What They Wrote About World War II: The Journal of Marketing 1939-1946

  • Ronald Savitt Professor Emeritus of Business Administration, The University of Vermont, USA


Purpose – The purpose of the paper is to shed light on what was written about marketing issues during
World War II as a contribution of marketing historiography and as a call for further research in
understanding the origin and development of marketing concepts.

Methodology/approach – Content analysis was applied to war time articles and materials appearing in the Journal of Marketing between 1939-1946.

Findings – The study offers 7 major findings: 1. Movement of marketing concepts away from
economic theory; 2. The call for the development of marketing research not the continuation of
“market research;” 3. The importance of public policy matters as a result of the Great Depression and
World War II; 4. The use of comparative and historical materials in discussions; 5. The presence of a “free market” orientation; 6. The importance of personal experiences and involvement in public policy; and 7. A “long run” perspective in terms of planning going beyond the firm itself.

Implications/limitations – The study provides evidence about what marketing academics, business
people, and government officials saw as marketing's role in World II and in the post war era. It provides a comprehensive approach to examining a variety of eras of marketing thought. The study is limited to a single source; the research does not provide information about the authors' affiliations,
backgrounds, and perspectives.

Originality/value of the paper – The study differs from the standard reporting of “what has been
published” by examining the content of the materials. It offers a different approach to “literature
reviews” because it is comprehensive and thematically focused for a defined period. It applies
historiographic methods to marketing.


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