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Professor Geoffrey Easton

Emeritus

Geoffrey Easton

Lancaster University

Charles Carter Building

LA1 4YX

Lancaster

Tel: +44 1524 510990

Current Research

I supervise or help supervise 5 doctoral students;

Markus Vanharanta - The Cognitive Practices of the Customer Portfolio Managers

Peter Lenney - In Search of Marketing Management

Winston Kwon - Reputational Objects; An Alternative Approach to the Analysis of the Creation, Evolution and Reproduction of Organisational Reputations

David McGregor - Changing Role of Sales Promotion in the UK Marketing Context

Alan Gilchrist - Key Account managment in a Business to Retail Market

Research Grants

AIM International Study Fellowship  (2004) - Manager - Researcher Relationships; The Scandinavian Experience

Profile

Before I took my Ph.D. and became an academic I had three jobs, all of them involving organisations that marketed to other organisations. In each case I was made aware of, or actively involved in, close relationships between the firm and its largest customers. I worked for what is now British Coal and the Central Electricity Generating Board was their major organisational customer. Unilever, Kodak and Beechams were the key customers for a packaging firm where I was a corporate planner. Xerox had a whole series of key accounts the most important of which was the UK government. It is therefore hardly surprising that my doctoral research was concerned with mathematically modelling what I called "patterns of organisational buying". In this study I was mainly concerned to understand the common phenomenon of the highly skewed distribution of sales-by-customer that most firms in organisational markets experience. What this means for marketing practice is that a few customers tend to get most of the marketing attention. I had obviously experienced the same thing when I worked in organisational markets.

In particular I was aware of the very close relationships that were created and maintained between supplier and customer, the extent of adaptations that made one to another and the length of time that such relationships tended to exist. All of this is a far cry from the standard 4Ps approach that is met in all marketing texts. While such a narrow view of marketing may be satisfactory for consumer markets it is hardly applicable to organisational markets. So I was delighted when I discovered that a group of pan European researchers calling themselves the International Marketing and Purchasing (IMP) group were equally unhappy with the existing research into organisational markets and marketing and the story of my research over the last 20 years has been, in part, the result of involvement with that group. IMP has, in that time, moved from being concerned with dyadic buyer -seller relationships to focus more on what has come to be called, rather inaccurately and inelegantly, the Industrial Networks approach. It has also changed from being a small tight knit group of researchers to a much larger, more international and more loosely "organised" group. The key integrating device is the annual IMP conference that has been held in various European venues as well as once in each of the United States and Australia.

Current Teaching

Undergraduate: MKTG 325 Organisational Buying Behaviour and the Management of Marketing, MKTG 327 Management of Marketing, MKTG 301 Marketing Strategy, MKTG 331 Advertising Project. Postgraduate: MSc in Advanced Marketing Management, MBA Strategy, MBA Marketing Strategy, MBA Marketing, PhD in Management. Post-Experience: EMBA: Competitive Environment SEP: Competitive Environment. Other Teaching Competencies: Case Study Analysis, Industrial Marketing, Research Methodology.

Qualifications

BSc (Bristol), Dip BA (Manchester Business School), PhD (London Business School)

Research Interests

My main interests can be summarised as trying to understand how managers manage markets especially organisational markets where relationships and connectedness make the tasks particularly complex. I am especially interested in the dynamics of such systems both in terms of how they maintain themselves and how they change over time. One of the key tensions in such research is the relationship between structure and process. The fundamental question is whether it is appropriate to distinguish or should they be treated as two sides of the same coin. Another tension concerns the relationship between competition and co-operation in networks and I have researched this issue too. As a result of my interest in process I have been involved in a small international project which modelled network dynamics by means of simulation using complexity theory as the underlying structure. This work aimed to demonstrate that the stable patterns that occur in industrial networks are a result of self organisation by the firms involved and relies on the fact that such systems drive themselves towards stability. I have also written about the nature of resources and the related idea of social capital. Any network comprises a stock of social capital that stems from the relationships that organisations have built up but measured in social terms rather than economic ones.

Most recently I have been working on the implications of network theory for the decisions that marketing managers in organisational markets face. In particular I am interested in how managers manage both individual relationships and portfolios of customers using both psychological and sociological literatures.

Moving further along in the same "managerial" direction, I plan over the next few years to try to change the way that marketing is taught and researched. This is a far from modest objective but it seems to me that I have to do it if only to say that I tried. I have labelled this my "Real Marketing Management" project and I am currently working on a book with the same title. Briefly I argue that there are at least two respects in which the traditional marketing management literature is deficient. Firstly it underplays the role of context and contingency. The standard marketing text focuses on the marketing of fast moving consumer goods in a developed economy. Yet the differences that the product (service, idea), seller (small firm, charity), buyer (individual, group, manufacturer, retailer, government) and country (culture, stage of development, political system) make to market behaviour is likely to be enormous and yet this is hardly reflected in the way marketing is researched or conceptualised. Most crucially we need to think about more fundamental ways of classifying contexts in order to try to understand how they affect markets.

The second omission is even more problematic. Marketing management is portrayed as a technical issue. Yet all marketing decision-making (if one accepts that decisions are "made" in any real sense) occurs within the micro context of a particular organisation with all its psychological, social, political, economic, technological and cultural dimensions. Marketing decisions aren’t just made by some computer and implemented by machines. They are socially and politically created and enacted. Yet there is almost no research that examines what marketing managers actually do. Such research has begun to emerge in general management and this has implications for what I prefer to call the Management of Marketing. But I believe that a radical re-examination of the nature of current research needs to take place if marketing academics are to live up to their oft espoused goal of being an applied discipline dedicated to helping practising marketing managers.

I have two other main research interests. The first is in epistemology and methodology. I have come to believe that the philosophical school of epistemology know as Critical Realism is one that provides a good basis for doing the case based research that we tend to use as our main research method. There are a number of research issues that such a belief identifies and I look forward to exploring them in the not too distant future.

I have also been involved in issues of learning and teaching and wrote a book called Learning from Case Studies that set out to help novices analyse case studies better. As a result of that interest I became have  involved in a research project together with a cognitive psychologist, Dr. Tom Ormerod, the objective of which was to discover the kinds of cognitive processes case analyst go through when analysing a case for the first time.

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