When Frederick Taylor, the “father of scientific management” (Rosen 1993: 139), started to develop his management philosophy in the late nineteenth century, he was above all concerned about labor productivity in the manufacturing industry considering exclusively the relationship between employer and employee. Even when he later admitted that in his theory he “overlook[ed] the third great party […] – the consumers” (Taylor 1911 / 1998: 72) he probably did not spend too much time thinking about marketing. This is just what came to my mind when I read the title of the article “Scientific marketing management and the emergence of the ethical marketing concept” published in 2011 in the Journal of Marketing Management by Mark Tadajewski and D.G. Brian Jones. But is marketing really a science? And, aside from that, why are we suddenly talking about ethics? In Tadajewski and Jones’ article, which this paper is going to briefly summarize and comment on, we will find an answer on how to combine all three aspects - marketing, science, and ethics.
The authors mainly base their article on the contributions to Scientific Marketing ascribed to Percival White, an engineer, mechanic and manufacturing business owner-manager (cf. Tadajewski & Jones 2012: 41), as well as on the arising controversies between marketing scholars discussed in the Bulletin of the Taylor Society from 1914 until 1934. Due to his academic background, White was obviously familiar with Taylor’s philosophy and tried to adopt it to the marketing thought - indeed, as a rather non-typical pioneer contributor (cf. Tadajewski & Jones 2012: 41).
In simple words, the original Scientific Management theory assumes that there is always “one best way” for every worker to do his work (Tadajewski & Jones 2012: 42), and, being assigned a single “tailored” activity to fulfill, he or she might therefore not only be more motivated, but consequently more efficient in performing this activity. Thus it is only a question of putting resources into the right place in order to obtain the best results. Similarly, White postulated to produce and distribute only, what is really needed - needed by the customer. He calls this “the objectivity of demand” (White 1927a: 97). In order to determine the demand, a scientific, hence a systematic, methodic and “knowledge-generating”1 market research approach becomes necessary, which includes economic, statistical and psychological analysis (cf. White 1926b: 3). This research, in turn, has to be carried out by a diligently selected person that has been trained for this
specific purpose, and all achievements have to be appropriately tracked and documented (by no later than now, the meaning of Scientific Marketing should be clear to the reader). The application of the scientific method as a whole reduces marketing cost and efforts, so called “marketing wastes”, that are “economically and socially undesirable” (Tadajewski & Jones 2012: 42). As a result, the Scientific Marketing concept can be described as an ethical one, as it is, according to White, “the best for all concerned” (White 1927a: 99) – employer, employees and customers.