Marketing and the war machine.
Nowadays the deliberate use of the "f" word has joined that infamous list (with the "p" for "postmodernism" word). Once uttered, it induces a range of emotions from glazed indifference to eye-lifting frustration and even to bellicose expressions of outrage in the audience. Such emotions are not in any way delineated by sex; both "men" and "women" are numbered in the ranks of those for whom the word "feminism" is obnoxious. The use of the inverted commas, by the way, is to indicate that "men" and "women" relate to sex orientations (male, female, androgynous) and "male" and "female" to gender orientations. Before the glazed look fully sets in, I want to state that feminist theory has much to offer marketing, which is after all concerned with the "female" realm of consumption.
What right has a "man" to write a paper on "feminism"? Indeed! I will not presume to answer except to suggest that this lies partly in the use of inverted commas. In this paper, the discussion of feminism is conflated with that of war, an old favourite of marketing practitioners and academics. The focus on war is not only to provide a familiar backdrop to the discussion: by twinning seemingly oppositional interests such as "war" and the "feminine", it is hoped some insights will be gained into each. In any event, a major aim of this paper is to illuminate the ways in which seemingly different concepts are linked together. Thus, for example, how is it that warfare, that most masculine of activities, which traditionally excludes women, allows men to express their "feminine" side? Another aim of the paper is to show how thoroughly war imagery is threaded through all aspects of our everyday lives. While this paper can only touch on these aspects, the scope is enormous, ranging from war-based theories of how human identity is formed, to how war forms the basis for the entire structure of argumentation in language, to conceptions of human and economic exchange which are based on notions of war. Linking the two points made so far together: cultural conceptions of war specifically exclude the "feminine" and all human action can be framed in terms of war. If, in other words, society is defined in terms of "male" interests and values, then what role can there possibly be for women? The obvious traditional answer was "become like a man!" This latter point provides links to notions such as visibility, recognition, power and resistance. For example, war is given a very selective treatment in marketing. War is (automatically) taken to inform the role of the producer; the consumer is conceived of as a target; war relates to the formation of company strategies (as opposed to consumer strategies of resistance). So part of the argument which is advanced here is that conceptions of warfare have traditionally acted to maintain the dominance of male over female interests in society and that marketing has largely aided and abetted this process. However, neither are the entities "war" and "marketing" static, nor are the relations between them. There are many who suggest that the nature of society is changing, subject to a new wave of change which influences every aspect of social life including war, marketing and the links between sex and gender categories. This paper considers these changes and asks the question, "Are we witnessing the feminization of marketing?"
The war machine
The notion of the "war machine" has been borrowed from Deleuze and Guattari (1988). The nomad war machine refers to war in its primal state: female, unconstrained, mobile. The authors argue that developments in social organization, such as the emergence of the city-state, reflect the rise to dominance of the male principle, which has sought to appropriate war in its own image. Thus war (and society) are regulated by more or less stable binary schemes. However, they argue also that this project has never really achieved its aim; the nomad war machine still exists at the fringe of the social. The war machine is a useful metaphor which links the female to war and to marketing. The term resonates with the expressed feelings of many women, that somehow they are outside social organization and yet feel appropriated and commodified within it.
"We followed the rump of a misguided
woman", Fergus said. "It is the usual thing
for a herd led by a mare to be strayed and
(Kinsella, 1970, p. 251)
The whole world is men's bloody fantasies.
(Kathy Acker, 1988, p. 210)
These two phrases sum up two key positions which will be discussed in relation to the issue of gender and war. Notions of warfare are deeply embedded into contemporary society. For example war plays a major role in shaping contemporary theories of identity (Hegel, 1807); our whole notion of argumentation is based on a warfare metaphor (Fiumara, 1995). War is power; power is war; identity is a struggle for power and therefore a war. Following from this, it may be argued that the whole structure of argument in language can be construed as a series of war games. Knowledge is war:
Scientic truth, then, is not the result of just
representational activity or just social definitions,
but rather is the outcome of struggles
between competing actor networks in which
the weight of allies, both physical and social,
(Reed and Hughes, 1992, p. 81).
Thus while sticks and stones may break my bones, words also do me great harm. I agree with Rappaport (1987) that the social context of violence contains gestures which are both physical and verbal. It is not really useful to distinguish between "symbolic" and "actual" violence (see also MacCannell and MacCannell, 1990). Thus business and the academic sphere are sites of struggle, violence and war.
However, war can sum up a vast range of connotations and can never be fully pinned down. Rappaport (von Clausewitz, 1832) notes that "the nature of war is itself to a large extent determined by how man conceives it". Thus one can conceive of war as a game of strategy (as in chess or alternatively as in the game of "Go"), as the unfolding of a drama (as in eschatological philosophy), as a fire or epidemic in cataclysmic philosophy, as a pastime or adventure, as a ceremony, as a death wish or as an absurdity (the latter view held by the Eskimos).
This is illustrated in Figure 1.
[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
The ability of war to subsume a number of contradictory positions is apparent when one seeks to unravel the complex of metonymic chains which flow beneath the metaphorical form. For example one could equally take the view that war can be viewed as both irrational, as a form of madness, or as the rational calculated end-point of a strategic game. Not only can both stand together as competing conceptions of war, both points of view can invade each other's territory. The "war is madness" school can point to the unfolding irrationality of mutually assured destruction and related bizarre outcomes reflected in Catch 22; the opposing camp may point to 45 years of peace in Europe as the outcome of a rational two player game.
