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Meet the editor of ... Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

An interview with: Professor Brian Jones
Interview by: Margaret Adolphus

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Photo: Professor Brian Jones.D.G. Brian Jones is professor of marketing at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT, USA. He was the founding president of the Association for Historical Research in Marketing (now the Conference on Historical Analysis & Research in Marketing (CHARM) Association), and is currently its treasurer. He recently edited a special issue of the European Business Review on "Pioneers in business education".

He served as history section editor for the Journal of Macromarketing, and is currently on the editorial review boards of the Journal of Macromarketing, Marketing Theory, and European Business Review. He has published extensively in the area of marketing history and is the co-editor of The History of Marketing Thought (with Mark Tadajewski), a three-volume set of readings published by Sage Publishing Ltd in 2008.

About the journal

Launched in 2009, the Journal of Historical Research in Marketing (JHRM) is the only quarterly, peer-reviewed journal publishing high quality academic research on marketing history and the history of marketing thought. The journal is the culmination of a long period of growing interest in the field, with special journal issues and conferences, and its genesis is described in Jones (2009). Its approach can best be described by the following quotation from the editorial to the first issue:

"There is a significant and growing amount of interest and scholarly work in historical research in marketing, but there was no journal exclusively dedicated to publishing that work – until now. The Journal of Historical Research in Marketing will provide a home for this scholarship, publishing research about marketing history and the history of marketing thought. Our objective is to provide a forum for a wide range of historical research about marketing. The journal welcomes high quality, original research that encompasses a broad range of historical purposes, approaches, philosophical positions, and methodologies. The unifying theme is its historical orientation.

" ... Marketing history includes, but is not limited to, the histories of advertising, retailing, channels of distribution, product design and branding, pricing strategies, and consumption behaviour – all studied from the perspective of companies, industries, or even whole economies. The history of marketing thought examines marketing ideas, concepts, theories, and schools of marketing thought including the lives and times of marketing thinkers. This includes biographical studies as well as histories of institutions and associations involved in the development of the marketing discipline. Historiographic essays will also be welcome as long as they are grounded in a marketing context. The journal is also international in its scope with editors and an editorial advisory board representing eight different countries" (Jones, 2009).

Journal mission

Why, given the existence of journals in the field of accounting history, business history and management history has it taken so long for a journal in the field of marketing history to be launched? Why has there been such a surge of interest in marketing history recently?

Accounting history, management history, and marketing history are all studied and written primarily by scholars who work in business schools. Business schools tend to have cultures rooted in pragmatism, and focus on "how to" knowledge. That culture tends not to recognize the value of history. However, accounting history, and to a lesser extent management history, have both benefited from their discipline's more critical and pluralist culture. Business history tends to be studied and written by historians working in history departments, not in business schools. So their work is better accepted and has been for a very long time.

The marketing discipline has been dominated like no other field in business by a logical positivist philosophy that has inhibited broader perspectives such as an historical one. Fullerton (1987, p. 97) described this as a "poverty of ahistorical analysis". During the 1980s, a number of specialized conferences, collections of readings, and special issues of periodicals fuelled tremendous growth of interest in historical research in marketing. Perhaps most important was the organization of the biennial North American marketing history conference.

In 1983 the first North American Workshop on Historical Research in Marketing was held at Michigan State University under the leadership of Stanley Hollander (the first issue of JHRM is a celebration of Hollander's work in marketing history). That conference, now known as the Conference on Historical Analysis & Research in Marketing (CHARM), has been held biennially ever since.

During the early 1990s, CHARM became a major contributor of content for the Journal of Macromarketing (JMM). From 1994 through 2008 historical research accounted for 72 of the 196 full articles published in JMM representing fully 37 per cent of that journal's content. Most of those articles were first presented at a CHARM conference. More recently, the CHARM Association was the driving force behind the founding of JHRM.

In addition, since the mid 1980s there have been several conferences with a major focus on historical research in marketing, as well as special journal issues on the theme (Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science (1990), Psychology & Marketing (1998), and Marketing Theory (2005 and 2008)). The latter has regularly published articles dealing with the history of marketing thought.

In the UK, the University of Reading hosted conferences in 1991 and again in 1993 on historical research in marketing that resulted in the 1993 publication The Rise and Fall of Mass Marketing (Tedlow and Jones, 1993). Strong interest in historical research in marketing in the UK is further evidenced by the formation in 1998 of the Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution (CHORD) at the University of Wolverhampton which hosts annual workshops and seminars.

