New tool assesses real-world relevance of academic marketing articles

American Marketing Association

Researchers from Columbia University, University of Southern California, and Sotheby’s published a paper in the Journal of Marketing that introduces a new tool that measures the relevance of academic marketing articles to marketing practice, both in terms of topical and timely relevance.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “R2M Index 1.0: Assessing the Practical Relevance of Academic Marketing Articles” and is authored by Kamel Jedidi, Bernd Schmitt, Malek Ben Sliman and Yanyan Li.

Decisions in business are supposed to be rational and follow science. Easier said than done! That would require that scientific studies address high-impact issues that are relevant to business. The research team found that academic marketing articles are often detached from marketing practice. Academics live in their own world, what the researchers call an “academic island,” and are obsessed with their own topics and methods, many of which are barely related to marketing practice.

Using a new cutting-edge method called “topic modeling,” the researchers created a “dictionary” of over 1000 marketing terms based on 55,000 marketing articles in practitioner and academic journals from 1982 to 2019. From this, they constructed an index of relevance, called “R2M” (relevance to marketing). The index is a simple, reliable, and dynamic tool that measures the relevance of academic marketing articles to marketing practice, both in terms of topical and timely relevance.

They found a profound disconnect between marketing scholars and practitioners. Academics tend to publish papers focused on highly detailed mathematical analytical models or rather abstract theoretical constructs, such as “consumer goals and motives,” which are of little interest to managers. In contrast, marketers care about substantive topics such as advertising and entertainment marketing. Still, the picture is not entirely bleak; there are a few areas of joint interest, such as branding and salesforce management, where academics and practitioners can meet.

To analyze this gap deeper, the research team classified topics into four quadrants based on their low/high popularity in academia and practice — “Desert,” “Academic Island,” “Executive Fields,” and “Highlands”— and scored academic articles and journals. Results show that about 45% of published articles are relevant only to marketing scholars and are of lower interest to practitioners while only 24% of articles are relevant to both. They also found a growing overlap in common interests. Most importantly, the overall relevance of marketing articles has increased since the early 1980s, though only very slightly.

Jedidi says that “In the long term, we hope that the R2M index will change the bleak status quo. We view our measurement instrument as a tool for change because it will put pressure on academics to conduct more relevant research. We encourage authors to adopt the index to assess the topical and timely relevance of their papers and better market their work to other scholars, businesses, and media outlets.” Schmitt adds that “Journal editors can use the index as an editorial and tracking tool to assess submitted manuscripts, make suggestions during the review process, and evaluate the journal’s evolution over time. Additionally, academic administrators can use this tool as part of their promotion and tenure decisions.”

The goal is to ignite a stronger connection with practitioners. Indeed, marketing practitioners can use the index to find research relevant to their jobs and consultants and business advisors can curate reading lists relevant to their clients. Ben Sliman concludes with “We hope that the marketing field as a whole can spearhead a discussion around relevance and encourage scholars from other fields to start similar initiatives.”

Full article and author contact information available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/00222429211028145

About the Journal of Marketing

The Journal of Marketing develops and disseminates knowledge about real-world marketing questions useful to scholars, educators, managers, policy makers, consumers, and other societal stakeholders around the world. Published by the American Marketing Association since its founding in 1936, JM has played a significant role in shaping the content and boundaries of the marketing discipline. Christine Moorman (T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University) serves as the current Editor in Chief.

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