As marketing theory and practice have evolved over time, increasingly questions such as "what is the correct or optimal level of marketing" have become increasingly relevant to firms, consumers and society as a whole. The goal of this manuscript is to further explore how some firms engage in excessive levels of marketing ("Overmarketing"), why this happens, and what the impact is for firms, consumers, and society.

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Brunswick, Gary J.
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Name: Academy of Marketing Studies Journal Publisher: The DreamCatchers Group, LLC Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business, general Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2001 The DreamCatchers Group, LLC ISSN: 1095-6298
Date: July, 2001 Source Volume: 5 Source Issue: 2
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The role and importance of marketing in facilitating exchange has long been a troubling issue among marketing practitioners and academicians alike. Questions like "what is the 'correct' level of marketing" and "does marketing do more good than bad" have implicitly played a significant role in the development of marketing as both a discipline and a practice. In a sense, we would also like to ask (and address) questions such as these. What exactly is the "correct" level of marketing? Does the answer to this question vary when viewed from the firm's viewpoint? Or from the consumer's viewpoint? Or from society's viewpoint? What regulates the level of marketing in society? What is the result of the current system? Does the current level of marketing in society represent (a) the true wants/needs/desires of consumers for products and services, or (b) for marketing-type activities, or (c) competitive pressures and the importance of marketing to firms, or (d) some combination of all of these?

Using this context, the purpose of this manuscript is to further explore the role and general level of marketing, in both a positive and normative sense, as it is used in the facilitation of exchange. Alternatives to marketing as well as the excesses of marketing practice will also be addressed.


At the dawn of marketing thought and practice, early authors such as Cherington (1920), Converse (1921) and Brown (1925), within each of their textbooks at that time recognized the potential for the practice of marketing to be perceived as "wasteful" at times. For these authors (and the public in general) marketing may have seemed to be unnecessary and frivolous given the context of time.

In a similar fashion, during the 1950's and 1960's a number of notable authors (Levitt, 1960; Drucker, 1958; Farmer, 1967) forewarned of the critical role marketers will play in the development of the global economy. Some of the more recent criticisms (Aaker & Carman, 1982; Arbeit, 1982; Bell & Emory, 1971; Bennett & Cooper, 1979; Bennett & Cooper, 1981; Bonoma, 1986; Brown, 1988; Farmer, 1977; Farmer, 1987; Hayes & Abernathy, 1980; Mason, 1986; Oxenfeldt & Moore, 1978; Schuster, 1987; Webster, 1981;Webster, 1988) have reflected a deepening concern for the role of marketing in society as well as a critical analysis on the part of marketers pertaining to their orientations, methods, and techniques.


Although the advent of the marketing concept has been relatively recent (1950's), the acceptance of the marketing orientation generally has been both swift and convincing, both on the part of consumers and businesses. This progression is represented in the widely-accepted business orientations framework, with firms progressing from the initial production-orientation eventually to the sales orientation. Implicitly this framework typifies the dramatic changes in exchange practices over the past 50-75 years. What lies beyond the marketing orientation, though? It is argued that the overmarketing orientation (OM) does, and that OM is presently dominating a large portion of exchange activity. The OM orientation can be generally described as an exchange orientation where the "marketing of marketing" has occurred. Additionally, the OM orientation suggests that given the widespread acceptance of marketing, the general level of marketing activity is questionably high, and some macro-level externalities may be the result (and the evidence). In other words, is it possible that there may be too much marketing in society? What lies beyond the progression from production to sales to a marketing orientation? Overmarketing does, and can be defined as:

OM is a state or condition where marketing resources are over--applied and/or inappropriately used.

Two caveats need to be supplied with this definition. Although under-applications of marketing resources are equally inefficient, they will not be addressed here, and are not considered as being part of the general concept. Also, instances of "marketing failures" could potentially fall under the domain of OM, but here OM is being viewed as relating to the general level of marketing activity in society. Thus, implicit within the definition and surrounding assumptions, the concept of OM addresses the series of questions raised in the beginning of this article.

Several challenges to the existing business-type conventional wisdom are embodied within OM and need to be further discussed. First, marketing activity is not dichotomous, but rather continuous. Exchange can be facilitated within the context of no marketing (i.e., self- production for self-consumption), low-levels of marketing (i.e., non-marketing), various middle-range gradients of marketing activity (i.e., production, sales, and marketing orientations) and even excessive marketing activity (i.e., OM). Firms not only make a decision to engage in marketing, but they also decide on the level of marketing they wish to pursue.

