Examining the works of Theodor Geisel (1904-1991): Uncovering Marketing's Lost Innovator.

Dr Stephen Dann Between 1950 and 1965, a range of marketing texts were released by an unheralded marketing scholar by the name of Theodor Geisel. At the time, the marketing texts were unrecognised by industry and academia, who discarded the theories concerning relationship marketing, promotion, service recovery, and the dangers of product over complication and neglect of front line service staff. This paper sets out to recognise the role and value of the texts of Geisel, in light of post modern marketing theory and practice. The paper takes a historical perspective of how Geisel's works of the 1950s and 1960s integrated many of contemporary marketing's theories and practices, and how post modernist marketing can benefit from the insights of this unheralded scholar..

Between 1950 and 1965, a range of marketing texts were released by an unheralded marketing scholar by the name of Theodor Geisel. At the time, the marketing texts were unrecognised by industry and academia, who discarded the theories concerning relationship marketing, promotion, service recovery, and the dangers of product over complication and neglect of front line service staff. For the most part, critics of the texts dismissed them as childish, nonsensical and irrelevant to industry and business practice. This paper sets out to recognise the role and value of the texts of Geisel in contemporary marketing theory. It examines the historical role of marketing in contemporary culture, and how Geisel's works of the 1950s and 1960s integrated many of contemporary marketing's theories and practices. The paper concludes by overviewing ramifications of these theories to current industry and practice. Contemporary Marketing, and Marketing in Society Marketing's role in contemporary culture has been under scrutiny in recent years with the rise in prominence of key marketing and promotional techniques. Tiger Woods wins a major golf tournament by a record margin, and a portion of the television and news coverage discusses the marketing implications for Nike (F7). Releases of major movie blockbusters come complete with coverage of the marketing, promotion and merchandising budgets, and these often make headlines ahead of the actors, storylines or movie itself. More interest was shown in the marketing of the Blair Witch Project than in the movie, possibly for justifiable reasons, but most likely because marketing has become a phenomena in itself. Since marketing went out of the boardroom and into the mainstream, post modern marketing research has examined the impact marketing has had on society. Usually this impact comes in the form of marketing's role for image creation (McEnally and Chernatony, 1999), use of ethnic groups (Szmigin and Carrigan, 2000), and the usual array of ethical considerations (Hunt and Vitell, 1986, Waller, 1999). Marketing has also started to become a marketable element of contemporary culture, with pop icons of Dilbert (www.dilbert.com) featuring sketches on marketing, and marketing making cameo appearances in other aspects of contemporary culture.

The prevalence of marketing in contemporary culture has often disguised the two way interaction between marketing and society. Society has gained an understanding, and misunderstanding of many of the key aspects of marketing whilst giving back many ideas to the study of marketing. Marketing, by responding to popular culture, has gained an understanding of green marketing, the importance of relationship marketing, and the appreciation of its role within society as a conveyor of information, attitude and ideal. What has been lacking in marketing's understanding is the degree to which many modern theories have been adapted from earlier literary works that have not received their due recognition for shaping contemporary theory. Marketing's lost innovator: Geisel's repositioning strategy Whilst the marketing texts were not well received, the failure to attain academic and industry recognition for his marketing work didn't daunt Geisel. Previous success as a political cartoonist and documentary maker lead Geisel to reposition his work, and he re-released them from the mid 1950s. The following sections outline Geisel's work in chronological order based on the point of copyright, which differs from the order of publication. It is felt, however, that the original point of creation should be used to demonstrate the true innovativeness of Geisel's work, given the difficulty he often had with gaining publication for his work. 1950: The Importance of Frontline Service Staff (Services Management) In 1950, the role and importance of frontline staff of the organisation was recognised by Geisel's short case study titled "Yertle the Turtle", which was published in a compendium volume "Yertle the Turtle and other stories" in 1965. The protagonist of the case study, a turtle king named Yertle, had defined his market share based on vision. "I'm ruler," said Yertle, of all that I see. But I don't see enough. That's the trouble for me" Having decided to expand his share of the market, Yertle employed a nine stack of turtles to form a larger throne, increasing his visual field to a mile. However, at the early stage of this expansion, the hierarchical organisational structure was exhibiting problems for the staff at the bottom of the organisation. Front line staff recorded complaints about the workload placed on their shoulders and back, and enquiries were

