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    UW College of Business - Macromarketing: Tackling the Big, Hairy, and Audacious

    June 02, 2015

    By: Travis Simkins, PhD Student, Marketing and Sustainable Business Practices

    Big, Hairy and Audacious…

    Sometime when you get a chance, ask our Interim Dean, Dr. John Mittelstaedt, “What is macromarketing and why does it matter?”, and undoubtedly the answer will include something about marketing at its potential to tackle the “big, hairy, and audacious” problems that the human race grapples with on a daily basis.

    What Is Macromarketing?

    Macromarketing is a school of marketing thought that focuses on issues situated at the junction of markets, marketing, and society. In a more interconnected world of markets, marketers, and their stakeholders, macromarketing is an important mechanism to study the opportunities and shortcomings, as well as its intended positive effects and unintended deleterious effects of marketing on the largest number of stakeholders the world over.

    How Is Macromarketing Different From A More Traditional View Of Marketing?

    According to the American Marketing Association, “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” According to this definition, there are several important traits that distinguish macromarketing from marketing.

    First, marketing has traditionally taken a more micro and managerial focused approach in efforts to specifically address the 4P’s of product, price, placement, and promotion. Very simply stated, how do I sell more stuff to more people more quickly and more efficiently? In contrast, macromarketing tends to emphasize the social, cultural, or policy issues related to production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of goods and services in the exchange process. In other words, how do the relationships that people have with the things they value affect individuals, societies, culture, and environments in which they live?

    Second, although this definition does include “society at large”, marketing has tended to focus on exchange, or transactions, and excluded broader marketing system concerns. Conversely, macromarketing focuses on the marketplace as a whole, placing more emphasis on systems of transactions rather than on individual exchanges.

    Third, the basic unit of analysis in marketing tends to be the firm or customer. The unit of analysis in macromarketing is the market and/or the marketing system.

    To illustrate these differences, a marketer working for Coca-Cola might ask “how can we effectively enter the Middle East to distribute and sell more product”. In contrast, a macromarketer working for Coca-Cola might ask “what are the implications or consequences of a strong American brand like Coca-Cola on the quality of life in predominantly Muslim nations”?

    What Then Is A Marketing System?

    Well, the technical definition of a marketing system is:

    • a network of individuals, groups, and/or entities
    • embedded in a social matrix
    • linked directly or indirectly through sequential or shared participation in economic exchange
    • which jointly and/or collectively creates economic value with and for customers through the offering of
    • assortments of products, services, experiences and ideas and
    • that emerge in response to or anticipation of customer demand.


    • A marketing system is:
      • Something or someone
      • interacting with something or someone else
      • in the creation, transfer, and/or exchange of things
      • that provide a benefit to those involved in the offering of those
      • things
      • that individuals both want and need.

    Basically, marketing systems are found everywhere - from isolated tribal villages to advanced global economies. They can take many forms; from neighborhood garage sales; to complex sourcing and distribution networks linking factories in the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province China, to Wal-Mart customers in Laramie, Wyoming. They range from a simple exchange involving a single seller and buyer, to complex interactions involving multiple sellers, numerous intermediaries, many buyers, and a wide range of products and services. They include value chains and service systems, subsistence markets and shopping malls, and everyone and everything else in between.

    In sum, Macromarketing considers marketing to be a provisioning agent that facilitates exchange and benefits governments, businesses, societies, and individuals and is particularly well positioned to help improve the human condition.

    Professional Career

    Although I am a Wyoming native, my educational and professional careers have taken me all over. After I received my bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Weber State University, I attended the Thunderbird School of Global Management where I received an MBA in International Management. After Thunderbird, I was recruited by Expeditors International, a Fortune 500 global logistics and freight forwarding company, and spent a number of years in Mexico working in US and Mexican customs brokerage and cross border transportation. From there, I worked as a partner in a small private equity group in Las Vegas specializing in asset management and development. After that, I came back home to Wyoming where I helped start a small business in Star Valley, Wyoming. However, it was always my desire to return to school to pursue an advanced degree. Fortunately, I was introduced to the PhD program here and the rest, as they say, is history.

    My Research and Teaching at UW

    I am particularly interested in macromarketing and marketing systems research. Recently, I had my first article entitled “Assessing the Value of a Societal-Level Sustainability Index for Macromarketing Research” published in the Journal of Macromarketing. In this article, we examine the reliability and validity of the Sustainable Society Index (SSI). The SSI is an important large-scale global index that graphically illustrates the level of sustainability of 151 countries throughout the world (

    This work has served as a springboard for me to begin looking at issues like the legalization of recreational marijuana in the United States, and potential inefficiencies in the Mexican importation process that are affecting NAFTA.

    Starting this fall, I will be teaching the Intro to Marketing course on campus. This will be my first opportunity teaching at the university level, and I look forward to working with the students here at UW’s College of Business.

    A Final Thought.

    Although macromarketing is a relatively new school of thought within marketing, the essence of markets and marketing and their impact on societal welfare is as old as humanity. Cliff Shultz, a preeminent marketing scholar with a particular interest in macromarketing has said “our species perhaps should be described as Homo marketus... we are the marketing animal... from the moment our ancestors crawled from the primal ooze and learned that cooperation and division of labor would abet survival, markets and marketing soon must have become integral to the processes of societal development”. From the ancient Silk Road to Wall Street today we have been and will continue to be the marketing animal.

    Do you agree? If you see me around or happen to be in one of my classes, let me know what you think.

    If you’re not around campus to visit with, I would still love to read your comments on this post.