Second, marketing is assumed to be "good". Although the benefits of marketing have been quite evident, the associated externalities are also equally convincing. Not only have consumers realized that there is "no free lunch" when it comes to marketing practices, but firms have also realized that consumers many times don't want high levels of marketing activities. Examples of this include producers, advertisers, and retailers who have all strategically limited their marketing efforts despite industry practices. The role of consumers is also a key factor here, and will be addressed in the final sections.

This second assumption can be linked to a general history of the idea of progress. Nisbett (1980) chronicled the philosophy of progress and believes it has played an important part in the development of man:

Simply stated, the idea of progress holds that all of mankind has advanced in the past--from some aboriginal condition of primitiveness, barbarism, or even nullity--and is now advancing, and will continue to advance through the foreseeable future.

This notion of "progress" is implicit in the original business-orientation framework cited earlier, and is also consistent with the idea that "marketing is good". Clearly we as a society believe that progress is generally good and has a linear relationship with time. To a large extent OM challenges this assumption in relation to marketing practices.


In a sense, OM can be thought of as being a unique set of externalities associated with the marketing orientation. Because of the "marketing of marketing", a new orientation (OM) has emerged, also resulting in "side-effects" which in a sense can be thought of as externalities. Coase (1960) provides a general understanding of what is meant by externalities:

The cost of exercising a right is always the loss, which is suffered elsewhere in consequence of the exercise of that right ...

It would clearly be desirable if the only actions performed were those in which what was gained was worth more than what was lost. But in choosing between social arrangements within the context of which individual decisions are made, we have to bear in mind that a change in the existing system will lead to an improvement in some decisions may well lead to a worsening of others.

Externalities specifically related to marketing activities include pollution, waste, misallocation of resources, etc., and can be directly traced to specific marketing activities. These problems are widely-recognized and studied. Interestingly though, other more subtle yet potentially critical externalities such as an addiction to marketing practices, materialism, etc. Can and do exist and are directly attributable to marketing. Attention has been paid to many of the highly identifiable externalities linked to marketing such as pollution, but the hidden costs seem to elude discussion. Several of these hidden costs, which we will call macro-externalities, will examined in order to lay the groundwork for further analysis of the causes and roots of OM.


The activities involved in marketing a specific product or service are more important than the actual product or service. The marketing activities directly related to a specific product or service is integral parts of any eventual exchange. The key to the externality being addressed here is the relative importance of the marketing efforts associated with a given exchange. Specifically, what about cases where consumers are more attracted by the marketing of a product or service rather than the actual product or service it? In other words, do advertising, sales promotion, location; packaging, and numerous other marketing factors do more attract consumers than do the actual products or services? Schudson (1984), in his book on the impact of advertising, shares this


Ads don't sell products, do they? Take Charlie the Tuna. Do you really go into the store and buy Starkist because Charlie the Tune said they're picky about what they put in the can? The kind of ad that sells, that has to sell, is retail advertising, the one that says, Starkist Tuna, fifteen cents off.

Two important dimensions of this macro-externality seem to be relevant here: ethics and economics. On the ethical front, is there anything necessarily wrong with consumers being attracted to marketing? It would be naive to assume that products or services stand alone, since each eventual exchange represents the annuity of the marketing components, which are embodied within the specific product or service. Alternatively, is the focus of marketing efforts still directed at product and services, or the marketing of products and services? Is it the intended or desired role of marketers to overshadow the end result with the process of marketing? If this is what consumers want, then the answer should be yes. If this is not what consumers want, then it appears that the result has been OM.

The profitability or economic dimension of this macro- externality is more identifiable and definitive. Firms market products and services and if the eventual consumer does not desire such exchanges eventually they will continue to occur. How much control does the consumer have over the process, though? Additionally, if firms have lost sight of the true essence of the marketing concept, adjustments and reactions to consumers may not be entirely appropriate.

Somewhat of an analogy can be drawn here to addiction-type behaviors. Are some consumers suffering from addictions to marketing? Seemingly marketers are providing a service (OM) to consumers, and in some instances that service is more important than the intended focus of the exchange. Additionally, if consumers are indeed "addicted" to marketing, alternatives beyond marketing (to facilitating exchange) such as self-production for self-consumption may not be viable alternatives.

