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A Defining Moment in Marketing History

In 1937 two organizations, The National Association of Marketing Teachers and The American Society of Marketing, came together to create what we now know as The American Marketing Association. The goal of the merger was to find ways of lowering the cost of marketing, address criticisms against marketing and find useful tools and devices in marketing practice. One year after the AMA was created, this group of thought leaders were commissioned by the U.S. government to establish and unify marketing definitions across all government agencies including the U.S. Census Bureau.

So it was from the very outset that the “big bang” behind the AMA was the kinetic effect of archetypal academics (sages) and archetypal marketing practitioners (magicians) coming together to create a new universe for marketers. This marketing universe has always been defined by the coexistence of two worlds, industry and academia. The AMA’s reason for being was to straddle these two worlds, drawing from the rigor of researched-based scholarly learnings and the market-based insights experienced by practitioners. Together these two forces would constitute the pre-eminent source for evidenced-based best practices in marketing.

Today this marketing universe is filled with luminous beings, shooting stars and seemingly irrefutable gravitational rules such as the Four P’s and quantitative modelers’ inevitable mathematical regression to the mean. In this universe we have our own dreamers, scientists, artists and explorers. The maps are of the inner mind and customer journeys. While certain frameworks and assumptions in this universe have endured, adapted and evolved over the decades, as a natural universe, in the marketing universe there is always new creation, and change is constant. The sun in this universe around which everything revolves is, of course, the customer.

Fundamental concepts that defined the origins of marketing as both a science and art took shape largely in linear fashion. Northwestern University’s Don Schultz recently wrote an article featured in the AMA’s Marketing News that eloquently and stirringly questions the foundations that support the linear construction of the early pioneers. Not everyone will agree with 100% of Schultz’s assertions—I don’t—but I do believe his challenges should spur us to re-examine our fundamental assumptions on the laws of the marketing universe.

Nothing can be more true to the origins of the AMA, the vision of its founders, than the upcoming Summer AMA Conference, convening in Atlanta August 5-7. The conference theme is regaining relevance: doing research that reshapes the practice of marketing, and itmay suggest there has been some wandering among academic researchers in marketing, but I see it as a reaffirmation of our collective curiosity and the realization that knowledge is not power. Rather, power is knowledge shared and applied. It is our diversity, in every sense of the word, that makes us stronger together.

Where will you say you were when the practice of marketing was being reshaped? Star-gazing or star-making?


Russ Klein