Beyond these specialized marketing conferences and periodicals, there is a growing interest in marketing-related history by business historians which is represented at the Business History Conference and in periodicals such as Enterprise & Society, the Business History Review, Economic History Review, and others.

Over the past 25 years or so, there has been a broadening of philosophical and cultural perspectives in the marketing discipline, a maturing that has provided opportunities for marketing scholars to study and write about marketing history. Those opportunities coalesced into the founding of JHRM.

What is your target market, in terms both of audience and readers?

There are two target markets for JHRM, one each for the supply and demand of the content of the journal, although we expect there will be considerable overlap between the two. The content of JHRM will come from marketing scholars with a demonstrated interest in history as well as from business historians who specialize in studying marketing topics. Readers will include those two groups as well as the broader field of marketing scholars and graduate students. The history of marketing thought should be part of the curriculum of every doctoral programme in marketing in the world.

Naturally our first and easiest task has been to create awareness among those scholars who have participated in the CHARM conferences (mainly marketing professors working in business schools) over the past number of years. We have used the cumulative list of over 300 delegates for our publicity for JHRM. We also target other possibly interested people outside the CHARM network through such organizations as the American Marketing Association, Association for Consumer Research, and similar European associations.

There are also some business historians working in history departments who happen to do historical research about marketing topics and who have also participated in CHARM conferences. We have also been reaching out to the broader group of business historians through the Business History Conference (the largest such annual academic meeting in North America). An upcoming special issue of JHRM on retailing history in North America consists of papers presented at the 2008 Business History Conference and is being guest edited by a business historian. We have used a similar strategy to involve the CHORD at the University of Wolverhampton, two directors of which are preparing an issue of JHRM on retailing history in the UK.

Why did you decide to approach Emerald as publisher?

Members of the CHARM executive first approached Sage Publishing because of its ownership of JMM, but they did not seem very interested. A colleague of mine who is editor of the European Business Review (published by Emerald), Göran Svensson, suggested that Emerald might be interested. We investigated further and discovered that Emerald had a strong portfolio of business periodicals and publishes the Journal of Management History which, again, suggested to us an appreciation of historical scholarship in business generally. From our initial contact with Emerald and through the proposal process and publication of our first two issues, the Emerald publishing staff has been enthusiastic and supportive in getting JHRM off the ground.

You have had a long relationship with the CHARM Association. How will this connection help the development of the journal?

Some of this is discussed above. JHRM is the official journal of CHARM: conference registration includes two years' subscription. All of the associate editors and I – as well as many of those on the JHRM editorial advisory board – are also members of the CHARM executive or board of directors. Association with an academic organization that has operated for over 25 years lends the journal some legitimacy, ready access to authors and readership, and resources (especially expertise through the CHARM board and executive). As an aside, the incoming editor of JMM is the immediate past president of CHARM, a member of the JHRM editorial advisory board, and is a close colleague and friend of mine. That will assure a mutually beneficial relationship between JMM, which has been a major outlet for marketing history in the past, and JHRM. We need to work together, not against each other, if we are to build a healthy environment in which to conduct historical research in marketing.

The discipline  

Isn't one of the difficulties that historical marketing demands wide reading in history and understanding of historical methods, which are different from the usual methods used in marketing research? What would be your advice to a marketing researcher who wanted to go down the historical route?

That is an interesting question for several reasons and one I am currently trying to address, at least in part, by writing a book about historical research methods in marketing (by the way, my co-author for the book is the incoming editor of the JMM, mentioned above). So, the short answer to your question is – my advice to a marketing researcher who wants to do historical research in marketing is to read my book! At the same time, they should obviously read JHRM. And for someone who has no experience doing historical research in marketing, their first attempt at such work would benefit from being presented at the CHARM conference or one of the CHORD workshops or perhaps the Business History Conference. My experience is that all three of these are unusually supportive and constructive in the feedback given to authors.

Marketing academics are typically trained as social scientists and that training does not include historical research methods. So, even when a marketing scholar is interested in marketing history, they may have little idea about how to approach it. There are several good surveys of the literature, of historical research in marketing (Hollander and Rassuli, 1993; Jones, forthcoming; Jones et al., 2009; Jones and Shaw, 2002; Jones and Shaw, 2006; Tadajewski and Jones, 2008) that will give someone an idea of what historical research has already been done on a particular topic.

Little has been written about the application of historical research methods to marketing (Brown et al., 2001; Fullerton 1987; Golder, 2000; Jones 1993; Jones, 1998; Kumcu, 1987; Nevett, 1991; Savitt, 1980; Savitt, 2009; Smith and Lux, 1993; Stern, 1990; Witkowski and Jones, 2006). Again, that is why I am writing a book about the application of historical research methods to marketing.

