Laws of Marketing – to find them we have to look

How Brand Grow” presents almost a dozen scientific laws relating to marketing and buying behaviour. Not laws like the Ries and Trout “thou shalt” laws based on anecdotes, but law-like regularities, relationships that keep on occurring in a wide range of conditions. So we can make predictions based on these laws. In science such laws are the building block of knowledge.

Marketing academia has for too long failed to look for laws, and ignored those that have been discovered. Professor Shelby Hunt, marketing’s most famous student of philosophy of science was a big advocate for laws, yet, to my knowledge he didn’t practice what he preached.

Marketing is awash with ‘theory’ based on speculation or reading non-empirical literature. Theory not based on any empirical laws, much of it in direct ignorance of existing laws, and some in direct conflict with such laws.

Academia should be helping sort this all out, but we (and many other social sciences) are gripped by the model of doing research which says “do some weak theorising largely based on other theoretical literature (not empirical laws) and then conduct a weak empirical test – one that does not rule out many other potential explanations”.

And empirical work in marketing tends to be highly specific. In effect the data sets are tiny slices of the empirical phenomena of interest – one questionnaire, one country, one time.

It’s time we dropped this narrow, and wimpy, model of how to do research.

Professor Byron Sharp.


2 thoughts on “Laws of Marketing – to find them we have to look

  1. But if these empirical laws have not been discovered or taken seriously, then how do you expect anyone to base theory on them? What are some of these empirical laws? I’d be interested to know. I found this article looking up information about the book, “The Purple Cow”.

    • Randy they have been discovered, and taken seriously. Just not well known or acted upon – this is not new, ti took doctors a 100 years to en mass start washing their hands. I hope you enjoy “How Brands Grow”.

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