This macro-externality may also be related to recent trends towards materialism in society (Galbraith, 1958: Belk, Bahn & Mayer, 1982; Rassuli & Hollander, 1986). If materialism is focused on goods and services, clearly OM appears to be an integral part of the entire process. Do consumers value specific articles, or the marketing of those articles, or both?


Over-reliance on tactical marketing manipulations versus "real marketing"

A number of recent criticisms have directly and indirectly questioned whether the practice of marketing is really still focused on satisfying consumers' wants and needs. A number of authors have questioned whether or not marketing efforts are driven by the ultimate consumer, or instead by competitive pressures, corporate traditions or preferences, or over-reliance on marketing strategy tools. Are marketer's really satisfying consumer wants and needs, or are they merely adjusting the marketing mix in order to provide the illusion of marketing?

Some evidence on both sides of this issue exists. The importance of implementation is finally being recognized within the marketing management literature, and represents a new pragmatism towards marketing efforts. Firms such as Patagonia and Lands' End also typify a no-nonsense approach to marketing. Alternatively, the general level of marketing activity seems to be growing at a rate, which is at least commensurate with economic growth. As Schudson (1984) might argue, the Starkist Tuna is not important, but rather the 15 cents off is. This suggests that not only consumers are addicted to marketing, but firms are also (i.e, the OM-orientation mentioned previously).

Overall, we believe that OM does exist, and should be further analyzed and identified. One of the key assumptions behind OM is that of a systems impact; the essence of an externality is that there is a "chain-reaction" of events, which results in a trade-off of relative advantages and disadvantages. Using this assumption, OM can be further described and thought of as a function of three components of an overall system:

OM = f (Willingness to Overconsume,

Supportive Macroeconomic Policies,

Supply-Side Marketing Practices)

Implicit in this systems notion is that there may be a "correct" level of marketing within any given system. The mere existence of OM suggests that the system is not correct in the normative sense. Although it may be difficult to diagnose and treat a system plagued by OM, further discussion and analysis of the origins of OM can shed further light on what can be done.

Using the 3-component framework along with a systems perspective, the next section will present and discuss the various sub-components of OM, which fall under the three major component headings.


Since the systems assumption is critical one behind the OM argument, the following scenario is an example of how, at a macro-level of analysis, OM has come to exist, and can be referred to in a rough sense as the OM cycle: Individuals, who have an increasing predisposition to overconsume (if given the opportunity to do so), are encouraged to do so by various practices in the business community via practices of overproduction, high value-added-rigidity (VAR) products, growth orientations, rules-driven marketing, and other forces, some of which include both consistent and conflicting economic policies imposed by state and national governments. The expected externalities of waste, pollution, etc. exist in such as system. Additionally, macro-externalities such as addiction to marketing on the part of consumers, and firms adopting an OM-orientation to business (i.e., a.k.a. firms being addicted to marketing) are a result of this system. The end result is the tripartite system, which produces a constantly recurring OM cycle. It is argued that substantial evidence exists to support this cycle; using the 3 major components of OM as subject headings, additional support for this cycle will be presented.

One final issue needs to be addressed prior to the exploration of these sub-components: that of the relationship between these sub-components. The nature of the system being addressed here is that of a highly complex series of interrelationships, which have evolved for a number of reasons. The author does not claim to have the ability to fully describe and delineate these intricate relationships. The true nature of the system may never be fully known. What this discussion facilitates is recognition of the phenomenon as well as an initial attempt at understanding of the mechanisms at work here.


The importance of material goods to the American consumer is a well-documented phenomenon; using traditional perspectives (Galbraithc 1958; Balk, Bahn & Mayer, 1982; Rassuli & Hollander, 1986; Belk, 1985) many authors have explored the impact of materialism and overconsumption in modern society. For the purposes of this discussion, we will use the following definition of materialism (Belk, 1985):

Materialism has been defined as the tendency to believe that consumer goods and services provide the greatest source of satisfaction and dissatisfaction in life. As a result of the importance of this activity, newer perspectives on the importance of goods and services to mankind (i.e., the symbolic interactionist perspective, and semiotics, Levy, 1981; Solomon, 1983; Mick ,1986) have emerged within the consumer behavior literature. As a small, unscientific test of the plausibility of overconsumption-related issues, the author attempted to list as many such activities as they could (within a 15-minute period); the results indicate that a wide variety of such activities are readily evident in contemporary society. Clearly, consumers desire, enjoy, and need consumption activity. Why is this the case, and what role does marketing and OM play?

