The Augean Stables of Academic Marketing


Alexander Repiev posts a critical analysis of "4P, SWOT, PEST, Porter?s five competitive forces, Porter?s value chain, Boston matrix, Ansoff matrix"

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A critical analysis of 4P, SWOT, PEST, Porter’s five competitive forces, Porter’s value chain, Boston matrix, Ansoff matrix

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”

– Bernard Shaw

In 1988 I found myself in the seat of Marketing Manager at the Moscow office of a London-based blue chip and plunged into the reading of marketing books. I was used to physics texts with their logic and rigor. More important, I was used to being able to put the stuff I had just read to immediate use. That explains my naiveté – to seek in that marketing reading some practical clues I needed so badly. To my bewilderment, I found none. Instead, I found arrays of definitions, fancy research procedures, and some loose schemes. Also, I found dozens of examples of faulty reasoning (See, e.g., ).

MARKETING SCHOLASTICISM vs. MARKETING THINKING – Progressing by trial and error, I have arrived at philosophies and procedures that have seen me through dozens of successful practical projects. (See “Marketing Thinking” [Link to Amazon])

A FRESH LOOK – When I started teaching years later, I had to go over the academic stuff again. This all prompted me to undertake a fresh analysis of some of the holy cows of academic marketing: 4P, SWOT, PEST, Porter’s five forces, Porter’s value chain, Boston matrix, and Ansoff matrix. (This analysis will form an addendum to the above book.)

TAUGHT, BUT NOT USED – The bove schemes are prime examples of SONK-ing (Scientification of Non-Knowledge). No wonder that discussions of nearly all of them contain phases like “most widely taught – and then probably ‘not’ used,” “fundamentally flawed in terms of practical applicability,” “have only specialized applications.” Why are they taught then?

NOT MUCH “CLIENTO-MARKETING” – Denizens of shrines of academism have conflicting views on nearly everything, even on the very philosophy of marketing. In a class by themselves are “cliento-marketers” Theodore Levitt and Peter Drucker. But their “economo-marketing” colleagues produce constructs with a computer-like Client, a homo economicus. The above holy cows graze in academic marketing, management, and economics at the same time, thus obliterating important distinctions between these fields.

“WE AGAINST THEM” – The schemes reinforce the “we against them” or even “compete-with-your-customer” paranoia (Porter’s five forces). As a result, unlike Oriental marketing tradition, most of Western marketing is more concerned with competition than with the Client.

SIMPLISTIC & DOGMATIC – Marketing analysis generally involves building models of the behavior of Clients, markets, competitors, etc. Ideally, models involve assumptions, validity ranges, and error assessments – things unheard of in academic marketing. As a rule, a model requires some simplifications. It is up to the analyst to determine the adequate measure of simplification (approximation).

Einstein said: “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” If a model is oversimplified you may lose some important and even fateful nuances. That is exactly what happens with many academic schemes! This may be suicidal in the present-day marketing environment with a zillion of situations. The world out there cannot be governed by a few crude rules-of-thumb – no matter how venerable their inventors! At best those matrices, chains, “analyses,” etc., are reminders, inventories, etc.; at worst, they are efficient quenchers of creativity.

PROSTHETICS OF CREATIVITY – To outperform your rivals in a hyper-competitive commoditized environment is hard, damn hard. And now a bunch of “gurus” confer on you a set of blessed tools. Easy formulas appeal to our psychology. They are welcomed by an army of experts in “cover-your-ass” bureaucracy. Scholasticism and bureaucracy, those Tweedledum and Tweedledee of pseudomarketing, thrive on wishful thinking and “cargo cult.”

WILL THE AUGEAN STABLES BE EVER CLEANED OUT? – To quote one author: “Editors seem to be the fall guys who are expected to clean out the Augean stables of an increasingly compromised academic literature, when what is needed is a breach in the dam of academic silence.”

Will the editors alone cope? Nope.

Perhaps, “cliento-marketers” should join forces and help them a bit with their shovels and brooms.