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Characterising marketing paradigms for sustainable marketing management

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Purpose

Economic theories shape marketing paradigms, and these, in turn, can either aid or inhibit marketing managers' abilities to contribute to the goal of sustainability - long-term wellbeing for all. The marketing paradigm drawn on is therefore of great importance. Macro sustainable marketing literature does a good job of problematising the influence of neo-classical economic thinking over marketing, but translation and broader exploration of this problem, in a way that can be used to positively transform marketing management at the meso level, is lacking. This paper's purpose is therefore to characterise three key marketing paradigms which draw from three economic theories of the firm - two of which are likely to hinder sustainable marketing, and an emerging paradigm which is judged as compatible.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a conceptual paper which provides the basis for future empirical testing.

Findings

The three paradigms present highly variable approaches to why a firm exists, how wellbeing is viewed, the theory of the consumer, the dominant relationship focus and the dominant temporal outlook. Make-and-sell and sense-andrespond, which are underpinned by classical and neo-classical thinking respectively, are likely to conflict with the goals of sustainability. Guide-and-cocreate, which is aligned to ecological economics, is compatible with both the delivery of sustainability and recent advances in marketing thought and practice. Six principles arise from these paradigmatic characterisations, which may form the basis of a maturity framework to guide marketing management and organisational change towards delivery of sustainability.

Limitations

As a wide range of disciplines and bodies of work are relevant to this paper, not all knowledge will be represented in the conceptual analysis of the problem and the proposed approach to address it. Empirical research is needed to test and further explore the 'guide and co-create' paradigm and the principles for a sustainable marketing maturity framework by marketing managers.

Implications

If marketing managers and their firms are to help deliver sustainability, they need be aware of their paradigmatic tendencies and those of their stakeholders at multiple-levels, and how they might help or hinder this. This paper highlights the tendencies that might exist and where these are unhelpful to driving sustainable marketing, to help marketers and managers deliver new ways of translating natural resources into high levels of wellbeing for all. This paper provides the foundation for system-wide understanding of these tendencies and what paradigmatic shifts are required to advance genuinely sustainable marketing.

Contribution

The characterisation of the three marketing paradigms set out in this paper aid the exposure and debate of prevailing assumptions which shape marketing management and thereby its ability to deliver sustainability. In this way, the paper contributes to bridging the gap between the critical marketing literature and the marketing management field.
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Keywords: CO-CREATION; MARKETING; PARADIGM; PURPOSE; SUSTAINABILITY; SUSTAINABLE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2017

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