The Periodization of Marketing: Myth or Reality? Evidence from the Scott Paper Company

By Olsen, Barbara; Hadjicharalambous, Costas | Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, July 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Periodization of Marketing: Myth or Reality? Evidence from the Scott Paper Company


Olsen, Barbara, Hadjicharalambous, Costas, Academy of Marketing Studies Journal


ABSTRACT

Discussions of marketing evolution appear to repeat the notion that the production, sales and marketing orientations evolved episodically. This periodization culminates with the marketing concept in the 1950s when, it is believed, consumer needs became the focus of business enterprise for the first time. This paper questions this position and revisits the discussion of the evolution of the marketing concept. The paper presents evidence obtained from the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT) archives to demonstrate early twentieth-century strategies that focused on the needs of the consumer. The case of the Scott Paper Company, a client of the JWT, is examined by focusing on advertising strategies of Scott Tissue toilet paper during the first decades of the twentieth century. This research adds its voice to others who question marketing's sequential periodization. The paper concludes that there is a need to revise the periodization of marketing currently repeated in marketing publications suggesting consumer focused target marketing occurs only after the marketing concept appears in the 1950s.

INTRODUCTION

The epochs or eras of history are signified in time by production (1869-193Os), sales (1930s- 1950) and the marketing concept post 1950s. The production, sales and marketing threeera phases that conforms to historical periodization derives from Keith's (1960) analysis of the Pillsbury Company founded in 1869. Keith conceived four sequential eras based on his familiarity as an employee with the company since 1935. Particularly germane to this paper is his declaration of a marketing revolution inspired by a consumer orientation occurring only since the 1950s when the marketing era began. After 1960, a fourth era institutionalized a corporate-wide marketing managerial philosophy. These are still perceived as "the received doctrine" especially in marketing textbooks despite the challenge from Hollander (1986, 3) and others. Hollander questioned periodization and identified its ubiquity in a sample of 25 textbooks published between 1980 and 1984. An in-depth analysis of business history proved to him that "The standard chronology does not fit" (1986, 22). Subsequent studies of contemporary texts from 2002 to 2006 indicate that little had changed regarding this categorization of sequential epochal history (Jones and Richardson 2007, 16). Jones and Richardson (2007) consider this periodization a "myth". Given Hollander's (1986) position and considering the two decade lapse and admonitions to reconsider sequential stages, it is surprising that we still find the "myth" perpetuated in many contemporary marketing texts (Jones and Richardson, 2007). One current popular text states:

...marketing thought has evolved through three successive stages of development: product orientation, sales orientation, and market orientation. Our description UnL· each stage with a period of time. But you should understand that these stages depict the general evolution of marketing thought and reflect states of mind as much as they do historical periods. Thus, although many firms have progressed to a market-orientation, some are still mired in a product or sales orientation... (Etzeletal, 2007, 6-7).

Following Hollander's (1986), Fullerton's (1988) and Jones and Richardson's (2007) suggestions to correct the record by documenting history, we probe the "myth" of periodization. The paper presents evidence obtained from the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT) archives to demonstrate early twentieth-century brand strategy that focused on the needs of the consumer, thus questioning the position of sequential development of the marketing concept. The paper begins with a brief review of the origins of the current thinking of marketing periodization. We then probe early consumer-oriented marketing at the J. Walter Thompson Company, and Scott Paper company's toilet tissue campaign that questions the logic of marketing periodization. …

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