Marketing Needs the Humanities: The Case for Philosophy

Dr. Hamid Ait-ouyahia,
Dr. Samuel Seaman
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Ever since Plato condemned the sophists, philosophy has looked with contempt upon those who would sell their capacity for persuasive argument. For Deleuze and Guattari (1994), amongst the new sophists, or “pretenders to philosophy”, are marketers:

"Finally, the most shameful moment came when computer science, marketing, design and advertising, all of the disciplines of communication, seized hold of the word concept itself and said, “This is our concern, we are the creative ones we are the idea men (the French translation uses concepteurs)! We are the friend of the concept we put it into our computers.” Marketing has preserved the idea of a certain relationship between the concept and the event. But here the concept has become the set of product displays…and the event has become the exhibition that sets up various displays and the “exchange of ideas” it is supposed to promote. The only concepts are the exhibitions and the only events the products that can be sold."

We find this viewpoint somewhat frightening, given the utter pervasiveness of marketing in contemporary society, and hence, the extraordinary capacity for chaos in a world so often shaped by markets. We are, however, convinced that the imperialism of marketing has not been the result of an evil conspiracy, spawned in the boardrooms of commerce around the world. Rather, we will argue that it is the result of gross weaknesses in the marketing discipline itself - fuzzy definitions, an overabundance of inauthentic “concepts”, and a transient “how to” approach to decision making (a basal level of decision-making at best) to name a few. For things to improve, and if we are to avoid chaos, we believe that marketing needs the humanities – and philosophy in particular. Indeed, marketing must borrow from the humanities at least two things: firstly, the apparatus for building authentic concepts (notice that this is strictly a philosophical activity) and secondly, a way of evaluating our actions as shapers of “opinion”, guided by what Plato refers to as the good, the just, and the “beautiful.”

Keywords: Aesthetics, Concepts, Marketing, Philosophy
Stream: Science, Environment and the Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Hamid Ait-ouyahia

Assistant Professor of Marketing, Graziadio School of business & Management, Pepperdine university
Malibu, California, USA

Dr. Ait-Ouyahia enjoys using mathematical models in marketing research.

Dr. Samuel Seaman

Professor of Decision Sciences, Graziadio School of Business & Management, Pepperdine University
Malibu, California, USA

Dr. Seaman enjoys using applied mathematical models to solve practical business problems in economics, ethics, finance, marketing, and strategic management.

Ref: H06P0391