To answer these questions, one can examine a number of plausible answers. At the outset, this trend can be attributed to OM, as a result of the externalities of the OM cycle. As cited beforehand, though, the issue whether or not it is a desirable trend, is debatable. One simple explanation behind the resurgence in consumption is proposed by Benton (1985), who argues that consumption, at times, acts as a surrogate for the lack of meaningful work. This is very consistent with the increasing trends of boredom within the workplace, and increased non-work or leisure time. In a sense, Benton is making a symbolic interactionist argument in that the lack of meaning in life can be "regained" by defining meaning through consumption and marketing, as opposed through other activities in life such as work. Although the meaning of symbols has always been an integral part of the human experience (Jung, 1964), their relative importance as signified through consumption and materialism has increased significantly (Rassuli & Hollander, 1986; Belk, 1985).

One final portion of the consumer's orientation towards consumption relates to a central tenet of OM, namely that OM is essentially the "marketing of marketing". Simply put, the essence of OM is that marketing has been "marketed" as a preferable system of exchange, or even a way of life for a society. The result is that consumers relinquish control and do not use (or consider) alternative modes of exchange such as self- production for self-consumption. Society has come to expect marketing to be a major component of the system of exchange; since it is part of that system, it is "bought and sold" much like goods and services are. In a study of marketing activity over the past decades, Myers, Greyser, and Massey (1979) found a general increase in the scale of marketing operations over the period of study. Clearly, consumers have come to expect a high degree of marketing, and it can be argued that at times, these consumers may be seeking not only product and\or service per se, but also the marketing of the specific product and\or service in question.


A number of macro-economic influences exerted by large governmental bodies have an important impact on the OM cycle. One of these influences can be simply stated as the quasi-market system on which our economy is based. Using a combination free- market system with selected governmental pressures\influences, the subsequent system is a hybrid of a truly free system. Whether or not a government can "regulate" and "adjust" an economy as large as the one in the U.S. is truly a debatable point. Clearly, during the "fine-tuning" period of the 1950's and 1960's the prevailing economic thought was in favor of being able to adjust economic conditions. In the years subsequent to that period, however, sentiment has apparently shifted, almost to the point of the purely monetarists viewpoint of enacting consistent adjustment "systems" and otherwise having a "hands off" policy, with an underlying belief that to an extent such a large economy is "uncontrollable". Such an undercurrent of belief supports the systems-perspective of OM.

Another issue here is that of the growth orientation of our economy, and society in general. In his book History of The Idea of Progress, Nisbett (1980) chronicled the importance of the philosophy of progress, and argues that mankind holds a universal assumption of progress. Although growth expectations of politicians, corporations, and even individuals have become more reasonable in their growth\progress expectations during the past 5-10 years, growth is still considered as a desirable goal. Using an economic history perspective, however, clearly growth is not always obtainable, and its desirability seems to be questionable in the face of dwindling resources and the increasingly severe complications of higher-order exchanges. These growth expectations also manifest themselves in specific actions on the part of individuals and businesses. Examples of this final point will be discussed in the next section.

Another identifiable influence is that of the lack of coordination between business, government, and society. In the U.S., via macroeconomic and microeconomic influences, the government simultaneously encourages production and consumption, while deterring investment and savings. The result is a system, which by it may work, but on a global scale is somewhat in trouble. Compared to the often-cited example of the business- government-banking triad in Japan (Abegglen & Rapp, 1974), the U.S. pales in comparison to this highly managed and integrated system.

Although the governmental influences cited in this section are important, it seems that the largest number of identifiable influences or sub-components exist in the following section, where we will discuss the supply-side marketing practices influences on OM.


During the introductory section of this discussion, it was noted that the debate over the value of marketing has been going on for quite some time. It is not the intention of these authors to end this debate by presenting the following ideas and conclusions. These arguments are presented in support of the notion of OM, and not intended to totally convince the reader that marketing is more "bad" than "good".