Thus undoubtedly war is a bad thing. In this century it has brought death, torture, rape and mayhem on a massive scale. However, some do benefit from war and in the twentieth century no country benefited more than the USA, particularly after World War II:
The United States remade itself. The change
was permanent. The nation became a middle-class
country, the richest and most powerful
in the history of the world.
In the USA unemployment fell from 14.6 per cent in 1940 to 1.4 per cent in 1944. Economic output doubled in real terms between 19391944. Fifty per cent of the US economy was dedicated to war production. Production reached amazing levels with 86,000 tanks, 296,000 planes, 15 million small arms; 40 billion bullets produced. Large ocean-going ships were produced in four days; 428 bombers in one month at one factory alone.
Several authors argue that World War II has done much to enhance the position of women in society in both the USA and the UK. The mobilizations of the two World Wars drew huge numbers of women into the "economic" labour force. Costello (1985) argues that as a result of the pressure exerted by working women the UK government were forced to establish school meals and nursery provision and shops had to change their opening hours. More importantly, Costello suggests that war destroyed many social inhibitions and sowed the seeds of the industrial revolution. However, one should not forget that, just as women were persuaded into war, so, following the war pressure was applied to ensure that they left room for returning males. In the USA in 1946, 2.2 million women left the workforce. No fridges were produced in 1942.
When one traces a metonymic chain, it appears chaotic and plural. The paradox is that within society meaning is generally taken to be stable and enduring, providing the basis for meaning and the interpretation of action in the world. The binary opposition plays a central role in mediating the concept of warfare. Fractal-like, it appears as the chain which links forms of struggle with forms of stability. For example the eschatological struggle between good and evil provides a form of stability in that what is "good" is defined from what is "evil" and the struggle plays out the story of the triumph of one term (usually the "good") over the other. The binary opposition is thus a favourite vehicle for the depiction of war between "us" (the "goodies") and "them" (invariably the "baddies"). Of course we have to take it as given that the "goodies" really were the "goodies". The "baddies" when vanquished are not present to provide us with their side of the story. When viewed in this way, the "truth" can therefore never be totally unvarnished but is painted in the colours of the victor.
War and patriarchy
One could claim that the warfare analogy maintains a patriarchal system. How does it do this? While Figure 1 shows that warfare can be framed in many often paradoxical ways, as organized within society warfare takes up the regular "striated" form of binary oppositions which help prescribe the distribution of possible identities, attitudes and behaviours within a culture. Keller (1992) suggests that gender is currently mapped in terms of binary oppositions which parcel out domains for the distribution of "male" and "female" identities. These oppositions are: public/private, political/personal, reason/ feeling, justice/care, objective/subjective, power/love, war/peace. For example the legitimate construction of a "male" identity has traditionally been associated with the left-hand side of each of these constructs. The male domain is thus located in the public sphere and is associated with politics, reason, justice, objectivity, power and war. This set of binary oppositions has normative implications: a man's "place" ought to be in the public sphere, associated with politics, reason, justice, objectivity, power and war. If for some reason a man defines his identity more closely in terms of the right-hand side of each construct, then his evaluations of his "maleness" will come under scrutiny, On the other hand a "female" identity is most closely associated with the right-hand side of each construct; the private space of the domestic setting. If a woman wants to succeed in the public sphere, then according to the same logic she must become more like a "man" by emphasizing attributes which are associated with the "male" domain. For example both Keller (1992) and Harding (1986) suggest that one major reason that life is difficult for female scientists is because science is associated with "male" values, nature with "female" values. These authors argue that such oppositions also embody power differentials; "male" characteristics are not only more highly prized within Western society, they dominate the value system.
Society is male
Why does war exist in the world? Contemporary accounts are almost overwhelmingly neo-Darwinist, placing competition at the heart of nature and of the human enterprise. Competition ranges from the molecular to the gigantic: the survival of the gene pool is regarded as the primary goal for all human endeavour; genes "compete", animals "compete", humans "compete", machines "compete", economies "compete". Within such a scheme altruism is a sacrifice in the best interests of the gene pool.
Science is "male"
War is both pervasive and naturalized according to the above account. Yet a growing body of evidence provides a different basis for our understanding. According to this research, it is not so much that the world is itself made up of such categories; rather such descriptions of the world have been fashioned in the image of those who uttered them; men. For example against the notion that warfare is "natural" Fromm (1974) cites a large body of evidence which suggests that war is a product not of some primitive "natural" force, but of social organization, society and "civilization". Crook (1994) disputes the notion that nature is warlike, suggesting that biologists consistently undervalue the "peace" biology that stemmed from Darwin's holistic ecology. In Secrets of Life; Secrets of Death, Keller (1992) showed that anything but value-neutral language was employed by the biologists Watson and Crick whose "calculated assault on the secret of life.... tore the veil" of nature and laid bare the secret of DNA. In a chapter on the development of the "A" bomb she suggests that war becomes a means for men to seek to appropriate the "female" preserve of creation. While the above is a gross simplification of a rather sophisticated argument, at base level I think that Keller is saying that one of the major ways in which men can be creative is by being destructive.
"Love is war" and other interesting entailments
From the above, war is defined as forming part of the "male" principle. The enormity of war is such that it can embrace and subsume other topics with little reciprocal effect. When read within a war context, the meaning of many "peaceful" terms may be twisted or almost reversed. In fact "peace" itself may be considered to provide the means for a breathing space for re-armament or as "diplomacy" -- war by other means. It is perfectly in order to state the term "love is war":
He is known for his many rapid conquests.
She fought for him but his mistress won out.
He fled from her advances. She pursued him
relentlessly. He is slowly gaining ground
with her. He won her hand in marriage. He
overpowered her. She is besieged by suitors.
