Dr Richard C. Leventhal is widely recognized as a leading marketing professional and expert on health care marketing. He runs Leventhal Research LLC and advises organizations both in the service and the business consumer sectors, having had over 30 years’ practical experience in marketing.
He also holds a position as an adjunct professor of marketing in the master of business administration (MBA) programme at Regis University’s School of Professional Studies.
The Journal of Consumer Marketing (JCM) is devoted to the study of how people behave as consumers, and the theoretical and managerial implications of such behaviour. Its double blind review process and leading-edge research articles ensure its appeal to academics; while its case studies of marketing concepts, personal comments, and executive summaries of articles allowing for a rapid read ensure its popularity with practitioners. It has been consistently recognized as a leading-edge publication in the field of consumer behaviour.
JCM has been published by Emerald since the early 1990s; it was purchased from US publisher Bob Grayson along with the Journal of Product and Brand Management, the Journal of Services Marketing, and the Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, since which time it has changed from being essentially an American journal to being one with an international focus. In terms of downloads it is one of the top 10 from Emerald’s database, with around 330,000 downloads in 2007.
The Journal of Product and Brand Management (JPBM) is an academic journal written for both practitioners and scholars. It aims to enrich practice and extend the frontiers of knowledge on the subject with authoritative research. Covering one of marketing’s most dynamic fields, it publishes in the areas of building and defending growing market share, valuing a brand portfolio, target marketing, customer retention, understanding the buying process and the risks of a new product launch, and winning customer loyalty. It also has separate sections on "Pricing strategy & practice" and "Beyond product's brand management".
You took over JCM approximately 20 years ago from a US publisher. Can you describe the changes you have made in that time?
Bob Grayson, from Santa Barbara, California, originally published JCM. The original intent was to allow academics an alternative publishing venue for their research, other than the Journal of Marketing, which is published by the American Marketing Association. When I took over as editor, I made a concerted effort to broaden the readership to include marketing practitioners, as well as make JCM a truly global publication. At this point in time, I am seeing a large portion of submissions originating outside of North America, and am delighted to see more marketing practitioners willing to take the time to share their experiences with the manuscripts they submit for review.
JPBM also came from the Bob Grayson stable. When did you take over the editorship and what changes have you made?
I was on the editorial advisory board (EAB) and an associate editor in the journal’s early stages, when it had various editors. A few years ago the then editor, Michelle Morganosky stepped down and I was asked to take on the editorship, at first on a temporary basis. Emerald was afraid that as editor of two journals I was taking on too much, but I said that I would like to give it a try.
I feel very gratified because now it’s more of a global journal, and I am getting some really good content from both academics and practitioners. To help with this I reconfigured the EAB and used my contacts, although it’s a constant struggle to constantly upgrade content and quality. For both JCM and JPBM, we’ve gone from five to six and now seven issues, and each time I have panic attacks thinking that we would not be able to get enough quality manuscripts.
Both JCM and JPBM are mostly academic but I do try and maintain a balance, and I encourage practitioners and academics to team up, and the research that results is very helpful.
JPBM covers advertising, sales, promotion, packaging, research, pricing and consumer psychology as part of product and brand management, but JCM has a lot of articles about branding which is a key aspect of consumer marketing. How do you decide, when you receive an article which might be of interest to both journals, which to put it in?
It’s a bit like walking a tightrope, but I do feel that there’s a clear distinction. I view JCM as being all encompassing from the standpoint of the consumer-driven marketplace. On occasion I get papers on consumer behaviour as it affects brand positioning or the concept of an organization’s brand. But papers which provide more of a global overview will go into JCM, while JPBM is specifically about what companies can do to position, re-brand, create new brands, and understand what the consumer’s needs and desires are. So JCM offers more of a global perspective, looking at how brands may fit in the marketplace, while JPBM is more specific, about how to strategize and create content that will allow a company’s product or service to succeed.
What are the current "hot topics", killer issues, within consumer marketing and brand management?
Let me give a current example from an EAB member who also writes the section on computer currency software. He’s very well travelled and has been engaged in several graduate business programmes in China and South America. Several months ago he contacted me with a marketing concept called Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP).