How can the study of marketing history contribute to current marketing practice, research and theory?

The contribution of marketing history to current marketing practice is more indirect and more difficult to justify than its contribution to current research and theory. Briefly, many successful companies understand the relevance of their own marketing history to their success and use that history to sell their brands. Look at corporate websites such as Coca-Cola's (an obvious example) to see how companies use marketing history to build brand value and sell product.

The classic justification for history is that those who don't know their past are doomed to repeat its mistakes. Ideas or theories that didn't work or have not been proven useful should be discarded. Those ideas that have been useful also need not be reinvented! That particular issue has recently been a major focus of attention for marketing historians interested in the history of the so-called marketing concept and its closely related notion of relationship marketing. As Mark Twain has been credited with observing, history may not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. And when it does, variations on a theme should be recognized for what they are.

History establishes a baseline for recognizing changes in theory. How can we advance our knowledge of marketing if we have no prior knowledge? History also helps us frame the right questions to ask in teaching and researching marketing. A review of previous research about an idea or theory allows us to identify what has already been studied, what are the unanswered questions and unquestioned answers. In short, marketing history gives us a framework for building and integrating knowledge about marketing.

Last, but not least, the study of marketing history contributes to current marketing knowledge because it is a thing of beauty, valuable for its own sake, a story worth telling!

Editorial objectives and scope  

You say in your second editorial: "We welcome a broad range of historical approaches, philosophical positions, and methodologies". Can you give some examples of what these approaches and methodologies might be?

First, it is important to understand that history is a subject, not a research method or a tool bag of research methods. Although this is an oversimplification, approaches to performing historical research range from a social science one to a more traditional humanities approach. Like marketing, history is viewed by some as a social science (Golder, 2000; Kumcu, 1987; Savitt, 1980; Smith and Lux, 1993) capable of producing scientific knowledge, and by others as an art or as one of the humanities (Fullerton, 1987; Jones, 1998; Nevett, 1991; Savitt, 2009; Stern, 1990; Witkowski and Jones, 2006).

History as social science tends to rely on formal hypothesis testing, development and testing of theory, classification and quantification of data, statistical analysis, and generalization. History as art relies more on unique, qualitative source material, creative interpretation, and descriptive narrative sometimes described as story telling. Under my editorship, JHRM will be pluralistic. That is, the journal will welcome many different approaches to selecting, defining, and approaching issues and questions. In our first two issues, we have already demonstrated this by publishing articles with different methodological approaches. Interestingly, in issue number 2, the lead article is Ron Savitt's discussion of his own journey from one end of the historical-methodological spectrum to the other during his distinguished career.

How would you sum up what you are looking for in an ideal article?

Well, I'm not sure there is an ideal article or an ideal set of characteristics, but I'll borrow from my editorial for issue number 2 of the journal to answer this question. JHRM will publish high quality, original research about marketing history or the history of marketing thought. The quality of historical research depends largely on the data sources selected. Primary sources include written documents, images, artifacts, and memories elicited through oral history methods, and one measure of the quality of historical research is its use of primary source material. JHRM encourages the inclusion of visual data sources and many of the articles in the first two issues are richly illustrated.

Of course, the historical era being investigated will influence the mix of primary and secondary source material, and while the value of primary sources needs no justification, some very good marketing history has been written and can be written using a fresh interpretation of secondary sources. Primary source material relating to pre-industrial era marketing is much more difficult to find than, say, that relating to the twentieth century. As I mentioned in my answer to the previous question on the range of possible methodological approaches, traditional qualitative analyses of small samples of source material as well as quantitative analyses of appropriately large samples have both been used to study marketing history. Historians are not generally methodological zealots. Yet, our readers' backgrounds and training are varied: some will be scholars trained in history, working in history departments, others will be marketing scholars working in business schools.

So, while it isn't necessary to include a separate research method section, there should be some explicit discussion of sources and their selection. If content analysis or some other statistical method of analysis is used, an appropriate description including rating reliabilities should be included. In short, authors should provide some transparency about their methodological approach.

The process of analysis and writing are interwoven. The sine qua non of historical writing is clarity. If reviewers cannot decipher what an author means, the submission will not survive the review process. While history can be used to test marketing theory and develop marketing policy, I am also a firm believer in the value of history for its own sake. Nevertheless, the contribution of a paper to the marketing history literature must be made clear. Why is the paper important? What will readers learn that is not already known? Answering those questions requires that authors have a solid knowledge of the existing marketing history literature.