He has had to fend them off, etc.
(Lakoff and Johnson, 1980, p. 49)
While everyday utterances like the above ("all's fair in love and war", etc.) may be read as linguistic trinkets (usually by those in power), it is in my view more apt to consider these as elements of a discourse or links in a chain of signification which people use as the basis for interpretation and action in the world. Such accounts in turn flow into more generalized discourse which relates to social action. Thus a chain of signification, which attempts to "naturalize" gender discrimination, might start from the unspoken assumptions that war is male and that males are active and females passive, to span the chasm between the biological and cultural. Such a chain might include terms such as "war is natural" (nature is red in tooth and claw); therefore competition is "natural"; competition for women is natural; monogamy (for women) is "natural", monogamy (for men) is not "natural". This may be read into other aspects of the "love is war" metaphor:
The intention is not to suggest that war is the only other metaphor which can be brought to bear in explaining love, but rather that it is one of the most powerful metaphors. For example one can also explain "love" in terms of being a physical force, a patient, madness (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980, p. 49).
If the logic of the binary opposition is correct then it should follow from the assumption that war is "male" that females should be either excluded or marginalized from war. That is, despite the fact that many real women have played important roles in a number of real wars, it should be difficult to find cultural indicators or icons for the notion of "women as warriors". On the other hand one should find many examples of a male celebration of the "ideals" of war. It is certainly not hard to find evidence for the latter point. For example the renowned social theorist William James (1910) associates war with altruism and celebrates what others would denigrate. He conceived of war as the essence of the male spirit, capable of being an end in itself because it meant forfeiting the supreme self-interest, life itself:
War has so much to offer -- charm, speed,
thrills, sense of tragedy. Pacifist talk of war's
horror and expense misses the point that
this is precisely what makes it worthwhile.
James pours "manly" scorn on those who would think otherwise:
"horrors" are a cheap price to pay for rescue
from the only alternative supposed, of a war
of clerks and teachers, of co-education and
zoophily, of "consumers leagues" and "associated
charities", of industrialism unlimited
and feminism unabashed. No scorn, no
hardness, no valour any more. Fie upon
such a cattleyard of a planet.
(James, 1910, p. 8)
One does not need to read too deeply between the lines to detect a horror of "sameness" of "in-difference" of being the "last man". Yet like those who influenced him, James would no doubt have been horrified to have witnessed the scenes at the end of the lines where the cattletrucks of Europe dumped their human cargo. To James there was little distinction between periods of war and nonwar. Rather than being two opposites, they described the gap between the explicit and the implicit mode of violent conflict. In the implicit mode, we have wars of words, economic wars, many forms of competition. Within such a context, peace becomes a synonym for "war expected".
Yet there is something troubling about war. In war there is a doubling back, a rebounding of meaning. Pick (1993, p. 3) says that "war raises troubling questions of sexuality and gender, even "though at the same time, war is said to resolve them". Within war discourse the nation is often gendered as female, yet war is almost exclusively constituted as a boys' game. War is often blamed on women. Yet as Pick (1993) notes, it disturbingly produces "feminine" hysteria in men. War allows men to enter the realm of the female; to be feminine without sanction.
War: women on the outside
Apart from one or two exceptions there are few cultural icons available for women at war and still fewer "positive" ones. Within English culture, Margaret Thatcher reputedly pays homage to Elizabeth I and Boadicea. However, in general, where women have been allotted a role to play in war stories, their part has been erased, or written down or they have been portrayed as playing a treacherous and subversive role. This is true even in the older texts. Pateman (1992) suggests that the belief in the essential subversiveness of women is "of extremely ancient origin" but goes on to argue that the notion of the "disorder of women" is particularly acute in the modern state:
Women, it is held, are a source of disorder
because their being, or their nature, is such
that it necessarily leads them to exert a
disruptive influence in social and political
life. Women have a disorder at their very
centres -- in their morality, which can bring
about the destruction of the state. Women
thus exemplify one of the ways in which
nature and society stand opposed to one
another (Pateman, 1992, p. 109).
The role of the woman as a Mata Hari, a seductress or schemer ensures that they are positioned at the margins of war. This role model has been available at least from the time of Rehab the Harlot (who was one of Joshua's spies). More recently the roles of "Fraulein Doktor", "Tokyo Rose" and "Salon Kitty" have enlivened the myth. Where women do take up arms to fight, the lesson seems to be that they will end on the margins of society. Evans (1995) cites the case of the "bandit queen" Phoolan Devi, forced on to the margins of a "civil society" which enslaved and mistreated her.
The invisible woman
The record of "left wing" movements does not afford them much cause for celebration. The women of Muslim Central Asia spied for the Bolsheviks in the 1920s and aided their invasion in order to improve their lot. When the Bolsheviks occupied the land, local men joined the party and the women remained marginalized. Evans (1995) also cites the bandit gangs of women in nineteenth-century China who were forced to the margins of a society which advocated footbinding and other cruelties. She also describes the "invisibility" of women in socialist movements fighting the "class war":
It also tells of those who fought for socialism
in the 1960s Left in the US, Germany and the
UK; women who denounced their male
comrades preaching liberation for all the
peoples of the world, except women.
(Evans, 1995, p. 1).
This idea that the dominant term is in some important respect blind to the existence of the subordinate term can even be found in women's relation to their own gender. Thus Hogeland (1996) notes how in the 1960s and 1970s white middle-class feminists made common cause with black men and largely ignored the plight of black women -- a point which has since been made by black writers such as bell hooks (1992).