The phrase "supply-side marketing practices" is derived from the analogous phrase "supply-side economics", where the assumption of growth is a key factor. The analogy can even be extended to a "Laffer-type" OM curve . What is meant by "supply-side marketing practices" is a combination of practices all following the philosophy that "growth is good, and growth will solve everything"? This theme is common in the other two components of OM, as are a number of other themes, especially the "marketing of marketing" notion. In fact, this may be the single largest subcomponent influence here. Authors such as Levitt (1960), Drucker (1958), Bennett and Cooper (1979, 1981), and Webster (1981, 1988) have all discussed and criticized misapplications of the marketing concept. Although the natural progression of business orientations is believed to be from production to sales to marketing, the concept of OM and the OM-orientation provides a conceptual framework to better categorize the role of contemporary marketing.

Additional evidence of supply-side marketing practices and OM can also be found in the controversy over the broadening of the marketing concept, which took place during the late 1960's. Whether or not the Kotler and Levy (1969) or the Luck (1969) arguments, or even the later Laczniak and Michie (1979) response is correct is not important here. Rather, what is important is that if anything, the eventual "broadening" of the marketing concept did make the marketing concept a pervasive component of contemporary society. In turn, this widespread acceptance and may have lead to over applications and eventually OM. At the very least, the broadening of the marketing concept lead to a greater importance placed upon marketing within society.

As cited beforehand, one of the major influences of OM is competition. A major part of the argument here is that firms have concentrated more on competitive activity than on consumer activity, with the result being a lack of marketing focus. Two authors, Oxenfeldt and Moore (1978) make a compelling argument for specific firms to engage in competitor-watching instead of consumer-watching:

Competitor orientation seeks markets as struggles among individual firms for valuable marketing prizes, of which customers are the ultimate prizes. ... In other words, market competition is often a zero-sum contest. There need not be a single winner or loser, but what one firm gains come mainly from its rivals. To prevail in the battle, firms must identify their closest rivals, learn their significant strengths and weaknesses, and forecast their behavior.

Such an orientation, which concentrates on competition instead of consumers as indicators of market success, appears to lead to OM. In actuality, however, such a response might be a perfectly natural or pragmatic response to the increasing complexities of the marketplace. It is impossible to accurately "monitor" consumer wants and needs, and foolish to ignore competitive activity. Which is more important, though, versus which is more powerful?

Another important influence here is that of capacity. Much of the recent literature across many of the business disciplines seems to be focused upon competitive advantages realized through production. The fallout from all of this, basically, seems to be that production capabilities are increasing due to both productivity and physical plant increases. As a result, inventories are increasing, as well as the potential to overproduce. One problem resulting from this condition has been a lack of harmony between production and marketing (Shapiro, 1977) with the result being the sacrifice of marketing in the name of inventory reduction or capacity justification. Capacity is inevitably linked to market share. Some of the marketing management literature (Bloom & Kotler, 1975; Porter, 1980) recognizes the advantages (and risks) of having a relatively high percentage of market shares. The long-term implications of capacity, however, are neglected often times in the push for large market shares. Long-term, it is difficult to successfully maintain such large market shares, and seemingly the tendency to engage in OM is the result. As a reflection of these dangers, compelling arguments have recently been made in favor of smaller market shares (Hamermesh, Anderson & Harris, 1978; Woo & Cooper, 1982). Overall, the increasing importance of capacity can be interpreted as a strong contributor to OM.

Capacity seems to be a central factor behind OM. One reason why might relate to the lack of harvesting or demarketing strategies which are implemented in the marketplace (Kotler, 1978). Indeed, a stigma seems to exist when it comes to the harvesting of a product\service, the aura of failure. The only recent advent of harvesting in the strategic marketing literature may also have contributed to the slowness with which such strategies are used.

As a result of excessive capacity, firms may need to engage in OM in order to survive. The end result appears to be a tendency for firms to view marketing as a panacea to correct for products or services, which, for a number of reasons including over-supply, may not be entirely appropriate for the marketplace. This trend is evident throughout the marketing channel, and is especially evident in retail practices. Consumers have come to expect continual sales events, special promotions, rebates, coupons, in-store specials as the "normal" way retailers do business (Mason, 1986); it seems that consumers have responded to and become accustomed to OM, as have businesses. Specialized firms, such as the Minneapolis-based C.O.M.B. have even emerged to fill the function of inventory liquidation (in the event that all other OM tactics do not work).

