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50 Years of Marketing: It’s more than just selling stuff!

By Iain Davies - Posted on 7 April 2022

Professor Iain Davies joined the Marketing Department in the first Covid lockdown in the UK; here he shares his experience of joining the Department and looks at what the study of Marketing can involve.

Joining Strathclyde’s Marketing Department a month into the first national lockdown was an odd experience. The lack of casual socialisation you usually associate with a new role (chats in corridors, going for coffee etc.), make understanding the processes and culture of the organisation pretty daunting. Luckily my amazing colleagues and in particular the support staff in the Department were able to ameliorate my many mistakes and misunderstandings, allowing me to integrate effectively into my lovely new work family.

Strathclyde had always been on my radar as a place likely to suit my more esoteric and industry focused interests in marketing. Not only does it have a long heritage as one of the first and largest centres for useful learning in Marketing, but its international reputation in developing critical scholarship around markets, consumption and society has solidified its reputation within the discipline over an amazing 50 years. Sadly, my time here has been marred by the loss of inspirational Strathclyders such as Professor Michael Baker and Professor Stephen Young, both of whom did so much to situate Strathclyde at the heart of Marketing scholarship, but many current and former Strathclyders have done so much to maintain the high standards and quality of the Marketing Department’s contribution to scholarship and society at large.

What quickly struck me about the Marketing Department at Strathclyde today was how friendly, collegiate and modest my new colleagues were. I knew a number of my colleagues through the brilliant network at the Academy of Marketing, which sits at the heart of the UK Marketing Academe, and is Chaired by our very own Professor Anne Marie Doherty. Yet the diversity and quality of scholarship from the Department only really struck home when I had a wonderful three months of reading everyone’s papers in preparation for REF2021 in my new role as Director of Research (Marketing). Like many of my new colleagues, my academic background is diverse. A degree in accountancy, PhD in business ethics, and industry experience in civil service (HMCE) and strategy consulting (Accenture), hardly screams marketing. Yet this is what is so wonderful about Marketing as a discipline and in particular Marketing at Strathclyde – Marketing is an open discipline absorbing theories and ideas from everywhere.

To people less familiar with Marketing scholarship, there is sometimes an assumption that Marketing is about selling stuff. And yes, there is some of that! But Marketing is such an amazingly broad field, with virtually no limits to what the phenomenon of interest might be. From my own interests in poverty alleviation and sustainable market building, to colleagues’ interests in gender, diversity, vulnerability, innovation, technology adoption, transformative consumer research, analytics, behavioural psychology, service management and tourism, really there are no bounds. 

Marketing is an applied discipline drawing on many social sciences traditions including linguistics, psychology, economics, finance, geography, law, history, and sociology amongst others. This nexus of diversity positions marketing as an ideal partner for research in many inter-disciplinary fields, in particular behavioural change, innovation adoption and societal change. The diversity of the discipline is supported by the diversity of its people. I mentioned up front how amazingly modest my colleagues in the Marketing Department are. The quality and diversity of scholarship developed in this Department is truly astounding. Over the 50 years of Marketing scholarship at Strathclyde, the discipline has matured from one absorbing ideas for elsewhere to one developing its own unique position drawing from multiple fields of study, and Strathclyde has been at the forefront of this. But the next 50 years are when the intersectional and applied fields of Marketing must reach out, to aid society in addressing the complex array of environmental and societal issues we face. 

Marketing isn’t just about selling stuff, its about the “activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large” (American Marketing Association, 2017). Strathclyde’s Marketing Department is more than capable of continuing to show leadership in marketing learning and scholarship for these next 50 years, and collaborate with disciplines locally, nationally and internationally to create value for society at large.

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