The role of women in exchange
The central themes discussed above: the marginalization of women; the lack of recognition of women's work and "female" values; finally the appropriation of "female" categories by the "male" are also features of the literature on the role of women in exchange. According to the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, women have played a central role in exchange; not as parties to the exchange but rather as that which is exchanged (Game, 1991). Thus the exchange of women between groups of men literally marks the transition between "nature" and "culture". The exchange of women thus furthered the interests of those men who possessed them; it also played a role in securing alliances between previously warring groups and thus acted as a force for social cohesion. Irigary (1985) has developed this idea that ultimately all systems of production and exchange (of women, signs and commodities) in patriarchal societies are built around the ultimate satisfaction of male desire. She suggests that while society purports to be heterosexual, in practice it is characterized by hom(m)osexuality which is prohibited in practice and played out through the bodies of women. To Irigary heterosexuality is an alibi for the "smooth workings of man's relations with himself, of relations among men" (Irigary, 1985, p. 172)
Irigary (1985) provides a flavour of how one can feel split in contemporary society, incorporated, yet somehow beyond incorporation:
According to this, women are effectively
totally lost "outside of themselves", and they
never know what they themselves want
because they submit, through the fear of
being left on the shelf, to the existing order.
What makes them "passive" traps them in
the roles described by "femininity", in
which their desire loses itself -- which does
not mean that they have none (p. 71).
Women and consumption: the role of marketing
The division between producer and consumer that was effected following the industrial revolution resulted in men becoming "producers", with women being relegated to the privatized world of consumption which was considered to be "valueless, a profane and banal act" (Firat, 1994, p. 213). Firat (1994) does a good job in describing the paradoxical role of the consumer, identified with the feminine, which in turn was attached to cultural meanings of "being the object of male desire, to be owned and kept at home, to be adorned, embellished and surrounded with other consumables" (Firat, 1994, p. 214). Ultimately the woman as consumer was also consumed and re-packaged to represent the badge value of her owner. Yet the sphere of production needed a thriving consumer market if it was to expand. According to Ewen (1976) advertising emerged to ensure that a ready market existed for the fruits of production. It soon came to be that the agents of production (marketers) began to seek actively to organize the "private" space of the home. Women became subjected to an ever increasing barrage of advertisements and features in "women's magazines" which appealed to guilt, or to perceptions of the ideal housewife in offering "personal" products, products for the home and the latest "labour-saving" devices.
In an exhaustive treatment of signification in advertising Goffman (1976) has shown how advertising perpetuates rituals which emphasize male dominance and the subordination of women. Similar findings were reported by Notarantonio and Quigley (1992) who conducted a survey of ads in the USA, Mexico, Japan and Australia. This report found that, while subordinization of women is found universally, there are differences between countries, with women featuring more in executive roles in US advertising. However, the "war" against women perhaps found its most vulnerable target in the female body. On the one hand consumers are urged to further heroic feats with the hedonist prayer to consumption -- "enjoy", "you only live once", shout a range of products from "naughty but nice" cream buns, to battered Mars bars. On the other hand fashion designers, magazine editors and advertisers have for many years offered up media images of women which are modelled on machines: slim, hard, slick, well-oiled (Ewen, 1988; Fay and Price, 1994). The legacy of this fixation with the discipline of the body may be found in the slimming programmes, gyms, aerobics classes, therapeutic regimes, treatment centres and hospitals of the Western world. As Bartky (1993, p. 105) notes it is scarcely surprising that there are problems with anorexia nervosa and bulimia; "since the innocent need of the organism for food will not be denied, the body becomes one's enemy, an alien being bent on thwarting the disciplinary project".
The previous section briefly mentioned the role of advertising, one of several interfaces between marketing and consumers, in furthering the aims of production. It is also interesting to note how radical critics of advertising paint it in feminine colours, as a means of seducing the poor old passive consumer (c.f. Ewen, 1976, 1988). However, there are several rhetorics of warfare in relation to marketing. One form would suggest that warfare (competition) is good in itself. Thus there are those liberal free-marketers who draw their inspiration ultimately from the writings of Smith and neo-liberals such as Friedman and Friedman (1979). Friedman argues vehemently against the "tyranny of controls", which in his view build the barriers which ultimately lead to monopoly. It is not hard to find this view expressed in marketing warfare books. For example a commitment to free choice and an abhorrence of bureaucracy flow through Tony O'Reilly's introduction to Davidson's (1972) Offensive Marketing. Arthur (1972) agrees, arguing that the regulatory system of the time (pre-Reagan) was "out of whack" because of regulatory interference. Within this view, competition (war) is thought to be essential to the maintenance of a "healthy" market system. However, despite such rhetoric it is clear that these authors recognize that there are only a few big "players" in any one marketplace (Tony O'Reilly's numbered among these) and that the war is essentially carried out between these strategic actors.
Strategic discourse is perhaps the most visible aspect of marketing warfare. The (comparatively recent) emergence of corporate strategy celebrates "male" values of individuality and instrumental rationality (c.f. Simon, 1957; von Neuman and Morgenstern, 1953). The US military establishment played a vital role in the diffusion of this discourse, which today appears as a taken for granted part of everyday organizational life. This is particularly apparent in the close collaboration between a number of academics and the US Air-Force R&D facility (RAND). Strategic discourse can be a powerful feature of the day-to-day sense making and identity creation of the individual "male" manager. According to Knights and Morgan (1991) strategic discourse has a number of power effects which may be used by the knowledgeable manager:
* It provides a rationalization for managers of their successes and failures.
* It sustains and enhances the prerogatives of management and negates alternative perspectives on organizations.