Due to the increased complexities of markets, an additional influence has emerged, which we label as rules-driven marketing. The general argument is that certain rules or heuristics evolve within a market. Thus, decision-making on the part of the marketer is non-existent at times, since reactions are predictable and homogeneous. As a result, such decision making, within the context of a system where OM is pervasive serves to preserve the integrity of the OM cycle. For example, widely- publicized and regarded studies such as the PIMS research, and strategic tools such as the BCG Matrix serve to establish relationships and create and foster rules-based thinking and action. Within a system riddled with OM, the result is a continuation of the status quo. In support of this general conclusion, Bonoma (1986) recently cited examples of what he called "marketing subversives", or individuals\organizations, which did not engage in rules-based marketing, and "broke-out of the mold" of relative contemporary strategic thinking.

A factor contributing to the existence of rules-based marketing, and related to Bonoma's (1986) "marketing subversives" is that of inappropriate reward structures. If rules-based marketing exists, then conversely it is rewarded within organizations. Risk exists if one deviates from the rules, which are established (and recognized for "working"). Individuals who deviate from the established normative rules must succeed, or they run the risk of being eliminated. In a sense, this scenario rewards failure, as long as the failure was realized by "sticking to the system" which has already been established. The result contributes to OM.

A final subcomponent of supply-side marketing practices is something known as value-added rigidity, or VAR. Using the classic Alderson and Martin (1965) framework of transactions, transvections, and sorting, each product or service can be thought of as carrying a certain VAR score or rating. The VAR score is, among other things, an indicator of the transferability or usability of a good or service. Specifically, the higher the degree of processing specialization which a product or service has, the higher the VAR rating. Products or services with high VAR ratings do not have a high degree of transferability or interchangeability, and therefore have a very specific place in the market. Alternatively, products or services low in VAR do not have a high degree of processing specialization, and therefore can be used for a number of different applications in the marketplace. The argument, therefore, is that due to factors such as increased capacity and a general increase in technical sophistication, high VAR products and services exist in abundance and are stockpiled (versus just-in-time produced). Subsequently, the potential for OM with such high VAR items is great.

As an example of this, think about your car, and the car your grandparents drove (if they had one). Clearly, the number and degree of technical sophistication (and the interchangeability) has increased dramatically, even though the basic product attribute, transportation, is virtually the same. This trend of complexity is the case for nearly all types of goods, industrial and consumer. As a result, firms may have capacity\inventory problems, and then may have to "bend" the marketing concept a bit (i.e. use marketing as a panacea), and the result is OM.

The existence of OM appears to be well-founded, although it doesn't seem to be a most recent phenomenon. Has OM been reflected in some of the well-known frameworks in marketing? The next section will explore several examples.


The profession of marketing has always been "concerned" about both the positive and negative aspects of its activities. With respect to several theoretical arguments, this concern has also been reflected in the literature. The first of these is probably the most famous piece of marketing literature published to date--Levitt's notion of Marketing Myopia (1960). Clearly, Levitt warns of the dangers of capacity and high VAR (i.e., buggy-whips are not easily interchanged with other products) and of not realizing the core of the marketing concept.

Many other authors have seemingly hinted of the dangers of OM. In much of the same way, Gailbriath (1958) and Drucker (1958) express concern over the implications of marketing in contemporary society. Although an indirect indication of OM, these authors warn of materialistic values and the role of the marketing concept in society. A natural extension of these concerns is reflected in the macro-externalities presented earlier, namely that consumers and firms have become addicted to marketing.

A potentially interesting example of a widely-regarded theoretical framework, which has applications to OM, is that of Hollander's wheel of retailing (1960). The progression of a firm from the low-end to high-end has implications for capacity, high VAR goods\services, rules-based marketing, supply-side marketing, growth orientations, over competition, and OM in general. It seems that Hollander had some unique insights relative to a cycle, which firms pass through, within their respective markets. By the end of the cycle, the firm seems to be in a mode very similar to the OM cycle suggested previously.

Although the factors contributing to OM presented to this point are all integral components of the process, we also believe that a number of established traditions or revolutions have set the stage. The next section will feature a discussion of these trends, and their implications for OM.


