A Plan to Invent the Marketing We Need Today

The discipline of marketing hasn’t kept up with the rapid changes facing 21st-century businesses. New scholarship doesn’t have enough management relevance, and practicing marketers are too often forsaking rigor. Here are seven strategies that can make marketing both relevant and rigorous in today’s world.

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Editor’s Note:The following is excerpted from a paper the author presented when he accepted MIT’s 2007 Buck Weaver Award, which recognizes individuals who have made important contributions to the advancement of theory and practice in marketing science. The full text of the paper, “Rigor and Relevance: A Key Marketing Challenge,” is available online at sloanreview.mit.edu.

The world in which marketing operates has fundamentally changed. Thomas Friedman has sketched the outline of the new realities of our “flat world” and Kenichi Ohmae has discussed the requirements of operating on “the new global stage.”1 The rise of China, India and other emerging economies has demanded new market strategies to reach developing countries. Technologies from the Internet to biotechnology are fundamentally changing science and society. At the same time, social concerns from environmental impact to corporate social responsibility are changing the relationships of companies to the societies in which they operate.

New channels and technologies are transforming the media through which marketing works. Virtual worlds such as Second Life are giving new meaning to the concept of “place” in marketing. Collaborative projects such as open source software and Wikipedia are transforming the consumer into a cocreator. Movies and entertainment have broken out of the television box and into the iPod, cell phones and computers. The broadcast has been transformed into the podcast. TiVo and other technological innovations have made the mass media more customized, eliminating the predictability of traditional advertising. (See “The Changing Context.”)

The Changing Context »



1. T.L. Friedman, “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century” (London: Allen Lane, 2005); and K. Ohmae, “The Next Global Stage: The Challenges and Opportunities in Our Borderless World” (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Wharton School Publishing, 2005).

2. Y. Wind, V. Mahajan and R.E. Gunther, “Convergence Marketing: Strategies for Reaching the New Hybrid Consumer” (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Financial Times/Prentice Hall, 2002).

3. T.L. Saaty and L.G. Vargas, “Decision Making With the Analytic Network Process: Economic, Political, Social and Technological Applications with Benefits, Opportunities, Costs and Risks” (New York: Springer Science + Business Media, 2006).

4. Y. Wind and T.L. Saaty, “Marketing Applications of the Analytic Hierarchy Process,” Management Science 26, no. 7 (1980): 641–658.

5. V. Mahajan and Y. Wind, “Capturing the Ricochet Economy,” Harvard Business Review 84, no. 11 (2006): 25–26.

6. V. Fung, W. Fung and Y. Wind, “Competing in a Flat World: Building Enterprises for a Borderless World (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Wharton School Publishing, 2008).

7. L. Huston and N. Sakkab, “Connect and Develop: Inside Procter & Gamble’s New Model for Innovation,” Harvard Business Review 84, no. 3 (2006): 58–66.

8. P.W. Farris, N.T. Bendle, P.E. Pfeifer and D.J. Reibstein, “Marketing Metrics: 50+ Metrics Every Executive Should Master” (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Wharton School Publishing, 2006).

9. L. Murby and S. Gould, “Effective Performance Management With the Balanced Scorecard. Technical Report” (London: Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and INSEAD, 2005), p. 23.

10. Farris, “Marketing Metrics.”

11. F.M. Bass and J. Wind, “Introduction to the Special Issue: Empirical Generalizations in Marketing,” Marketing Science 14, no. 3, part 2 (1995): G1–G5; R.R. Burke, A. Rangaswamy, J. Wind and J. Eliashberg, “ADCAD: Advertising Communication Approach Designer,” in “Expert Systems for Advertising,” eds. W. Kroeber-Riel and F.R. Esch (Munich, Germany: Vahlen-Verlag, 1994), 1–48. (This is an expanded version of R.R. Burke, A. Rangaswamy, J. Wind and J. Eliashberg, “A Knowledge-Based System for Advertising Design,” Marketing Science 9, no. 3 (1990): 212–229.

12. M. Lewis, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003).

13. S. Kroft, “The Echo Boomers,” CBS News, Sept. 4, 2005; www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/10/01/60minutes/printable646890.shtml.

14. A. Pollack, “Pricing Pills By the Results,” New York Times, July 14, 2007.

15. P. Dvorak, “Do-It-Yourself Consulting: CEOs Gather to Swap Tips,” Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2007, p. A-1; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118541288405378455.html.

16. R. Berner, “I Sold It Through the Grapevine,” Business Week, May 29, 2006, www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_22/b3986060.htm.

17. Y. Wind, C. Crook and R. Gunther, “The Power of Impossible Thinking: Transform the Business of Your Life and the Life of Your Business” (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Wharton School Publishing, 2005).

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Comments (3)
Great article. It's amazing how the internet has changed marketing completely over the last ten years, and continues to change now. No company can afford to ignore it's online reputation. And no company will survive without creating a unified online marketing strategy. I find many companies take much of this for granted. "Sure, I want to do that social media thing. Ignore the revolutionary shift in consumer behavior at your own peril. These things cannot be taken for granted. As the author said, People want communities, customization, and choice. It's a full time job promoting your firm online. But it's an absolute necessity in today's world.
Robert Gibralter
This is a great article touching the nerves of everyone working through the transitions and revolutions in  marketing and advertising worlds which have been accelerating over the past decade

I strongly recommend a look at Urtak

This free tool bridges holds a key to the brave new marketing world, with respect to the "plan" outlined in this truly seminal work to take leaps forward across the traditional/digital divide.

Lars Hilse
The marketing of today is something that is largely influenced by not only yesterdays marketing efforts... also tomorrows evolution of todays marketing efforts need to be respected if we want continuous effect.