made as to the duration of the expansion plans. Geisel (1965) notes at this point that the management structure fails to incorporate the needs of the frontline employees. "SILENCE!" the king of the turtles backed back "I'm king, and you're only a turtle named Mack." "You stay in your place while I sit here and rule" Viljoen and Dann (2000) point out that need for less hierarchical structures, and the disadvantages of believing that certain levels of employees should be excluded from the decision making processes. Zeithaml and Bitner (2000) also extol the value of integrating the employee into the company vision, arguing that integration leads to higher motivation and greater desire to be part of the overall structure. Yertle's hierarchical top down management structure, whilst only eight turtles removed from the frontline, already exhibited a dislocation from the needs of the frontline employees. Further, the failure to incorporate the frontline staff into the corporate vision led to reduced morale. Yertle's continued expansion of his visual domain extended to forty miles, using a turtle throne estimated to be approximately 2000 turtles (Figures are inexact due to the loss of some records). Again, front line counter staff reported difficulties in maintaining service standards under the renewed pressure. "Then again, from below, in the great heavy stack Came a groan from that plan little turtle named Mack "Your majesty please…I don't like to complain, But down here below we are feeling great pain. I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, But down at the bottom, we, too, should have rights." The staff request for greater frontline empowerment, and equal load sharing was met with another text case of poor management. "You hush up your mouth!" howled the mighty King Yertle You've no right to talk to the world's highest turtle."

The expansion of the organisational structure, now several thousand turtles removed from the frontline, had led Yertle to believe that management by decree was the only viable management structure. The opinions of the longer term employees at the bottom of the structure were ignored, including those of people who could recognise problems in the organisational structure at the implementation phase. Faced with an unsteady structure, Yertle believed a further expansion of his market share would compensate for the internal corporate problems. In addition, Yertle had shifted the basic goal of the organisation from seeing as far as he could see to being the highest object in the environment. Goal shift resulted from an over emphasis on market expansion ahead of satisfying organisational goals, and looking after staff. Frontline employees (such as Mack) were left to support an organisation which was no longer responsive to their needs, disempowered them, and failed to incorporate their needs into the longer term vision of the organisation. When a minor hiccup (or in this case, burp) occurred in the service delivery, the organisation was unable to compensate. "But, As Yertle, the Turtle King, lifted his hand And started to order and give the command That plain little turtle below in the stack That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack Decided he's taken enough. And he had. And that plain little lad got a little bid mad And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing. He burped! And his burp shook the throne of the king!" The fundamental lessons for marketing concerning the need for carefully planned expansion, incorporation of service staff into corporate vision and the need for strong corporate structures where reinforced by Geisel (1965) in the second case "Gertrude McFuzz". The McFuzz case outlines the situation where unnecessary expansion to defeat a perceived competitor lead to the downfall of the organisation. McFuzz, trying to outdo Lolla-Lee-Lou, increased her amount of tail feathers to an impressive, yet impractical 90 pounds. In the McFuzz case, a rescue package was organised through a range of assistance from family and creditors, including a massive scaling back of the tail feather activities. Again, as with Yertle, the emphasis on the case was