* It generates a sense of personal and organizational security for managers.
* It reflects sustains a strong sense of gendered masculinity for male managers.
* It demonstrates managerial rationality to colleagues, customers, competitors and significant others in the environment.
* It facilitates and legitimizes the exercise of power.
* It constitutes the subjectivity of organizational members.
The usefulness of the war analogy to male managers is echoed by Garsombke (1988). She suggests that war provides the strategic language which structures almost all managerial discourse; it builds systematic thinking, a "tight ship" mentality, a positive outlook, discipline, solidarity and endurance among the troops. Thus war provides a sense of identity and meaning to managers which helps them feel secure in a world which is uncertain and perceived to be filled with threat. One could also add that it creates the excitement to motivate people who might otherwise feel that they were working in otherwise dead-end or inconsequential roles. The more specifically "warfare"-related literature in strategic discourse singles out the (elimination of the effectiveness of) competition as the major strategic goal. To me the more "gungho" and "up an' at 'em" articles and books on marketing warfare (Davidson, 1972; Ries and Trout, 1981, 1986) convey more about the excitement of war than some of those which purport to offer a more serious treatment (Duro and Sandstom, 1988; Michaelson, 1987). It is hardly surprising that other authors suggest that corporate strategy discourse in general and the marketing warfare discourse in particular are predominantly androcentric.
Garsombke (1988) suggests that the "downside" to militarism is serious: the fostering of a "win-lose" dichotomy; absence of creativity; authoritarianism; violent orientation and devaluation of human life. Some aspects of corporate strategy have been criticized by scholars as being androcentric. Mumby and Putnam (1993, pp. 16-17) have attacked Herb Simon's concept of bounded rationality, arguing that it is based on the dominance of the masculine over the feminine, which is marginalized in organizational discourse. They argue that in particular the emphasis on rationality devalues, marginalizes and appropriates the "feminine" realm of emotionality, privileging instrumental reasoning over feminine experiential knowing and privileging individualism over collective endeavour. By emphasizing cognition over affect, they argue that bounded rationality instantiates a mind/body dualism which effectively defines mental processes as positive while emotional and physical phenomena are marginalized. As a result the emotional is co-opted in an alienated form as emotional labour. Emotional management or "control of the heart" occurs through treating feelings as commodities. In place of bounded rationality they offer the concept of bounded emotionality as a means for creating the space for a new approach to strategy.
One can argue that not only the marketing warfare approach, but also the wider scientific study of marketing have acted to perpetuate patriarchy. Taking marketing warfare first, it is clear that, as the mind of the consumer forms the territory on which the battle is waged, this must be penetrated and possessed (Ries and Trout, 1986). It is scarcely surprising to note that mainstream marketing studies almost overwhelmingly have taken the part of the producer in their formulation of the "proper" scope of the discipline (Kotler, 1972; Lutz, 1979; Tucker, 1974). For example Kotler (1972) suggests that consumers should only be treated as marketers in the rare event that they are actively seeking exchanges. Consumption is rendered as a passive activity. Underlying this is the notion of consumption as a passive sphere of human activity.
New marketings: relationship marketing and postmodern marketing
One can also detect a growing body of criticism of the traditional marketing warfare approach within marketing itself. Rosenberg and Van West (1984) criticized the Western view of marketing warfare as excessive in that it pays excessive attention to the competition and not enough to the marketing concept which is concerned with satisfying customer needs. They advanced their concept of a collaborative approach to marketing based on their reading of the Japanese approach to war. Throughout the 1970s the IMP tradition was gathering force so that by the mid-1980s notions of networks, alliances, service cultures and internal marketing had exploded into full-blown relationship marketing, the development of a "win-win" approach (Gronroos, 1989, 1994; Gummesson, 1993). Relationship marketers focus on building, enhancing (and terminating where necessary) stable relationships between exchange partners by means of mutual exchange and the fulfilment of promises.
I propose to focus on the account developed by Christian Gronroos (1996). Could relationship marketing be a means of moving marketing away from "male" constructs and towards the "feminine"? In this article, Gronroos criticizes conventional marketing because of its "production" orientation. He argues that the discipline's focus on the "4 Ps" approach has led to it being colonized by specialists. As a result of this marketing has become alien-rated both from other activities of the firm and from its customer base. Gronroos goes on to suggest that developments in contemporary theories of marketing (IMP, marketing of services and customer relationship economics) have led to the resolution of such contradictions. This involves the dynamic process of moving out of the "strait-jacket" of the "clinical", "transactions based", "mass-market", "4 Ps" approach towards the more fluid and dynamic concept of relationship marketing. Gronroos' story is then the story of the shift from one set of principles to another (and better) set of principles for the marketing discipline. The binary oppositions used in this article are interesting in the light of my previous discussion of male/female relationships. In Gronroos' article relationship marketing is described as being concerned with "nearness, people, holistic, process, dynamic, collective", all attributes that one would usually classify as "feminine" constructs. By contrast traditional "4Ps" marketing is depicted as representing "far, numbers, specialists, variables, static, isolated, individual", terms usually associated with "male" cultural descriptors.