What are your plans for the next few years, for example frequency, special issues, etc.?

Emerald published two issues of JHRM in 2009 (issue 1 in March and issue 2 in July); the publisher called them "bumper" issues, each considerably longer than what we expect for the length of future issues. Beginning in 2010, JHRM will move to a quarterly publication schedule. In order to get up to speed and ensure continuity of quality content for the journal, we have planned well ahead with a number of special issues over the next couple of years, with much of the content already secured.

Volume 2, issue 1 will be a special issue on retailing history in North America, guest edited by Professor Tracey Deutsch of the University of Minnesota. Volume 2, issue 3 is a special issue on retailing history in the UK, guest edited by Professors Laura Ugolini and John Benson of the University of Wolverhampton. Volume 3, issue 1 will feature articles about the life and work of marketing historian, Donald Dixon and is being edited by Professors Eric Shaw and Ian Wilkinson. Volume 3, issue 3 will be about Canadian marketing history and is being edited by Professors Stanley Shapiro and Leighann Neilson. All these people are either associate editors or members of our editorial advisory board.

Can you explain the thinking behind your explorations and insights section, edited by Stanley Shapiro and featuring discussion of the literature, but not including book reviews?

Well, that really was an interesting and unusual development. Stanley Shapiro was the founding editor of the JMM. His credentials are outstanding and I knew from the outset that I wanted his involvement with JHRM. It was his idea to include in JHRM something unique to academic periodical publishing, something that would distinguish JHRM and offer us the opportunity to "explore and add insights" to the regular article content of the journal. It would be, and is, a vehicle for invited commentaries (something done by other journals but not usually on a regular basis) often focusing on teaching (marketing history) issues, and, perhaps most relevant to a journal of historical research in marketing, for presenting historical review essays of "lost and found" books about marketing and marketing history that were published long ago but which for various reasons seem to have been forgotten. The latter element of our explorations and insights section led us to the decision not to include more conventional book reviews of currently published books about marketing history, book reviews that would likely be published by other journals anyway.

How will the journal empower the teaching of marketing history, and how do you think the subject can best be taught (i.e. as a separate discipline, or within other disciplines, should students be taught historical methods in a course on research methods)?

As mentioned above, we hope to include as often as possible in the explorations and insights section commentaries about teaching marketing history and the history of marketing thought. The entire explorations and insights section of volume 1, issue 1 does that and we have more pieces already planned that will focus on teaching marketing history. As the only academic journal to focus exclusively on historical research in marketing, JHRM should be a primary resource for anyone teaching marketing history, the history of marketing thought, or business history.

As for how the subject can best be taught, I am certain there is no one best way. I think it should be taught as a separate subject when possible, but that is rarely so. As a professor in a business school I teach an undergraduate course in marketing history, but most business schools are not so enterprising. In that case, it should be woven into other courses about marketing. When marketing history is taught, it is usually as part of a more general course on business history and usually by a history department, not in a business school.

The history of marketing thought is a different matter. That subject is almost only taught in business schools and only to graduate students. It used to be taught as a separate course but there is a recent trend to incorporating it into graduate courses on marketing theory.

You have an outstanding editorial advisory board comprising 30 scholars representing eight different countries. What do you see as their role?

Our editorial advisory board members are the workhorses of our review process and I regularly solicit their ideas for journal content (most of the upcoming special issues originated with EAB members) and for promoting the journal. The board meets in person at the CHARM conference. Despite the wide range of geographic representation, there were 11 board members attending the 2009 CHARM conference which allowed us to have a vigorous planning session for the journal.

And finally ...  

How did you become interested in marketing history?

I've had a lifelong respect for my elders, but until my graduate work I didn't really have a clear interest in history of any kind, let alone marketing history. I credit one of my professors, my dissertation supervisor, David D. (Dan) Monieson, for lighting that fire. His doctoral course on the history and philosophy of marketing thought was an inspiration. The best student paper at the CHARM conference is awarded the David D. Monieson prize.


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Tamilia, R.D. (2009), "An overview of The History of Marketing Thought", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 1 No. 2.

Tedlow, R. and Jones, G. (Eds) (1993), The Rise and Fall of Mass Marketing, Routledge, London.

Witkowski, T. and Jones, D.G.B (2006), "Qualitative historical research in marketing", in Russell W.B. (Ed), Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods in Marketing, Edward Elgar Publishing, Brookfield, VT, pp. 131-157.

Editor's note

Professor Jones was interviewed in July 2009.

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