What’s relevant in marketing?

How relevant are specific marketing topics to practitioners and academia? A recent Journal of Marketing paper proposes the Relevance to Marketing (R2M) index, combining topical relevance with timely relevance. Practitioners were ahead of academics in discussing topics such as Innovation and Financial Impact. I fondly remember the MSI/JM Special Issue and Conference in the early 2000s, from which we published ‘New products, sales promotions and firm value: the case of the automobile industry” In contrast, academics were ahead of the curve for topics such as multi-attribute models, conjoint and sales promotions.

Topical relevance is based on a dictionary of marketing terms derived from 50,000 marketing articles published in practitioner outlets from 1982 to 2019. Topics range from the 3 Cs (customer, company, competitor) and strategy (segmentation, targeting, positioning) to the 4 Ps (product, price, place, promotion) and other concepts related to value, brand, innovation, choice, goals, culture, and measurement. Each of the marketing terms was judged to be relevant to marketing practice, on average, by 78% of the practitioners. For example, the term “brand equity” was judged to be relevant by 100% of the respondents who evaluated this term, “firm valuation” by 40%, and “accrual” by 0%.  The below figure shows the popularity of these topics in academia and in practice over time.

Timely relevance is based on the prevalence of academic marketing topics in practitioner publications (such as the Financial Times, Marketing News and Sloan Management Review) in that year. Note that this relevance changes by year. For instance, our article on word-of-mouth for a social media site, increased in timely relevance as practitioners talked more about these topics. The authors classify topics into four quadrants based on their low/high popularity in academia and practice —“Desert,” “Academic Island,” “Executive Fields,” and “Highlands”.

Consumer Culture and Market Segmentation are ‘Highlands’; relevant to both practitioners and academics. In contrast, Self and Channel Management are ‘Deserts’. As usual, the off-diagonal cases are most interesting: why do practitioners like to talk more about Entertainment Marketing and Salesforce Motivation, while academics publish on Consumer Judgment and Analytical Models?

The authors claim the new R2M index should be useful to quickly identify whether an academic article is practically relevant to your specific context. Do you believe that is the case?


One thought on “What’s relevant in marketing?

  1. Exactly the questions i have been asking myself trying to read academic articles! My answer would be that I care about what is urgent, and what is important to running my business, now and in the future. Thanks for the summary, i love the trends over time for practice and academia

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