One could therefore argue that relationship marketing is part of a movement towards a feminization of marketing. But might one not just as easily claim that this represents part of a wider movement or change in the nature of warfare? One does not need to look far in order to locate relationship marketing within a more general movement of change. In two books, Toffier (1980) and Toffier and Toffier (1993) have described the onset of a new "wave" of change; one that is propelling society from a form of organization based on the machine age, to one which is based on the organization of knowledge. In their latter book, the Toffiers talk of the change in the nature of warfare as it is transformed by the move towards a knowledge-based society. Put rather crudely, this involves a shift in the definition of war away from industrial warfare, with its mass graves and efficient killing machines, to the development of anti-war devices, from smart weapons to non-lethal weaponry. The new warfare is primarily about the manipulation of the flow of intelligence and information to know all one can about an adversary while keeping the adversary from knowing much about oneself; about building the connectivity of a seamless global network marked by "plug-in, plug-out" alliances; of the development of psychological operations to influence the emotions, objectives and reasoning behaviour of adversaries; about widening the notion of "conflict" to include disasters, relief, peace-keeping and anti-drugs enforcement; finally the development of new kinds of war such as cyberwar (computer viruses; radar knockout; spoofing equipment). It is not difficult to detect the drift towards this new form of warfare; take for example the current debate on the need to re-define the role of the UN as an enforcer of peace.
In my view there are several clear parallels between relationship marketing and "third wave" war. First, there is the notion that marketing and war have a centre. The notion that marketing is transforming itself from a "4Ps" orientation to a "relationship marketing" orientation makes the assumption that the discipline is unitary and not fragmented into a number of schools of thought. But what about "green" marketing or "macro" marketing or "activist" marketing or for that matter "postmodern" marketing? Are they suddenly to be willed out of existence by relationship marketing? I think not; certainly no more than that the new world order will be totally dominated by the USA (as the late General Aideed demonstrated in Somalia). Marketing is not a category unique to itself; it forms a number of discourses which relate to the subjects of exchange and consumption. Relationship marketing can be seen as an attempt by a minority to legislate for all marketers; it tries to fix the essential diversity of the subject. The other parallel which I would like to draw between relationship marketing and the new form of warfare is the technology which underpins both. Gronroos is strangely silent about this. Surely with respect to consumer markets at least, it is the technology that is so vitally important in being able to simulate the idea of a "relationship" in the first place.
Where would "relationship marketing" be without smart cards, barcodes, scanners, computer networks, relational databases and all the rest of the paraphernalia that are necessary to try to persuade me the consumer that there is in fact a one-on-one relationship? In my view one could just as well describe relationship marketing as a further invasion of the private space of the self. For example "loyalty cards" can be read not as the fair exchange of "promises" between consumer and producer but a form of appropriation of a part of the consumer's life experience and an extension of the panopticon into hitherto private space; an invisible record of every transaction, recording "deviant" as well as "normal" transactions. Thus, while it might certainly be argued that relationship marketing is a new departure for marketing (by means of a focus-on "win/win" situations), it could also be argued that it is an agent of production and will be the scene of a further appropriation of the private space of the consumer by marketing technology.
The flight to postmodernism
For some feminists the "feminization" of marketing is not in itself something to celebrate. They would suggest that all this represents is the overturning of one pole of the binary opposition by the other: the values of the slave now become those of the master. Where, they argue, is the worth in that? By celebrating the "female" side of the binary relation, critics suggest that they do no more than reinforce existing stereotypes. These are the issues taken up by Firat (1994). In this article, Firat describes the contradictory positioning of the consumer within binary schemes. However, as the result of a growing fragmentation of the social, he notes that several fissures are showing in what were previously regarded as stable forms of organization. While stopping short of saying that gender categories are lost or that significations of sex and gender are completely changed, nevertheless he claims that the blurring of sex/gender categories is evidenced by a number of developments. For example he cites the decline in the prestige of the production ethic and the rising influence of consumption as a symbolic marker of identity
Second, his claim that males are now also frequently becoming "victims" of advertising at the same time as strong feminine identities are being advanced has some support from the popular marketing press (see Bate, 1993). Firat does not make the claim that all media images of women are now positive; for some the gender categories still represent a dualistic and oppositional quality. However, despite this, he suggests that in the resulting confusion there is a greater opportunity for individuals to assign their own meanings and thereby desconstruct, reconstruct and play with the images in the formation of their own gender identities.
As evidence of the blurring of sex/gender identities, Firat (1994, p. 217) claims that we are now witnessing men and women experiencing "masculine" and "feminine" moments at different points in their lives. The propensity to recognize difference rather than superiority/inferiority is becoming more the norm and is reflected in the growing social acceptability of gay, lesbian and androgynous identities. As the need to fix the self breaks down, so Firat (1994, p. 223) argues that the need to define the self in terms of gender will also break down:
As crossing gender boundaries and playfully
integrating elements from gendered
categories to (re)create or (re)produce exciting,
marketable self-images become increasingly
acceptable in a postmodern culture of
fragmentation, consumers will increasingly
employ different guides in (re)producing
However, before becoming transported to the heady heights of postmodernism there is a need to consider Firat's (1994) (originally Michel Foucault's (1979)) aspiration that all labels might disappear; especially those labels associated with sex and gender identities. Our only currently existing examples of "communities" where such multiple identities can be constructed are in the "virtual communities"; the MOOs and MUDs of the "Net". Pavel Curtis (1992, p. 3) (designer of the famous "LambdaMOO", describes how the choice of a gender orientation by one player can generate the greatest concern and interest among other players". The range of available identities is diverse:
Players can choose to appear as a different
gender, though, and not only male or female.
On many MUDs, players can also choose to be plural (appearing to be a king of "colony"
creature) or to use one of several sets of
gender-neutral pronouns (e.g. s/he, him/her
or "e.... em" and "eir").
