Exploring the performativity of marketing:theories, practices and devices

Mason, Katy and Kjellberg, Hans and Hagberg, Johan (2015) Exploring the performativity of marketing:theories, practices and devices. Journal of Marketing Management, 31 (1-2). pp. 1-15. ISSN 0267-257X

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The academic discipline of marketing has been understood and, some may argue, has been designed to be performative. That is, the theories and models developed in marketing are typically intended to bring about effects, rather than simply to describe. Since its inception in the early 1900s,1 the discipline has concerned itself with developing theories and tools that can be picked up and put to work by marketing practitioners. Examples of such theories and tools include models of market segmentation, marketing communication, consumer behaviour, branding and marketing strategy frameworks, which can be found in most marketing textbooks. Its purportedly close link to practical business problems may have contributed to make marketing a popular subject, equipping students to make practical, valuable judgments about markets and marketing activities. However, over the past 20 years, the academic discipline of marketing has become increasingly concerned about a ‘practice-theory’ gap and the diminishing practical value and relevance of its theories, practices and devices.Calls for marketing scholars to turn their critical analysis onto themselves, their scholarly activities and the types and presentations of theory they produce, abound (Maclaran, Miller, Parsons, & Surman, 2009; Tadajewski, 2010). Such calls have questioned both the purpose of theorising and the relationship between theory and practice in marketing. Brownlie, Hewer, and Ferguson (2007) observe that accounts of the gap between marketing theory and practice typically employ the rhetoric of ‘distance’ between cultures: between the worlds of ‘scholarship’ and ‘practice’. By taking an interest in the performativity of marketing – how marketing theories not only describe reality but contribute to bring that reality about – this Special Issue presents one way of rethinking the relationship between theory and practice. It directs our attention to the concrete ways in which marketing ideas travel between actors (from marketing practitioners to marketing scholars and vice versa) and how such ideas become increasingly abstracted or concretised in that process (Czarniawska & Sevón, 1996; Latour, 1986, 1999). Brownlie et al. (2007) further point out that we have a very limited understanding of how ‘relevance’ might be accomplished and performed (also see, Maclaran et al., 2009). Here, a performative stance encourages us to empirically investigate how marketing theories are made to matter in specific situations. Studying the performativity of marketing offers a response to calls for marketing researchers to reflect on their roles during and after research encounters (Wallendorf & Brucks, 1993) by advancing reflexive resources beyond researcher introspection.This Special Issue, ‘Exploring the Performativity of Marketing: Theories, Practices and Devices’, tries to address these concerns by asking: ‘how is marketing theory performative?’ The individual contributions look at how marketing theories are used in practice and what this means for our understanding of the practicing–theorising landscape of marketing. The issue comprises 10 empirical studies that inquire into how, why and to what effect marketing theories are used and ‘performed’ in marketing practice. We begin this editorial by considering what performativity is and how this concept is used in the marketing literature. We then consider three themes concerning the performativity of marketing that emerge from the articles. Finally, we summarise the implications of these themes and sketch a few research areas for further developing our understanding of the performativity of marketing.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Marketing Management
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18 Jun 2015 05:57
Last Modified:
21 Sep 2023 01:51