Edited from the original manuscript for the preface to Adventures in Misplaced Marketing, by Herbert Jack Rotfeld (sold by ABC-Clio/Greenwood). Copyright by author, all rights reserved.

Many years ago, in the wake of the major business scandals of the early 1980s, business education programs were directed by the major accrediting organization to require the study of business ethics. At first, most universities added a new course to the list of requirements; at Auburn, the M.B.A. course was titled "Legal Social Ethical Environment of Business." Unfortunately, discovering that many students were concerned only with pragmatic directives on how to be financially successful, many schools (including Auburn) responded by dropping the course requirement, claiming that the basic material was integrated into other courses in the program. As a result, the course was changed from a degree requirement into a department elective.

And with the change, if I wanted to teach a graduate course on "marketing and society" I needed to encourage our M.B.A. students to enroll. I had a problem. I could only get so far on my adorable personality. I thought that an unofficial course title of "misplaced marketing" would generate student interest.

It seemed intuitively obvious that marketing's social issues easily fit dictionary definitions of "misplaced" in that a marketing perspective was lost or misdirected. Other times, marketing tools were abused. After all, many criticisms of business involve firms that do not use or apply a marketing perspective when they should. Other critics attack what they perceive as marketing's failure to consider the societal impact of decisions. I also had a growing fascination when marketing -- and especially advertising -- are attacked as undesirable when, in reality, the critic's real desire is to restrict, ban or outlaw the product or service marketed.

Writing about misplaced marketing started with a phone call in early 1996 to Gregg Cebrzynski, the managing editor for Marketing News, in which I pitched the idea of writing a regular column on the topic. Gregg hadn't heard of "misplaced marketing," but then, no one had except for my students. My general description got Gregg interested and, after he reviewed some sample columns, "Herb Rotfeld on Misplaced Marketing" started running once a month beginning July of that year. (1)  Toward the end of 1998 I sent several other misplaced marketing commentaries to an academic outlet, Journal of Consumer Marketing, where they were reviewed and accepted by the editorial board, with an additional request that I serve as a special section editor for the journal to encourage other people to submit papers on the subject. And when I visited a school in Melbourne, Australia, marketing faculty member Colin Jevons encouraged me to turn my attention to writing a book.

Like the magazine and journal commentaries, this book presents my personal perspective on past and current marketing practices, as well as many non-marketing activities that could be aided by a marketing view. However, in the short magazine columns or research notes people read a series of seemingly eclectic essays. To those readers, misplaced marketing might have seemed like a collection of weakly-related stories on bad customer service. This book restores the tapestry initially envisioned when I started using misplaced marketing as a basis for my classes.

And to borrow from comedian Mort Sahl, if there are any readers that I haven't insulted, I apologize.


1. My last column for that magazine ran in February 1999.