The above offers the promise of a glorious mish mash of identity where difference could be truly celebrated (invoking Brown's (1995) urge to "positive" postmodernism). However, the reality has proved to be different. Curtis (1992, p. 6)talks of many reports of female-presenting players reporting "sexual harassment". A more serious account concerns the first instance of "cyber-rape" reported on LambdaMOO in 1994 and the emergence of a bout of "flaming" leading to a profound sense of disappointment and loss. That all is not rosy in cyberspace is borne out by work on MOO terror involving PMCMOO (see Whitlock, 1994). The link with war should not surprise us as the Internet is an offshoot of military communications. The "Web" is still largely populated by male "nerds" and there are very few women among those "wizards" who design and regulate MOOs. While recognizing that it is too early to judge such developments which at present form the playground for a tiny elite, nonetheless there is something depressingly familiar in the pattern of these early episodes. With respect to Foucault's reading of power, I tend to agree with MacCannell and MacCannell (1990) that it underplays the role of violence in the maintenance of power relations which still tend to be framed in terms of binary oppositions rather than plural relations. Some might suggest that other developments on the Internet, such as Usenet talkgroups and a growing plethora of "feminist" and "post-feminist" Web-sites (such as "girls on the Web", "Net chicks" and "tank girl") are creating new opportunities for women. While new opportunities are being created, one should also note that this is within the context of many other sites which are devoted to "men's" issues, some of which are openly misogynist. I share Yervasi's (1996) sense of irony in noting "post-feminist" efforts to redress imbalances of power which shouldn't exist in a "post-feminist" world.
What of the world outside the Internet? Certainly men may now go shopping more often, but when they do they also "shop" for women, bell hooks recounts the following conversation between some white male "jocks" which she overheard while working at Harvard:
Seemingly unaware of my presence, these
young men talked of their plans to fuck as
many girls from other racial/ethnic groups
as they could "catch" before graduation.
They "ran" it down. Black girls were high on
the list. Native American girls hard to find,
Asian girls (all lumped into the same category)
deemed easier to entice, were considered
to be "prime targets". I found that it
was commonly accepted that one "shopped"
for partners in the same way one "shopped"
for courses at Yale, and that race and ethnicity
was a serious category on which selections
were based (hooks, 1992, p. 23).
While recognizing that, even given the above example, postmodern pluralism opens up a space for a new form of relation with the other, Jordan and Weedon (1995) ask whether the postmodern fascination with the other marks a real change in signalling the end of binary codes. Their answer is "Don't hold your breath".
While welcoming the chaotic, plural opportunities offered by postmodern theories one must wonder at the potential consequences of this approach. One thing which I am concerned about is the postmodern reaction to questions of warfare. In Postmodern Consumer Research, Hirschman and Holbrook (1992) reflect mournfully on the "internecine hostility" which is characteristic of the social sciences as a whole and consumer behaviour research in particular. They argue that the warfare between consumer researchers resembles a guerilla warfare:
In this the conflict recalls Vietnam more
than World War II. It threatens to sap the
strength of its participants without offering
any possibility of victory. It proclaims only
waste with no chance of success for the self-proclaimed
righteous on various sides of the
As a result they make a plea for consumer researchers to:
be gentle with the text and to be gentle with
each other. Do not reject another
researcher's work merely because it stems
from an epistemology at variance with your
own (p. 112).
While not wishing to be pedantic, one might suggest that there was a victor of the Vietnam war, even if only in the narrow military sense of the word. The myopia of the authors is perhaps justified given that the side that mattered most to them lost. The sentiments of the authors are laudable. However, they admit that they have no idea of how to bring this war to an end saying that "none of us can resolve what we fail to understand".
Not all postmodernists are so reticient. In Postmodern Marketing, Stephen Brown (1995) sails out with all colours flying to attack "traditional, died-in-the-wool marketing academics and practitioners, especially the Kotler uber alles militant tendency" whose point of view, he argues, is "seriously misplaced".
In this text, Brown skilfully deploys "postmodern" devices; a stab to the throat here, a dash of irony there, even some finely tuned contradictions to ensure that the reader recognizes that the author is as fragmented as the best of us. By turn he savages then resuscitates (although not totally) his victims (who include himself). Brown's (1995, p. 48) approach to warfare in the marketing academy is not quite so schmaltzy as that of Hirschman and Holbrook (1992). In describing "paradigm" wars between "positivists" and "interpretivists", he refers to the "unedifying" sight of marketing academics engaging "in a potentially ruinous civil war" and then (in brackets); "though let's be honest, most of us secretly revel in their amusing attempts to maintain a modicum of academic decorum while slugging it out".
Reading Brown, one gets the feeling that the "postmodernist" can have it all ways: he can have his cake and eat it; like an Olympian he can dismiss the struggles of mere mortals with an ironic smile and a pithy comment. These subtle charms when combined with others: the dispensation with "grand narrative", the emphases on fluidity and plurality and on the refashioning of value, have proved irresistible to some feminists. Yet other feminists are suspicious of the new postmodern Utopia. Harstock (1990) asks why has such a cognitive relativist worldview come about at exactly the same time when "the previously silenced had begun to speak for themselves"? She suggests that at a time of inequality, relativism tends to support the status quo. In other words, to put it bluntly, postmodernism is okay so long as you are a WASP. Other papers in this issue make the point that stable binary relations in marketing are largely intact (Prothero and MacDonagh, 1997). Wilson (1996) notes that in the "sister" discipline of organization behaviour, there has been sparse recognition of gender issues. One might suggest that the heady rush to postmodernism masks the persistence of gross inequities which are organized in terms of binary relations. Take for example the nexus of power relations between the wealthy countries of the North which largely depend on the production and marketing of arms to the impoverished South for their continuing prosperity. Or what of the radical divisions between those who are included and those who have been pushed to the fringes of Northern societies? These are not plural relations, they are power relations.