the dangers in inherent in ad-hoc expansion with little or no regard to appropriate support structures. 1957: Service failure and Service recovery - Cat in the Hat Home Entertainment In Geisel (1957), the Cat in the Hat home entertainment service was profiled as a classic example of service failure, and service recovery. The Cat in the Hat offered a home delivery service, with a range of services and products, although an over emphasis was placed on tricks. The service employee, the Cat in the Hat (though never clearly stated, it appeared that this was a franchise arrangement, with a provided corporate uniform of red and white elongated hat, red bow tie, white gloves and an umbrella all of which create a strong branding image). Products and services offered by the Cat were predominantly based on increasing the complexity of the initial offering of "Up-up-up with a fish". The expanded entertainment service incorporated the initial Up-up-up with a fish, and added the holding up a cup, milk, cake, books, fish (on a rake), toy ship, toy man, red fan, whilst engaged in fanning (with the red fan) and hopping on a ball. With the over complication of the service task, resulting quite possibly from a lack of clear service script, service failure occurred. Complaining behaviour to the service provider (from fish to Cat) resulted in a second service offering from the cat, despite objections from the clients. Zeithaml and Bitner (2000) outline the typical response scenario to service failure, including complaining behaviour directly to the service provider, as was the case with the fish. This gave Cat in the Hat a service recovery opportunity, which in this instance was replaced with the production orientation belief that a second service encounter would provide sufficiently positive outcomes to outweigh the initial service failure. The error on the Cat's behalf was not to take the complaining behaviour of the client seriously, believing that the complaint from one, and silence from the other two clients equated tacit support. Zeithaml also outlines passive complaining behaviour, where the customer does not complain directly, but refuses to reuse the service. The Cat also compounded the service failure with a second service failure, this time involving two Things who were employees of the Cat in a Hat. Following the second, and more serious service failure, the clients were left in a difficult situation where damages had been incurred, and senior supervisor of the clients (their mother), was due to make an inspection. A second instance of complaining behaviour to the cat

"Then I said to the cat," Now you do as I say. You pack up those Things And you take them away" resulted in the service provider, and his staff, departing from the premise, leaving the damages behind. Damages from the service encounter where initially estimated as "And this mess is so big And so deep and so tall, We can not pick it up. There is no way at all" It was at this point, that the Cat in the Hat offered a service recovery solution. Service recovery can take many forms, all of which rely on quick action, outcome, procedural and interactional fairness. In this scenario, the Cat returned to repair the damages caused by his two previous service offerings. Reinforcement of the Cat in a Hat product experience was integrated into the service recovery, increasing the consumer satisfaction, decreasing consumer complaining. Outcome fairness was established by the Cat repairing the damage done. Procedural fairness, which was lacking in the first service recovery attempt, was evident by a timely handling of the situation, resolving the problem before Mother's return home. Cat in the Hat was clearly empowered to make service recovery decisions without reference to senior management, and was able to make a timely recovery. Interaction fairness was displayed by the Cat's handling of the mess identified by the clients as the negative outcome of the service failure. Geisel (1957) makes an interesting use of branding in service recovery by the Cat's continued reference to his service recovery behaviour as being part of the product line up of available tricks in his statements of "Have no fear of this mess said the Cat in the Hat I always pick up my playthings And so… I will show you another

Good trick that I know!" Swift recovery of the negative situation, and address a solution to the needs created by the initial service failures allowed the Cat to prevent future complaining behaviours and redeem the Cat in a Hat brand name. Although the clients were unlikely to recommend the company to their supervisor, they were not left out of pocket by the service failures. (See also Geisel (1958) "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" for further examples of the Cat's role in service recovery in the home cleaning industry) 1960: Promotion, Awareness and Trial Adoption Perhaps the most ambitious work of Geisel's extensive career was his 1960 treatise on the value of awareness versus trial for new product adoption. Based around only 50 different words, Geisel (1960) introduced "Green eggs and ham" as a new product, promoted by Sam-I-am using personal selling techniques combined with free product trial. Sam-I-am bases the initial approach with a teaser campaign, recommended by Stell and Paden (1999), to entice new use of the product. From the initial product rejection, the teaser campaign was expanded, offering an increased range of delivery options. Continual rejection of the product by the target market was met with increased complication of the marketing message. Peer pressure, and the demonstration of peer adoption of the product was also used (Belch and Belch, 1997). Social comparison information, particularly that of social pressure concerning product adoption was employed in an attempt to use peer pressure for adoption compliance to the marketing message (Bearden and Rose, 1990). In addition, the marketing message had become overly complicated (for further examples of the dangers of message complication, see Geisel (1965) "Fox in Socks"). It is noted at this point that awareness of the product remained high, as did unprompted recall by the consumer. This is evidenced by the rejection message which outlines the full list of comparative offerings as to where the customer may like green eggs and ham. I could not, would not on a boat I will not, will not with a goat I will not eat them in the rain I will not eat them on a train Not in the dark! Not in a tree!

