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A Plan to Invent the Marketing We Need Today

The world in which marketing operates has fundamentally changed. Has marketing research and practice kept up? The answer, says the author, is no.

At the heart of the current trouble is a severance of academic rigor from managerial relevance. Through its maturation as a discipline over the past half century, marketing science in academia has emerged as a rigorous field. Conjoint analysis, econometric modeling, techniques derived from mathematical psychology, and many other tools and approaches have revolutionized its practice. But many of the most rigorous tools were developed years ago, in response to old problems. And managers and organizations increasingly find those tools irrelevant to the new challenges they face. So business practitioners adopt approaches that appear to address their real and current marketing problems but that lack the rigor of the academically established methods.

Now, argues the author, we need to rethink and transform the field of marketing so it balances rigor and relevance. He details seven strategies that would help achieve that aim: Bridge the disciplinary silos. Shift from traditional management to network orchestration. Change the focus from customer relationship management (CRM) to customer managed relationships (CMR). Shift from company-branded products to customer-branded solutions. Use analytics and metrics as the glue. Adopt the adaptive experimentation philosophy for all your activities and strive for empirical generalizations. And, challenge (and change) your mental models.

And how to pursue those strategies? In a collaboration between both practitioners and academic researchers, says the author.

(Editor’s Note: This article is excerpted from a paper the author presented when he accepted MIT’s 2007 Buck Weaver Award, which recognizes individuals who have made important contributions to the advancement of theory and practice in marketing science. The full text of the paper, “Rigor and Relevance: A Key Marketing Challenge,” is available online at [PRODUCTION NOTE TO SEAN: Joanna Zito is creating a PDF of this manuscript. Not sure which directory is appropriate for storing this PDF...? --Beth]

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