OM is the result of the co-evolutionary process of a number of interrelated factors. The identification of the contributing factors in the last section has led to a further exploration of the "roots" of overmarketing. Seven "revolutions" have been identified which have partially contributed to the state of marketing and the phenomenon of overmarketing. As with the case of the components and sub-components of OM, these revolutions are inter-related and have a certain degree of commonality. Each "revolution" will be discussed in terms of its implications to OM. The revolutions represent major changes in the areas of production, marketing, economics (Keynesian revolution), scientific management, competition, financial management, global economics, and finally consumption.


The industrial revolution, and advent of mass production, has been credited and cited for a number of modern day successes and failures. In terms of economic history, such a period serves to establish a production\capacity base. In terms of this discussion, the production revolution established a tradition of production\capacity orientations as well as the actual capacity itself. The well-established business-orientation framework cited earlier starts with the revolution in production. This initial revolution may have had a lasting impact, however, in that a number of marketing-related decisions continue to be capacity-driven, and in a sense this means that the production- orientation has yet to end. The OM-orientation described earlier may in effect be cumulative. In other words, the OM-orientation may be the result of a number of firms simultaneous existing at virtually all-3 orientations.


Although much of the marketing revolution has been previously discussed in terms of the evolution through various business orientations and the debate over the broadened concept of marketing, the existence of OM and the notion of the "marketing of marketing" is strong evidence that the marketing revolution existed or is even still taking place. The marketing revolution has implications for nature and scope of consumption also, in that consumers "should" get what they want and need. This is a very powerful assumption, and holds that consumers do know what they want, and also know what is good and not good for them. It represents a shift in preference from self-production to mass-production. By relinquishing control to marketers, consumers have endorsed the widespread application of marketing. This general trend has contributed significantly to the current state of OM.


The zenith of Keynesian economics for the time being has passed, and is historically depicted as a period of time leading up to the Kennedy era of the 1960's. It was during this time that the consensus among economists was that it was the role of the government to fine-tune the economy, and that growth was something which just had to be managed, or at best directed or helped in the right direction. This myopic view of economics has been replaced with the accelerationist hypothesis, slower levels (or no predicted level) of growth, misdirected and dysfunctional economic policies, and a growing body of economists who believe in rule-based (the opposite of the intervention or fine-tuning approach of the 1960's) policy mechanisms. A critical outcome of this change in the nature of our economy is that growth is no longer a common denominator. This lack of an ability to "outgrow mistakes" has had serious implications on business. The end result has been an unknown lag effect in an economy, which can be at best "nudged" at times, and a lack of cooperation between business and government, all of which contributes a significant history to OM phenomenon.

One additional outgrowth or response to the "hands-on" economic management policy has been a commensurate growth in the regulations, which directly affect marketing. In a three-part series of articles, Carman and Harris (1986) and Harris and Carman (1983, 1986) delineate and discuss the various regulatory reactions, which have taken place in the recent past. This smaller trend can be interpreted in several ways, as an extension of the macroeconomics "fine-tuning" philosophy, as a reaction to OM itself, or as an independent trend by itself. The general result is added layers of well-intended policy, which once enacted stays in place and eventually outgrows its initial purpose.


The computer age, in terms of both hardware and software, has enabled firms of all types to use sophisticated techniques to predict and control. Even prior to the advent of computers, inroads in scientific techniques as applied to production and control created tremendous efficiency potentials. In both a direct and indirect manner, the ability and desire to increase production efficiency contributed to the capacity phenomenon. Not only were businesses able to produce more because of their new, large plants, but also they were also able to be more efficient.

As a latent effect of the production and scientific management revolutions, working satisfaction was found to be a concern. Indeed, the management literature reflected the need to motivate workers who did not find satisfaction in their work. Consistent with earlier-cited Benton (1985) hypothesis, this lack of satisfaction in the workplace (due to the production and scientific revolutions) impacted the worker via life-style and consumption values. Clearly, the scientific management revolution impacted OM, and is related to several others of the cited revolutions.