Not in a car! You let me be!* I do not like them in a box I do not like them with a fox I will not eat them in a house I do not like them with a mouse I do not like them here or there I do not like them ANYWHERE!* I do not like green eggs and ham I do not like them, Sam-I-am *Consumer frustration at the recurring sales pitch becomes increasingly more evident as the high level of repetition creates message burnout (Belch and Belch, 1997) Geisel (1960) demonstrates that a simple change of technique of offering sample adoption (as yet untried in the Green Eggs campaign). Awareness with adoption is one of the common complaints of advertising espoused by Aitchison and FrenchBlake (1999). In the green eggs scenario, Geisel (1960) demonstrates that integrating the promotional message of trial adoption with a free sample in a low pressure environment, provides a greater return than the high pressure awareness campaign. "You do not like them So you say Try Them! Try Them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say" Sam! If you will let me be, I will try them You will see Trial adoption in this case was specified with the soft sell parameter in that trial adoption was contingent on the Bagozzi (1975) exchange parameter of freedom to leave the exchange being satisfied. After a positive post trial evaluation, green eggs and ham were adopted. Geisel (1960) illustrates the need for an emphasis on trial adoption ahead of brand recognition, and peer pressure, and illustrates the importance

of consumer empowerment in trial adoption. Once the consumer felt they had been empowered to reject the offer with no negative consequences, they were willing to engage in trial adoption. Until this point of empowerment, they had resisted trial adoption based on their experience of rejection of the advertising message. 1961: Branding, Image transference and Sneetches. Long before Nike invested millions into creating a tick logo known and recognised around the world as the "swoosh", Geisel (1961) had written a classic case study on the social impact of branding, and the meanings that can be attached to promotional imagery. Geisel (1960) "The Sneetches" outlined the social identification role played by the five pointed green Sneetch belly star. McCracken (1989), amongst others identified the role of symbolic meaning as being derived from cultural meanings, a factor established by Geisel (1961), in that: "Those stars weren't so big. There were really so small You might think such a thing wouldn't matter at all. But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches Would brag, "we're the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches" The basis of status was associated with the endorsement given by the presence of the star. However, as demonstrated by the intervention of Sylvester McMonkey McBean, and his Fix-it-Up services which offered both star insertion and removal. Geisel (1961) recognised as well that the value of the star was based on economic scarcity, and its role as a class identifying marker was dependent on the lower social groups not having access to it. When faced with a situation where star bellied Sneetches from the original group could no longer rely on the star as an identifying marker, they were forced to adopt a star-free policy as an identifier. Message confusion ensued as both star removal and star addition services were freely available, breaking down the scarcity of the image symbol, and allowing free access to both symbols for both class groups. The end result was the degradation of the message associated with the image symbol, which, incidentally broke down the Sneetch class system (for better or worse). Stars lost their market value as social identifiers once they had become too common a commodity in the Sneetch market. The need for exclusive of image message was recognised by Geisel (1961), long before Nike and Harley Davidson had

invested heavily in branding, message identification and message targeting. (see also Geisel (1961) "Too Many Daves" on the importance of distinctive branding when dealing with an extensive product range of similar products) Conclusions and Implication of the research There are no real implications for industry because this piece has been about marketing, and the discipline of marketing. The purpose of the paper has been to demonstrate that much of marketing theory can be found in some of the darnedest places in society, both contemporary and classic. Whether industry can learn from the lessons of Cat in the Hat, or advertising will heed the message complications of Fox in Socks is not the main concern of this paper. Marketing itself needs to be able to look at itself, if necessary laugh at itself, and understand who and what it is, where it has come from, and how it has played a role in society. In a marketing discipline increasingly hung up on industry relevance, there needs to be a place for industry irrelevance. Post modern marketing may provide the haven for marketing thoughts not directly relevant to the bottom line of industry. It may also hold the key for discovering the next exchange theory through analysis of marketing in contemporary culture and society. But above all, it may just happen to find marketing hiding where no-one really expected it - classic children's literature. Marketing is a social process, and the works of Dr Seuss are part of the socialisation process of many children, who along with learning basic literacy, are picking up basic marketing as an added bonus.

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