To be honest with you, I’d never heard of it before, but it was being discussed at a conference in Chile. So I bounced it off a couple of EAB members and it turns out to be an emerging topic; in the last three months Harvard Business Review, California Management Review, and Sloane’s Management from MIT have all addressed the topic.
From a global perspective, it’s probably the hottest issue in marketing, and we produced a special issue (No. 7) in Winter 2008. dedicated to the BOP concept.
In a recent study (Svensson and Wood, 2008) that looks at scholarly perceptions of the top marketing journals, the authors reported on the North American centric, homogenous type of research that confines itself to quantitative methods and mainstream topics – "Instead of celebrating differences in research around the world, these differences are expunged in favour of homogenous research with a North American focus". What are your reactions to this view?
The answer is yes and no. Emerald publishes the European Journal of Marketing, which is one of the strongest journals over in the European theatre. Also, if you look at where research into marketing as a discipline originated, a lot came from the early twentieth century in the USA. So, yes, although a lot has changed in the last 20 years, it is still North American centric.
If you ask academics to rank and rate journals, there’s a top tier, a second tier, and a third tier; the top tier still reflects North American influence. However, I personally encourage work that has a global perspective and I’ve noticed a trend over the last three years towards more submissions from outside North America. I’ve also seen the growth of research on the Australasian market, and I’ve had some fantastic research done out of Hong Kong and Singapore, especially on China which is a market that’s totally untapped, particularly as it affects the young consumer.
Corporate social responsibility is another very important topic, both in North America and Europe, and a couple of years ago we did a special issue, and an article on consumer social responsibility, by Geoffrey P. Lantos, has had the highest number of downloads over the last couple of years.
How would you position JCM with respect to others in the field, such as the Journal of Customer Behaviour and the Journal of Services Marketing?
JCM is more reflective of how the consumer affects any marketing strategy that is created by a product/service marketer, and emphasizes how an organization’s efforts must understand what motivates the consumer to react in a desired manner.
How would you position JPBM in relation to the Journal of Product Innovation Management, published by Blackwell on behalf of the Product Development & Management Association, and the Journal of Brand Management from Palgrave Macmillan?
I think we are rather unique as we look at the market, how a brand reacts to it, and how a brand is accepted. We also look at developing new products with new brands, so I think our scope is greater.
I have to walk a very fine line, and if I feel a manuscript is more targeted towards the brand itself, I’ll suggest it’s submitted to the Journal of Brand Management. 95 per cent of the time if I reject the article, I will suggest another publication that might be better suited to their research.
What is the objective behind the separate "Pricing strategy & practice" and "Beyond product's brand management" sections in JPBM?
I try to make both JCM and JPBM well rounded resources that provide the reader with a broad range of information. I feel both sections add more depth to JPBM and I get good feedback. The pricing section is pretty unique as a dedicated outlet for pricing research and the other section you mention aims to be highly readable and, at times, a little controversial.
"Beyond product management" is a very interesting story: the section’s editor, Herbert Jack Rotfeld, of Auburn University, Alabama, is also editor of a section in JCM called "Misplaced marketing". He’s a bit of a cynic, but he observes marketing outside the academic box, attacking some basic marketing principles from the perspective of how they are handled in the real world. "Misplaced marketing" is from the consumer perspective, and "Beyond product's brand management" is from that of the brand, but both give a light-hearted overview of the efforts of marketing in those areas.
Marketing research in the USA tends to be quantitatively oriented. Do you welcome qualitative and quantitative research equally, or do you still have a bias towards the former?
There’s a well accepted publication that’s been around for some time, The Journal of Marketing Research, which is published by the American Marketing Association. 99.9 per cent of its articles are quantitative, and to some individuals this may not appeal.
Sometimes I question the methodology of the articles I receive – research poorly designed and executed, and results that are not statistically significant. The research seems to overpower the entire scope of the article, and I have practitioner members of the JPBM EAB come back to me and ask, what’s it all about? The authors are just doing research for their own gratification.
