The State of Theory


In Strategic Marketing Research, Special issue of Journal of Strategic Marketing; Deadline 29 Mar 2019

Deadline: 29 March 2019

Special Issue Call for Papers

The State of Theory in Strategic Marketing Research – Reviews and Prospects

In an article that won the Journal of Marketing’s Harold H. Maynard Award for significant contribution to marketing theory and thought, Manjit Yadav (2010) makes a number of observations on the publication of theoretical and conceptual papers in premier academic marketing journals. First, at the time of his writing, around 72% of the previous Maynard award winning papers had been conceptual/theoretical, and this was mirrored by papers being chosen as the winners of other major awards for marketing scholarship, including the Sheth Foundation Award, and the Paul D. Converse Award. Second, he notes that over a 30-year period, the theoretical and conceptual articles published in Journal of Marketing had disproportionately more citations than empirical work. Third, the number of conceptual and theoretical papers being published in the major marketing journals had declined significantly over time. This does not bode well for the marketing discipline, which is in danger of becoming theory poor, despite the exhortations of noted marketing scholars (MacInnis 2004; Stewart and Zinkhan 2006; Webster 2005) that conceptual articles are crucial for maintaining a discipline’s long-term vitality.

There are a number of plausible reasons for the decline of theoretical and conceptual work in marketing scholarship. First, most marketing scholars would agree that it is more difficult to publish conceptual work than it is to publish empirical. While most journals state that they encourage the submission of theoretical and conceptual papers, reviewers are inevitably more comfortable in reviewing papers whose contexts, methodologies, results and implications they can easily get their teeth into. As a result, rather than take the risk of working hard on a theoretical piece only to have it rejected, many marketing academic take the perceived easier road of conducting empirical research and trying to publish those results. Second, the pressures on academic publication have increased substantially. In the North American system, new academic hires encounter the stresses of the hiring and tenure processes, and in many other countries government imposed research assessment exercises place strict requirements both on publication quantity and quality. A focus on empirical- rather than conceptual work is seen by many to be a more feasible strategy when a clock is ticking. Third, in many marketing doctoral programs nowadays the focus is on method, and not on conceptual work. Many doctoral programs no longer teach courses in theory, and doctoral students are encouraged to publish empirical rather than conceptual work.

New journals have arisen to cater for the need for conceptual and theoretical work in marketing. These include Marketing Theory, and also, more recently, the Academy of Marketing Science Review, published by the Academy of Marketing Science. Despite the excellent work of the editors and editorial boards of these publications, their task is not an easy one. First, despite their publishing few conceptual papers, the premier journals in the field (such as JM, JAMS, JCR) still encourage their submission, and thus compete directly. Second, because these journals are still relatively new, they have not yet had the opportunity to establish themselves solidly on the metrics that matter to business school administrators, such as rankings and impacts factors. We believe that all scholarly marketing journals should actively solicit and encourage the submission of theoretical and conceptual papers. This should not just be “in the words”, but indeed, should be active in the true sense.

We are therefore excited to encourage scholars to submit to this special issue of the Journal of Strategic Marketing on the state of theory in strategic marketing research – reviews and prospects. Some years ago, with co-authors, we observed, “Original research will therefore always involve theory development and exploration in some form or another, especially as marketing becomes increasingly more complex both from a practitioner and an academic perspective. If we want to have a better understanding of a particular discipline, we should therefore try to understand the theories that drive research in that field (van der Merwe et al., 2007, p.183).

We thus seek a broad range of submissions, including but not limited to, those that do the following:

  1. Develop entirely new theoretical perspectives on marketing strategy or a marketing phenomenon.
  2. Transplant from or apply, theories from other disciplines in both the pure- and social sciences, to marketing.
  3. Review a body of theory in marketing (such as exchange theory, or commitment-trust theory) or widely used in marketing (such as transaction cost theory or agency theory) over time.

We do not encourage papers that apply and test a theory in an empirical setting. These are best suited to regular submission to the journal.

Submission Guidelines

Articles submitted should not have been published before in their current (or substantially similar) form and should not be under consideration for publication elsewhere. Please see the journal’s originality guidelines for further details. Authors should please ensure that their work is formatted according to the journal’s requirements.

The due data for submissions is March 29th, 2019

Papers for this special issue should be submitted as Word documents to BOTH of the special issue editors (at least one of whom will respond), and NOT as regular submissions through the regular submission process. For questions regarding the content of this special issue, please contact the guest editors:

  • Dr. Leyland Pitt, Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University Vancouver BC, Canada, Email:
  • Emily Treen, Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University Vancouver BC, Canada, Email:

The most recent information on this call can always be found at