NEW PAPER: The construction of marketing measures

This paper reveals the fundamental lie of contemporary marketing – particularly marketing analytics and digital marketing. The data they analyse are stupid!

It details how marketers ignored this fact until powerful actors (primarily Google) realised they could make more money selling their products if marketers were convinced to care about a new type of data.

They called it viewability. It was meant to represent that an advert has been viewed by a consumer. But guess what? It doesn’t measure this at all.

The paper explores how and why marketers can be so stupid!


A manifesto for a business school with a purpose

When I started my PhD, the academics at Leicester published a great book call Manifestos for the Business School of Tomorrow. It is a maddening and brilliant read that seems largely forgotten now. Aside from some inspirational ideas (like a rotation matrix curriculum) it represents a hope that business education could be different and it could be good. We don’t need to “Shut down the Business School” as one of the authors of the Manifestos now argues. We need to improve it.

Here’s an image of a business school I’ve been thinking about. I call it the business school with a purpose. It is designed around two driving principles: 1. The world needs good administrators (leaders, managers, marketers, accountants whatever) not morons who have learnt a few textbooks; 2. A school should improve its students – posh boys already have Oxbridge.

Who comes in?

The business school with a purpose believes that where you come from is important. It shapes your life chances positively and negative. The business school with a purpose wants to take those who have negative chances and give them a leg up. We will focus out efforts on targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds. All applicants will be interviewed and must complete aptitude and reflective tests. We will ignore A-Level results.

How many students come in?

The business school with a purpose will have strict limits on academic and administrative staff-student ratios. It won’t look to grow, just improve. This means taking seemingly “worse” students each year and improving their academic performance and life chances. As long as we break-even, that’s good enough. Universities can find another way to pay for their medical schools and new buildings.

What do we teach?

The business school with a purpose accepts that students need to know things. It’s no good turning up for a job at a bank blabbing about Derrida if you don’t know the difference between net and gross profit. But the business school with a purpose believes, equally, that there’s no point turning up for a job at a bank just blabbing on about net profit if you don’t know who Derrida is. That’s what Warwick Business School is for.  Students must empathise with, care for and be inspired by the world around them. As well as teaching core business disciplines (economics, administration, marketing, accounting, finance) all students will take classes on art, culture, cuisine, history, philosophy, lierature and sociology.

How do we teach?

Homemade pizza is just better – as long as you know how to make pizza properly. The business school with a purpose believes that academic staff need to show students how to think. These means students need to see staff think. Modern pedagogy like “flipped classrooms” are poor substitutes for this. Lectures, seminars, tutorials and discussion groups are best.

The business school with a purpose is suspicious of educational technology. Any tools and techniques we teach will be open to all. We will not pay for licensed software. We will not teach proprietary software.

The book is not dead. The business school of tomorrow will be demand that students read, listen, debate and write – all the time. A student that isn’t studying isn’t a student.  Attendance will be strictly monitored. Laggards will be kicked out.

The business school with a purpose is an open organisation, we will welcome outsiders to speak to our students from business, activism, art and civil society. In addition to their studies, all students will be required to engage in volunteer work for an organisation of their choice throughout their studies.


The business school with a purpose has no interest in accreditation, student satisfaction surveys nor rankings. When you know you are the best, you don’t need to worry about keeping score. But we will monitor the life courses of our students. If students pay us tuition, we need to help them pay it. The business school with a purpose will only be successful when every graduate walks into the job they want at the end of their studies.


The business school with a purpose believes in the power of good coffee. Starbucks, Nespresso machines are not good coffee. Good coffee is made by the person who is going to drink it with a kettle and a spoon.

Psychoanalysis as a Marketing Theory

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but here’s some free knowledge. I have just published as Virtual Special Issue of Marketing Theory on Psychoanalysis as a Marketing Theory. In it, I argue that psychoanalysis is essential to marketing practice and research and offer an overview of current research in the area. READ IT.


The critical academic attitude behaviour gap

Every consumer researcher (which sadly I have to be from time to time) encounters the “attitude-behaviour gap”. That is, we observe that the things people say they value are rarely reflected consistently in their behaviour. Think about it, you probably care about the environment, but do you really do EVERYTHING you can. Do you recycle everything? Of course not.

Critically-minded academics in a business school face similar dilemmas. It would be perfect if we could align our research, teaching, administration and personal values and behaviour outside of the academic but this seems very difficult. In terms of research, it is incredibly difficult to build a career in a business school engaging purely in critical theory, political economics or philosophy. In terms of teaching, we have an obligation to educate students in the foundations of business disciplines – even if we critique those foundations in our research. As administrators, we might want to help shape our institution but, in the process, become the managers we readily critique in our research and teaching.

And then there’s life outside the academy. One charge levelled at critical business researchers is that they talk a good game but happily ignore their critical values in everyday life. Rumours abound of successful critical scholars demanding and commanding huge salaries; consulting institutions for research audits they complain about in print; exploiting junior colleagues emotionally, physically and productively; jet-setting round the world, starbucks coffee in hand and apply laptop constantly charged with little thought of their carbon footprint. They bemoan the conventional nature of journal articles by writing journal articles. They complain about journal lists but always seem to publish, work for and support them (see Rowlinson and Hassard for more on this).

Rather than simply highlight these attitude behaviour gaps, I’ve been thinking about how to work around them. In particular, it seems to me that if we accept that universally aligning critical attitudes with the demands on our behaviours is out of the reach of most of us, then which is better:

Is it better to research and teaching conventional business ideas but live an unconventional life outside the academy?

Or is it better to research and teach critical ideas but live an uncritical conventional life outside the academy?

New Paper: Beating, ditching and hiding: consumers’ everyday resistance to marketing

Here’s a new paper I contributed to. We interviewed around 80 consumers to probe their experiences of marketing – which were mainly negative – and discovered the various subtle ways in which they see to beat, ditch and hide from marketing and marketers. We had some really surprising findings. For example, some consumers would happily invite marketers to interact with them so that they could toy with them. They would keep marketers on the phone only to beat them at the last minute. It’s interesting stuff!

Google made me do it

I recently watched the footage of Dylann Roof’s police interview on the New York Times. Roof killed nine African Americans in their church

I found the whole thing fascinating. But what really struck me was the seemingly banal role of Google Search in the story. As the Times reports:

He said his “racial awareness” had been inspired by a Google search of the phrase “black on white crime” after the reaction to the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old, by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla. ”That was it,” he said.

Later he talks about how he came to see things in racial terms and I wonder whether and how Google supported this. Did it confirm what he already thought or give Roof the impression that his beliefs were fact because Google said so? And Google doesn’t lie. They aren’t evil.

Let’s ask a counterfactual question:

What if, when Roof searched, he’d found some different results? Would it have changed things? We know that Google matches results to a users interests. So, if someone demonstrates latent “fascist potential” (as it’s called in the Authoritarian Personality studies) what if Google used this to restrict their access to provocative material? I’m not saying they should but things might be different. Doesn’t that mean Google Search has some active role in this crime?

As regular readers (all zero of them) will know, the logic behind this matching of search results is largely driven by an appeal to advertisers and a need for Google’s business model to work for the myth of matching to be applied across Google Search. I don’t want this to fall into yet another “aren’t algorithms evil” post but I think it’d be interesting to consider Google Search’s role in radicalisation. As I understand it, in the UK it’s a crime to encourage terrorism.