers require devices to guide them in their everyday operations. However, the use and effectiveness of such 'heuristic devices' by practising marketers remains little explored. Matrix schemas have always been traditionally used, by both academics and practitioners, in the development and interpretation of both strategy and tactics in marketing. While the strategic schemas have attained the status of dogma (the Boston Box, for example), at the tactical level,use of the marketing mix has never reached such heights, (apart from an occasional stress on the need for the 'blending of ingredients').As marketing has developed as a craft, numerous definitions have been offered. Today there are several different authoritative, but accepted definitions. The Chartered Institute of Marketing [CIM] and the American Marketing Association [AMA] define marketing as:'Marketing [management] is the process of planning and executing the conception of pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods and services that satisfy organisational objectives.' [Fifield & Gilligan, 1996; 2] A clear understanding of the development of the matrix approach from the level of strategy to tactics in marketing is the essence of the published works.The marketing mix concept seems relatively simple. Since Culliton [1947] first carried out his study (amongst the major American companies of his time), the notion of managers within the marketing function as 'mixers of ingredients' has enjoyed wide currency. Culliton's study included a full examination of a number of case histories and the use by the participating companies of marketing ingredients. Borden [1964] expanded this work to a formal use of the term 'marketing mix' and he presented a list of mix constituents, based on Culliton's work. These developments were taken further by McCarthy [1964] in terms of simplification and classificatory order as the famous 4Ps. It is now just over 30 years since McCarthy provided this gloss on Borden's work and offered a generic marketing mix [product, price, promotion and place] as a means of translating marketing planning and tactics into practice [Bennett 1997:151]This eventually led to Kotler [2000) defining the mix as being 'A set of marketing tools that a firm uses to pursue its objectives.' Thus, ingredients become tools and the analogy changes.McCarthy's 4Ps classification of the marketing mix variables has received acceptance in past decades.However, in recent years increasing criticism of this approach has been voiced in academic circles (Van Waterschoot, 1992, p.83). It is believed by some academics that this paradigm is beginning to lose its position (Gronroos, 1994, Gronroos, 1992, Sheth 1988). It is sometimes called 'traditional' or out-dated (Shimpock-Viewg,/1993, Lane, /1988, Turnbull, 1987). Over the past few years, it has been argued that marketing is concerned not just with the original 4Ps and the various elements associated with them, but also with less controllable variables (or ingredients, or tools) such as people, processes and service evidence. (Rafiq, 1995). However, the shifts from 'ingredients' to 'tools' to 'variables' hints at an underlying confusion as to the conceptual status of the artefacts described.Borden's work has the merit that his classificatory schema derives directly from empirical evidence. Borden reflected this basis when he identified the need to record within case studies evidence of what was being mixed in the marketing domain. Later extensions do not, by and large, have this merit. There have been no published studies which replicate Culliton's original work. Extensions to the mix (the conceptual device contributed by Borden) and the distilled formulation of the mix offered by McCarthy rely on conceptual processes only. The nature of the extensions seems clear, but they rest on different assumptions about how the world of the marketing manager should be construed. This thesis draws on several case studies of the world of marketing managers and a test of the 4P's framework within that world as its modus operandi. The examination uses a process of 'Action Research'. It thus is placed in the tradition established by Culliton in his pioneering work. Unlike Culliton, the work does no flow from a considered execution of a single research design, but has emerged in the search for consistency in marketing management, as pursued with the manager themselves. In essence, the Action Learning method of research has been adopted. The outcome, a new model for application, is seen as the contribution to knowledge. In essence the thesis pulls together the understanding and criticisms that both practitioners and academics need to investigate the gaps that exist in marketing management research. The importance of a company's participation as being integral to the action it takes and the solutions it prescribes is the essence of the Action Research and the model process.
    Date of AwardDec 2002
    Original languageEnglish

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