I am more interested in research that acts as a bridge, that presents us with an idea that can be further tested and then applied in the real world, and that has been well designed and executed.
What is interesting is that there is a divergence between academics’ and practitioners’ views of research: the former is more meticulous in terms of statistical manipulation but the latter uses the statistical manipulation to take the concepts to the next level. Academics can lose out, as they may not have a true have a sense of what the rest of the world is doing the way that practitioners do.
Both journals offer research that is practical. You say that you insist on a section on "managerial implications" – without that it will not go forward for review. How else to you make a bridge between theory and practice?
I worked for a couple of Fortune 500 companies before I entered academia, and I always had my hand in industry even while teaching. And I found that with a partnership between a practising academic and a practitioner the results of the contributions from both sides are greater than the separate sums of each effort. I have always encouraged academics to partner with practitioners. I’ve worked at institutions that have grants to cover expenses if you can find a company who’s willing to work with you. In addition, funding for research may also come from corporations themselves.
For example, one of my sub-editors has worked for a few companies during the summer as a sort of “internship”. For one of these he was a brand product manager, as a result of which he was able to write a couple of articles which contributed to the body of consumer research. I also have an academic in the UK who’s worked in the financial services industry, and who is currently working with some very large banks and corporations. His insights are priceless because he writes from both an academic and a practitioner perspective, and the institutions that he works with are willing to share information and get feedback from him in terms of the results of his studies.
I introduced the case methodology several years ago, mainly to encourage the practitioner to reflect on their experiences in the marketplace, and in JCM we do three cases a year. My case editor happens to be vice president of a company dealing with loyalty marketing. His experience is priceless because he has first-hand experience of the issue in North America, South America, Europe and Asia. So I have the luxury of someone who actually practises what he is writing about, but from a different perspective.
I always ask someone who’s contemplating research whether or not they’d be willing to try to find a partner in industry to help them not only get extra funding, but also use their practical expertise to guide them through the research. And the academic partner in turn can offer pertinent questions. They give each other feedback, but there needs to be mutual understanding as to what direction the research would take.
What are your future plans for both journals, for example, special issues?
In 2010, for JPBM, we will be working with the Academy of Marketing Science to publish research presented at the special branding conference to be held at Cambridge University; for the JCM, we will be working with The Journal of Marketing Science to publish research from their annual conference to be held in Tianjin, China
How many submissions do you get a year for JCM and for JPBM?
For an average year, I receive approximately 140-150 submissions. Out of these, about 10-15 per cent are rejected outright as not being appropriate for the JCM, the rest are sent out to my EAB. The acceptance rate is about 24 per cent. For JPBM, I probably get between 90 and 100 submissions a year; the acceptance rate is about 30-32 per cent, and I’ll reject about 15 per cent outright as being unsuitable.
As you see, there’s a disparity between the two journals, which is explained by the fact that JCM has been around for longer and covers a broader area.
Assuming that an article is in the latter category, how long does it take, on average, between submitting a manuscript and publication?
I have implemented a system, which I am very proud of, whereby if an article is sent out for review, it will take four to six weeks for the EAB to review the manuscript. That having been said, there’s a wait of seven to ten months for JCM and six to eight months for JPBM before it’s published.
You need to plan for publication quite far in advance, and every issue has different sorts of content. Some issues might have four articles, some five, special issues might have seven. Running a special issue can be difficult because of the pressure from authors to extend the submission deadline, but we do have strict guidelines from Emerald’s production department.
What do you see your biggest contribution as editor?
I see myself as an advocate for furthering the idea that marketing to the consumer is truly a global issue, and that both the similarities/differences among/between cultures is of the utmost importance for any company that is making a concerted effort to develop a long term relationship with the consumer.
Lantos, G.P. (2001), "The boundaries of strategic corporate social responsibility", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 18 No. 7, pp. 595-632.
Svensson, G. and Wood, G. (2008), "Top versus leading journals in marketing: some challenging thoughts", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 42 No. 3/4, 287-298.
Dr Leventhal was originally interviewed in 2008. The interview was revised in June 2009.
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