The article, “The Safety of Objects: Materialism, Existential Insecurity, and Brand Connection,” (Rindfleisch et al. 2008) roots itself in Terror Management Theory (TMT; Greenberg et al. 1990; Greenberg et al. 1986). In particular, this theory is based on research in social and clinical psychology that posits self-esteem and cultural tendencies are susceptible to fears of death and other tragic uncertainties. Rindfleisch et al. use TMT in part as the motivational factor of their particular research, employing it as the synthetic framework for their new discovery. It achieves this by exposing extant marketing research on materialism and brand connections to the new framework and then conducting empirical research to validate the new proposition.
The concept of marketing is one that has been both broadly and narrowly defined for more than a half-century. However, more ink has been spilt over an existential question that has absolutely no objective answer; Karl Popper (1959) is right in suggesting that philosophy has no definition. Whether or not we broaden, widen, deepen, or refine the boundary definitions of marketing, these definitions are in essence, arbitrary. As a result, the framework approach to marketing scope is of referential context only, not of absolution. The boundaries of a science are artificial; as researchers we constantly force those boundaries to evolve. Thus, while the arguments posed in this week’s set of readings are valid, their fragmented subjectivity only constitutes the basis of a set of opinions from which marketing practitioners and academics can work.
Given the history of marketing, it is nearly impossible to blame the discipline for current displays of consumer abundance. Marketing takes roots from the development of mercantilism and, even earlier (though not posited until fairly recently), from the theory of specialization of labour. If we are to extend these theories to a sociological level, then consumer abundance is merely a hallmark development in human society. As “marketing” developed as a science that studies the decision making of both producers and consumers, it as well studied the relationships between these two parties. To say that marketing is “evil” as a result is, therefore, an erroneous claim.
Market economies have dated back to biblical times; agricultural-based markets seemed to become an evolutionarily-necessary staple for producers to match oversupply with consumers who required such goods essential for survival. The Greek and Persian bazaars served as storefronts for these producers to price out their wares and for consumers to purchase. Ultimately, these wares included more than just food supplies, but other household objects as well.