Finally while one cannot but admire Brown's pathbreaking work in seeking to make postmodernism more accessible to a marketing audience, the downside to this is the currently dismal trend whereby the fluidity, plurality and possibilities for transvaluation offered by various "postmodern" perspectives, their very life-blood, become incorporated, regularized, stultified as just another way of "doing" marketing.
Endnote: nothin' but the same ol' story?
The question posed at the beginning of this paper was "Are we witnessing the feminization of marketing?" The answer to this is a qualified "no". First there is little evidence of the existence of a "nomad" war-machine, which is fluid, mobile and beyond the regulation of the binary regulation of the State. For example the neo-tribes, those protest groups which exist at the fringes of society (e.g. road protesters), constitute the border of society rather than its transformation. In a sense these are parasitic cultures (Eco, 1994) in that their members depend on the goodwill of the society which they purport to rebel against for their own survival. This is also the case for those "radical" academics who play a useful role in marking the boundaries of the discipline and whose struggle with the "mainstream" fuels its "progress" via a process of radical critique-assimilation-appropriation. Yet, while the academic subject is always forced into a position, into the "adoption" of a standpoint, this can never be so for the academic person; the standpoint which "I" take can never be truly "my" standpoint.
This may explain the paradox of incorporation/isolation which seems to be a feature of the discourse of many of those who currently feel themselves to be on the margins (c.f. Evans, 1995; Irigary, 1985). Second, there is evidence that "institutional" warfare is itself taking on the guise of the nomad warmachine in the new focus on speed, stealth, fluidity and mobility.
The history of war and of weaponry can be said to be Lamarkian in that over aeons "mankind" has learned to extend himself by a whole range of prosthetic devices; "the evolution of weapons begins with teeth and ends with the `A' bomb" (McLuhan and McLuhan, 1988, pp. 94-5). This sedimented social space forms what McLuhan and Fiore (1972) call environment. For as many generations as we might care to think, this environment and our approach to the "natural environment" has been shaped by men, via their colonization of the sphere of public discourse. Such is the sedimentation of this environment that many people tacitly, if not explicitly, believe that this is the natural order of things. There is no doubt that the flight to "postmodern" ways of thinking or the "third wave" (depending on your preference) are part of a re-definition of what environment means and our relations to it. There is a growing feeling that we need to respond to environment as a singularity and not as something which is to be objectified, split and reassembled for it to make sense to us. Yet those who are supposedly at the forefront of the attempt to rethink our relation to environment are paradoxically those who are most steeped in existing norms, rules and modes of specialism. At such a time, as McLuhan and Fiore (1972) and Deleuze and Guattari (1988) suggest, the most valuable individual is the amateur, the "ambulant" scientist; one who is unconstrained by the regulating and incorporating modes of society. And so there may be a sense in which those who live on the fringes of social organization; the "parasitic" tribes; the amateur speculators, the nomads may prove to be in the vanguard of our attempt to think beyond binary systems, beyond notions of "us and them", of "centre" and "margin". This project would involve a wholesale revision of our approach to language, identity, culture and war and in my view might then be part of a process towards neither a "masculine" nor a "feminine" relation to knowledge, science or marketing, but rather a transformation of those very categories.
(1) The reader should note that this figure is intended to be indicative, not exhaustive. There are several major areas of omission for example there is no depiction of the relation of rational/instrumental warfare to the machine and further lines of signification to the military industrial complex, the cyborg and the oppositional notion of the "warmachine" mentioned by Deleuze and Guattari (1988).
(2) For a more rigorous application of metonymy see Verosub (1994) who applies metonymy to uses of the colour red.
(3) Source: OECI Report, p. 15.
(4) Source: "From war to peace: history of past conversions", OECI Clearinghouse, http://netsite.esa.doc.gov/occi/2282.html
(5) For example according to Costello (1985) by 1941, 80 per cent of all single women aged between 14-49 and 41 per cent of wives and 14 per cent of all mothers with children less than 14 years old were at work or in uniform.
(6) The notion of the binary opposition may be traced to the work of the semiologist Ferdinand de Saussure. Subsequently it was developed by the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss as a major component of "structuralist" accounts of anthropology.
(7) For those who think that this is mere fiction, consider the notion (widely held at least from the Middle Ages onwards in England) that the desire of the unmarried man constituted such an irrepressible force that it had to be accommodated with the least social harm possible -- which involved the tolerance of brothels by Church and State. During the Middle Ages, women were also seen as lustful but were expected to "struggle heroically" over this. Karras (1996) suggests that the primary reason for the tolerance of prostitution was that married men regarded unmarried men as posing a threat to their property (their wives). This led to a double-standard. An unmarried man could visit a whore but an unmarried woman who had sex became a whore.
(8) This is borne out by my own limited reading of Irish mythology. For example in Irish mythology, prior to the coming of the Gael, the Morrigu, the Great Queen, the Crow of Battle, lived at Tara. In Cuchulain's time she was always meddling in Ireland, stirring up wars and quarrels, a weaver of spells and enchantment. Likewise Aine had a stone and if anyone sat on that stone, they would lose their wits. Or take Lugh who asks two witches what they can bring to battle and they suggest that they will enchant the enemy,
(9) At the time of writing (1992), LambdaMOO had 3,500 members.
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Thanks to Andy Prothero and Pierre McDonagh for their comments, and Miriam, Pauline and Lorna for their patience. This is dedicated to my "dancing partner".
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|Publication:||Marketing Intelligence & Planning|
|Date:||Jun 1, 1997|
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