The emphasis on competitive analysis, both in practice and in the literature, has been increasing. Examples of widely-read and recognized works in this area include the following: "Diagnosing The Product Portfolio" (Day, 1977), "Strategic Windows" (Bell, 1978), "Industrial Structure and Competitive Strategy: Keys To Profitability" (Porter, 1980), "Learning From Your Competitors" (Leaf, 1978), "Marketing Warfare", (Kotler & Singh, 1980). All of these recent and very contemporary readings focus on the competitive aspect of business activity, and seemingly fail to incorporate the competitive factor within the full context of the marketing concept. The result has been a glut of strategic thinking which either glosses-over the importance of the consumer, or simplifies the consumers' role as being a quiet "third-party". Additionally, it is now being recognized that implementation is as critical as strategy development. The role of competition and how strategic marketing viewed competition has contributed significantly to OM.


The advent of financial portfolio management, in conjunction with the competitive revolution, has set the stage for rules- based marketing decision-making. The practice of treating complex decision-making processes as an exercise in quantification lends itself to similar management practices. For example, if a specific division must maintain a 10% relative market share, then a threshold such as this will be established at lower levels within the division. It also seems that such practices diminish the importance of qualitative factors in decision-making. In conjunction with other revolutions, the financial management revolution has contributed to OM.


One of the more recent trends, which have contributed greatly to OM, is that of the globalization of economies. In its simplest terms, the trend is an exercise in complexity. Already complicated and intricate economic systems have now become impossible to understand if not bewildering. The impact has been to burden already overtaxed systems, and impose a "new set of rules" for economic survival. If we assume that a large national economy by itself is difficult if not impossible to manage, then the quantum leap to a global mega-economy makes the assumption of non-manageability even more plausible, and thus contributes to OM.


A final revolution, which has contributed significantly to OM, is the increasingly important notion of consumption. Labeled as "The Disposable Society", consumers many times now "seek their meaning" in the marketplace of products and services. The result has been a sometimes-insatiable appetite for goods and services, and subsequently for marketing. Although this importance of consumption, materialism, and the notion of the "marketing of marketing" were presented beforehand, collected as a revolution they have created conditions, which encourage OM.

In the final section, the implications of OM to the consumer, firm, society, and marketing profession are discussed, as well as a presentation of potential solutions to some of the OM-related problems presented earlier.


The impact of OM is felt by everyone in society: consumers engage in overconsumption, businesses revert to OM-related tactics, the government is unable to properly control economic functions (due in part to the OM cycle), and the role of marketers in society is misconstrued. From the evidence presented here, OM is a deeply-rooted phenomenon. The OM-cycle essentially embodies the way business, government, and consumers behave and interact. The result is OM. Everyone participates and everyone is responsible.

Does this mean that OM is the inescapable eventuality of exchange within our economic system? The answer is both "yes" and "no". The logic for the "yes" response has been presented Here, and despite a small number of system corrections, it seems apparent that OM is here to stay for some time to come. Additionally, the issues surrounding the consumption of products and services versus the consumption of marketing seem difficult to address. In a sense this is the question "what is the correct level of marketing"? It seems appropriate to say that consumers should not be "addicted" to marketing. Alternatively, the marketing of various products and services provides critical and valuable utilities, and at times the actual product or service may legitimately not be the intended focus of the exchange act. Overall, marketers have some kind of ethical responsibility to their consumers regarding both products and services and marketing activities.

The logic behind the corresponding "no" response to the eventuality of OM question can also be referred to as prescriptions for the future. Additionally, a few small trends have emerged which indicates that some change has already emerged.

One such trend is the increasing number of consumers who seriously question consumption-based and materialistic values. Although we are said to live in the age of "yuppism", another movement afoot seems to focus their attention on worldwide concerns via helping-behaviors, and in general a concern for the fellow man. Typically, these consumers do not overconsume, recognize alternatives to marketing, and avoid OM.

Another trend is for businesses to stick to the marketing concept, almost to the point of a minimalist-marketing perspective. Such a viewpoint provides the consumer with straightforward and honest information along with value-based products and services. Clearly, these firms recognize that some consumers do not favor the "marketing of marketing", and would rather buy their tuna at a fair price instead of wondering what the impact of a 15-cent coupon has on the "real" price they are paying. The ability of firms to correct their actions suggests that the system may have a built-in correction factor.

Overmarketing may be a temporary business orientation, resulting from a series of interrelated factors similar to those presented here. Whether it is temporary or relatively permanent, marketing practitioners and academics in the future need to further examine and analyze the role and practice of marketing, in both a normative and positive sense, within contemporary society.


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