There appears to be a growing race among publishers to see who can provide the most pedagogical features in textbooks. One can almost hear them calling out for more bells and whistles, until we reach the point where it becomes hard to cut through the forest of boxes, instant tests, case studies, key learning features, summary points, end-of-chapter questions, end-of-case-study questions and vignettes to find the actual substance of the text.
It is therefore refreshing to see a textbook that has no discernible pedagogical features. Such a book is Karl Moore and Niketh Pareek's Marketing: The Basics . The book seeks to give us a punchy, stripped-down version of what marketing is all about. Sadly for the eager reader, the book does not deliver, largely because the authors seem to be stuck in a time warp in which marketing thought has not moved on much since the 1970s.
Structured loosely around a five-P model (the 1960s four Ps - price, product, promotion, place, plus people), the book trots out the orthodoxy of 30-year-old marketing, telling us that societal marketing is the latest thing and recommending telephone selling as the way forward in direct marketing. The authors apparently live in a world where the internet was never invented, where relationship marketing has not yet seen the light of day, where salespeople always start their sales visits by chatting to the buyers about football or the weather and end the presentation by overcoming objections, and where marketing is a function, not a strategic paradigm.
The writing style is lively and punchy as advertised, but one is left with the feeling that one has booked a holiday to Disneyland and ended up in Frinton-on-Sea.
At the other end of the spectrum (and price range) we have the latest update of Frances Brassington and Stephen Pettitt's book. This hugely successful text is now in its fourth edition and remains a top-notch standard undergraduate text. The bells and whistles are exemplary and numerous, so much so that the book has to open with a kind of idiot's guide to finding your way through the undergrowth. The update is printed in full colour and is thorough and very comprehensive, with much new material including an extended section on exhibitions and trade fairs.
Of course, not everything is perfect: the writing style is at times long-winded, and carrying the book for any distance is probably a mistake unless you know a good osteopath. The structure is beginning to look a bit old-fashioned, too. This is, of course, the bugbear of new editions: changing the structure dramatically means that hundreds of lecturers have to rearrange their slides, but isn't marketing supposed to be a young, dynamic subject?
Apart from these minor criticisms, it's easy to see why this text is so popular and is about to celebrate its tenth birthday.
Another introductory book for undergraduates, though not as venerable as Brassington and Pettitt, is David Jobber and John Fahy's Foundations of Marketing . Here again, we have all the pedagogical features you can shake a stick at, but a much more concise writing style and also a great deal less content. The ubiquitous four-P model drives everything, but there is a bit of originality in the case studies in that they are not, for the most part, the usual suspects, despite Ryanair, Lego, Coca Cola and Burger King sneaking in. The book is in full colour and the publishers have spared no expense in making it look as flash as a rat with a gold tooth.
Not so our next book, Pierre-Louis Dubois, Alain Jolibert and Hans Muhlbacher's Marketing Management: A Value-Creation Process . Yes, we have bells and whistles. Yes, we have examples and cases from everywhere in Europe. Yes, we have a novel structure in which the book opens with marketing strategy and then goes on to explain how this translates into tactics. Yet the publishers looked in the piggy bank and decided that they would publish it only in black and white. This is a shame, because it detracts from what is in almost every other respect an excellent book, suitable for undergraduates, MBAs and even the occasional MSc.
The authors neatly side-step the landmine of the four Ps and reach the security of the marketing-is-about-managing-exchange camp in a single bound. They build on the idea of marketing as a way of creating value through exchange, and thus anchor the book in the 21st-century European marketing mainstream. Apart from a few bizarre misprints, we have a text that, unlike Moore and Pareek's book, looks like Frinton-on-Sea but delivers Disneyland.
This is, of course, the age of the specialist, and our next four books give us a look at various sub-divisions of marketing. First, Muhlbacher, Helmuth Leihs and Lee Dahringer offer us International Marketing . This book is well-written, has excellent boxed examples and practical, tactical guides - and yes, it has bells and whistles. The marketing research section is among the best I have ever seen. I particularly liked the ethics boxes. Obviously the book took a while to write, since the authors tell us on page 60 that the "FTAA will be in place by 2005", but it was worth the wait - a good book for undergraduates and MBAs.
Chris Fill is up next, with his Simply Marketing Communications . Here, the cases are a bit mixed, and Fill seems to be wedded to the Schramm model of communications that, like the four Ps, has seen better days. On the other hand, the writing style is clear and comprehensible. There are enough pedagogical features to sink a battleship, and I liked the comments in the margins. I was surprised to find a marketing communications textbook with no discernible mention of exhibitions and trade fairs, however.
Business-to-business marketing is one of several areas that we all say should be emphasised more, but it never is. David Ford, Lars-Erik Gadde, Hakan Hakansson and Ivan Snehota give us a chance to build a very nice little course around their textbook, The Business Marketing Course . The authors take the view that marketing and purchasing are opposite sides of the same coin (not, as one might imagine, mortal enemies), and they like to define marketing as being about managing customer relationships, giving us yet another definition to play with. The writing style won't set the world on fire, but the authors lead us through the subject in a clear and concise way. The publishers have gone for black and white rather than colour and there is a parsimonious approach to bells and whistles, which is advisable, since without colour it is hard to tell which is a bell, which is a whistle and which is a concrete bit of text. Again, there is an unaccountable lack of mention of trade fairs and exhibitions, which seems to me to be a major hole in the content, but overall this is a solid book to build a course on.
Not many undergraduate marketing courses contain B2B, though, so it is probably going to be a masters level text.
Finally, Douglas West, John Ford and Essam Ibrahim's Strategic Marketing: Creating Competitive Advantage is a good, workman-like text. The book is structured around the "where are we now, where do we want to be, how will we get there, did we get there" type of strategic thinking, and the authors lead us gently through the subject matter with a steady writing style.
Taken all in all, the eight books represent a fair cross-section of current marketing texts. We have some that follow the orthodox route and do not frighten the horses, some that jump out from a birthday cake bursting with new ideas, and some that have little to say and say it poorly to boot. Let us hope the bells and whistles do not deafen us to the content.
Jim Blythe is reader, Glamorgan Business School.
Marketing: The Basics. First Edition
Author - Karl Moore and Niketh Pareek
Publisher - Routledge
Pages - 232
Price - £9.99
ISBN - 0 415 380 79 0