Why ‘soft science’ is the key to regaining leadership in marketing knowledge
Tapp, A. and Hughes, T. (2008) Why ‘soft science’ is the key to regaining leadership in marketing knowledge. European Journal of Marketing, 42 (3/4). pp. 265-278. ISSN 0309-0566
Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/03090560810852913
Paper category: Viewpoint founded from an extensive literature review. Purpose: The purpose of this work is to highlight what the authors regard as serious problems with the continuing dominance of a ‘hard science’ view of what constitutes ‘top quality’ research, and to present evidence that a ‘softer’ approach will yield work that more closely aligns with the everyday reality of marketing. Design: The authors used a contrast between the marketing discipline and chemistry to illustrate their concerns about the use of ‘hard science’ in academic marketing. This was supplemented with analyses of academic marketing work already published to illustrate particular points. Findings: We propose that academic marketers need to take a ‘horses for courses’ approach and ground our research in the reality of the discipline. We debate different areas within the discipline of marketing and conclude that some areas may still respond well to scientific approaches, while others may benefit from a relaxation into interpretive approaches. We argue the need to concentrate more on reflecting a reality that is recognised by the wider marketing community, rather than getting wound up in methodological strait-jackets. To illustrate these points we consider the lack of recent progress in research on market segmentation and critique a ‘typical hard science paper’. We summarize the reasons why it is wrong to apply a ‘hard science’ approach on a carte blanche basis and argue for a more pluralist critical realist approach. Value: The intention is that this commentary will promote the soft science stance as the most appropriate epistemology for mainstream academic marketing research.
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