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Rethinking Marketing: Jan-Benedict Steenkamp

Jan-Benedict E.M. Steenkamp

Jan Benedict Steenkamp
University of North Carolina

When thinking about marketing, we almost automatically think about firms and profit maximization. While this is an important perspective, should we not have the courage to rethink some of our paradigms? Let me just give one example.  I would love to see an article challenging the idea of the profit-maximizing price. There are other models, like the “prix-juste,” or the morally just price to charge. It sets a standard of fairness in economic transactions. This idea may be less absurd than it appears at first sight. When my father studied economics at Tilburg University, considerable attention was given to concepts like the “just price.” So, clearly, it was considered relevant at some time in the not too distant past. This touches upon what I see our field needs—fewer narrow empirical papers and more papers that offer new, broad thinking. This special issue may be a great opportunity to start this process.  

Two applications of marketing for good are marketing by nonprofits organizations and marketing in emerging markets. 

First, nonprofits, whether a museum or a local government, tend to believe that because they have a good cause that people will buy into it. This is not true. Marketing can be done by nonprofits. Did you knew that all the basic tenets of marketing can already be found in the church in the first-century AD? Papers that provide case studies of nonprofit marketing would be useful, because people within these organizations don’t see readily how findings from for-profit companies apply to them.


Second, most of our research is in Western settings, but marketing can make an important contribution to the well-being of the world’s poor. For example, transportation on a scooter has a low environmental impact. However, it is a very unsafe way to transport an entire family. A possible solution is the Tata Nano car, which was a good concept that was poorly marketed and bombed. Our field knows very little about how to effectively market to the 3 billion people in emerging markets—about half of humanity. We need to do more.

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Jan-Benedict E.M. Steenkamp is C. Knox Massey Distinguished Professor of Marketing, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA.