Critical Marketing: Defining the Field

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Marketing is the creation of needs and wants from customers through publicity or selling. Marketing theories have received a lot of criticism for not captivating a critical move towards the field of marketing (Hackley 2009). How well a company represents its brand to its customers is detrimental in determining its success and sustainability in the market.

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Academicians often tend to perceive themselves as the watchdogs, with the knowhow to disclose any shortcoming, injustice, or limitation-affecting people in the society. They view their pessimistic approaches with so much optimism that they fail to perform on their expectations by the society whom depended on their ideas in a bid to improve their current situation (Tadajewski and Brownlie 2008).

Saren et al argued, that organizations should embrace research materials and publications pertaining Marxism, ecological philosophy, environmentalism, psychoanalysis and post colonialism among others. They add that, an organisation should be ready to accept any type of useful information as long as it focuses on consumption or organizational issues.

However, things have recently changed and publications, workshops, conferences and journals devoted toward analysis of critical marketing are now common (Ellis 2006).

Critical marketing

Critical marketing is not a noticeable area of marketing regardless of the crucial role it plays in marketing efforts. Its study has been minimal as compared to other fields of marketing (Hackley 2009). However, there have been recent trends inclined towards publication and research of this important field of marketing. In addition, most of the theories concerning critical marketing have been formulated internationally held critical marketing workshop especially the United Kingdom Critical Marketing Conference that held once in every two years since its conception in 1999. According to Tadajewski and Brownlie (2008), “the aim of critical marketing is not just to scrutinize and criticize the techniques, traditions and consequences of commercial marketing, but also attempt to improve the way marketing actually works in contemporary society.”

There is no single definition for critical marketing; various schools of thoughts have come up with different definitions. Some scholars define it to mean qualitative or interpretive, some define critical to mean Marxist while some perceive it as a tool of study of the social aspects of marketing and markets (Hackley 2009).

Typology of critique in marketing

According to Hackley (2009), “lack of critique is problematic.” This is because of the evolved nature of marketing activities in a bid to keep par with the changing customer needs and technical advancements in the field of marketing. Critique is important in the field of marketing as it helps an organisation indentify differences between needs and wants of their customers.

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According to various scholars, critical marketing got its roots in 1980’s when literally theories including rhetoric, semiotics and post structuralism theories became common. This was in a bid to examine cultural aspects pertaining to film and advertising. This led to a bore of a new discipline referred to as Cultural Studies. The rise of cultural studies was however, coupled with critics on its capitalism and its cultural structure. Moreover, cultural studies was regularly characterized by critical perception that by 1990’s, the two were held to be the same. In addition, a clear reflection of the critical agenda of any scholarly work became common before any scholarly work got acknowledgment for publication purposes. On the ground, colleagues who attempted to think differently from publicized work ridicule as the uneducated; this led to a constraint on freedom of inquiry. The increasing interest of political appropriateness spread into schools constraining their freedom too, this slowly led to a degradation of liberal deliberations and critical opinions. The Critique perceived to disdain and despair hope of those individuals who sought to move against the tide of this revolution. Emergence of women programs of learning and scrutiny of images were however, the two areas that The Critique gained more success that is political.

Critical theory has been associated to visuals but and has at times been regarded as an immature and unreasonable approach. Although most of the canonical workings are concerned with image analysis, these work lack comprehensive evidence and lacks consideration of alternates. In the United States for example, studies done by women has had to a tremendous growth since their inauguration in 1970s. This has made women scholarly work to be a huge quest by the undergraduates, which most of them have majored in despite the widespread criticism of critical theory of marketing (Saren et al 2007).

Critical theory soon found entry into the field of sociology. This was in respect of government’s aid and availability of traditional qualitative analysis that provided evidence. With this at hand, great evidence towards scholarly work sought as political expectations among people on the ground became higher. This resulted to battles in publication and marketing hence individualism, bearing in mind this was after the fall of the Soviet Union. This therefore, led to a change in the Marxist regime of markets of the world.

To achieve credibility, economists had to shun off scientific proof as a base of evidence of their work. Economists see schools outside business to lack respect for their work, which leads to lack of critical aspect. This has actually prospered business to great heights as one of the most well studied areas in all institutions today, with the field boasting to have the most well rewarded individuals (Saren et al 2007). With these advancements, it was almost inevitable that critical outlook would cling on the field of marketing.

From this discussion, it is apparent that ‘critical’ has the broader meaning of ‘critical theory’. It involves questioning individuals on issues pertaining activities carried out by social scientists. These include questions about those who benefit from what our deeds, our situations, and our response to ideologies of capitalism. Critical theory involves an assessment and evaluation of culture and society.

Functional critique

Foucault and Gramsci, deemed to misunderstand the role of marketing. There was an earlier green assumption that just identifying the important role of production methods would be sufficient to define the phenomenon. The elite class of the society has for example, shown to be incapable of acting in homogeneity yet they form an important marketing target,

Political critique

According to Hackley (2009), politicizing economical activities leads to its detrimental effects and the economy at large. It is however important to understand the foreplay between power and the strategic plans of business. This is because political situations also are detrimental when laying out strategic marketing plans of an organization.

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Ethical critique

Ethical critique identifies the need to perform or restrain from a task depending on whether the activity is right or wrong on moral terms. Ethical considerations of a marketing plan analysis involve cost benefit analysis of the marketing program objectives against the satisfaction of customer’s in order to determine whether it meets their wants and needs.

Intellectual critique

According to Hackley (2009), one of the most important factors in development of a critical theory is the customer; this has led to a wide range study of consumer behavior since the term conceived in 1950s and quantitative research studied on the field of consumer trends and behavior. This has made this area to be the major incorporation in marketing activities.

Impact of 4Ps on Critical marketing


A product is the physical product or service that a company offers to its customers. According to Kustin (2004), “a product has three levels namely: actual product, core product and augmented product.”

Critical marketing carries out research in the market to collect feedback from customers to enable a company develops products relevant to their social needs. This is important as it assist producers to focus on products that are relevant to the needs of customers socially and economically.


According to Hackley (2009), critical marketing ensures place convenience to the customer and at the right time. Place refers to the intermediaries used by a producer of goods and services to move his products and services from production point to the ultimate user (Kustin 2004).

This plays a crucial role in ensuring that goods and services reach the customer at the right time and at the right place (Brownlie 1999).


Critical marketing takes into accounts the emotional and societal costs because of buying a certain product (Hackley 2009). According to Kustin (2004), Price refers to the amount of money that a customer pays for the provision of goods and services.

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By combining social costs with other pricing strategies, an organization is able to offer the best price possible for its products in the market.


Critical marketing uses the following methods: branding, advertising, orally, Public relations, information campaigns, and product placements (Hackley 2009).

Promotion refers to those activities involved in communicating and selling of a product to its potential customers according to Kustin (2004). Elements of promotion comprises of personal selling, sponsorship, direct mail, advertising, trade fair and exhibitions, public relations and sales promotion (Kustin 2004).

Critical marketing is therefore a useful tool in promotional campaigns, which allows new market development or introduction of new products developments in existing markets.


When making Segmentation decisions, an organization depends on the specific needs of customers and the specific customers whom are likely to experience that need (Hackley 2009)

According to Kustin 2004, segmentation is an important aspect in marketing as it allows the management focuses their marketing efforts towards potential customers who will find market their products.

When positioning a product in Critical marketing, marketers considers the social esteem of the customer and function of the product to the customers. Social esteem implies that the marketer should ensure that the specific product meets the emotional needs of a customer. He should also ensure that the product meets the functional needs that the customer intends to perform or use the product. This has played a crucial role when reaching the target market.


Targeting refers to the specific group of people that organizations marketing and selling efforts are targeted (Hackley 2010). Critical marketing puts emphasis on attitudes, values, lifestyle, and loyalty of customers to distinguish customers into psychographic and behavioral target markets (Brownlie 1999).

By defining targeted markets demographically based on the social and economic status of the potential customers, critical marketing plays the greatest role in economical developments of an organization.


According to Hackley (2009), positioning is an attempt by an organization to form a brand image of its products in the minds of its customers. Hunt (1990) further stated that, a key element in marketing of an organization’s products is positioning of its brand and identity in the market. Brownlie (1999) identified that, Critical marketers use symbolic positioning concepts when positioning their products in the market. This involves identification of customers’ ego, image, social being, and affection of a product in the market.

This use of perceptual mapping in positioning of an organization’s product is therefore a key aspect for marketers to strategize on how to penetrate their target markets.

Marketing research

Marketing research is whichever form of deliberated efforts designed to obtain process and perform analysis on information about customers and the market (Hackley 2009). Ellis (2006) also stated that, marketing research is useful in deciding which elements of the marketing mix need changed to achieve more customer satisfaction.

Critical marketing employs consumer-marketing type of research. Its main aim is usually to establish the behavior, attitude, and preferences of potential customers in the market. It also intends to establish the effectiveness and success of promotional services towards the social well being of potential customers.

Problem identification method of research has use in critical marketing research and involves application of ethnographic methodologies. The market research also employs observation techniques to collect information of the social aspects of a consumer that need The social sciences statistical package has a use to analyze data frequencies from the PAOQ (Perceptions, attitudes, opinion and questionnaire) research tools.

Marketing research has therefore been of importance in identification of frequencies that assist in graphical representation of marketing information, which then forms the basis of answering the research questions with the aim of meeting the objective of a marketing research study.


Brownlie, D. (1999) Rethinking marketing: towards critical marketing accountings, London, Sage publications.

Ellis, L. (2006) Marketing in the In-Between: A Post-Modern Turn on Madison Avenue, South Carolina, Book Surge Publishing.

Hackley, C. (2009) Marketing: A Critical Introduction, London, Sage Publications.

Hunt, S. (1990), Modern Marketing Theory: Critical Issues in the Philosophy of Marketing Science, Boulevard, Thomson South-Western.

Kustin, A. (2004) Marketing mix standardization: a cross cultural study of four countries: International Business Review, Sydney, Elsevier.

Saren, et al. (2007) Critical marketing: defining the field, Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann.

Tadajewski, M. and Brownlie, D. (2008) Critical Marketing: Issues in Contemporary Marketing, San Francisco, Wiley.

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