The Influence of Marketing on Managers

The history of business, especially marketing, thought is an interesting topic to me. Modern text analytics techniques can help us get a better understanding of what has happened — if I understand correctly historians seem to be increasing using them.

A frequent co-author of mine, Xin Wang, his PhD student, Joseph Ryoo, and Abhishek Borah, now at Insead, have looked into changing topics in managerial journals. The data they use is impressive — “we collected all 13,598 article abstracts in HBR [the Harvard Business Review] from the very first issue in 1922 to the September issue of 2016 (94 years).” (Borah, Wang and Ryoo, 2018, page 148). They also delved into the MIT Sloan Management Review and Management Science. The first two journals give a more general management perspective with the later journal giving a more quantative/data scientist focused view. The authors ultimate aim was to understand practice and use these journals as a proxy for what matters to managers on the assumption that items in the journals roughly reflect the interests of the readers.

They first used the terms describing the articles to assign each to one of eight disciplines. They found that general management (probably unsurprisingly) came top over the entire body of articles. The marketing discipline varied between 4th (HBR), 5th (Sloan), and 6th (Management Science). Marketing was having an okay contribution. They dug into trends to see “..the dynamics of influences of disciplines on practice over time…”
(Borah, Wang and Ryoo, 2018, page 148). This is an even better story for marketers as marketing’s influence has been gradually increasing in all three journals.

They used topic modeling (LDA) to dig into the article abstracts to find what marketers have been talking about. A lot of the results are (reassuringly) what one might expect — topics such as the ‘marketing environment’, ‘marketing communications’ and ‘social influence’. Perhaps most oddly only three of the 4 Ps make the cut. Strangely “Price…. does not appear to be a major topic of interest…” (Borah, Wang and Ryoo, 2018, page 152). That sounds like an omission to be rectified.

The history of thought is fascinating and new analytics methods give another way to understand this.

Read: Abhishek Borah, Xin (Shane) Wang, and Jun Hyun (Joseph) Ryoo,
Understanding Influence of Marketing Thought on Practice: an Analysis of Business Journals Using Textual and Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) Analysis, Customer Needs and Solutions. (2018) 5: 146-161.