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Alumni profile

Philip Kotler, PhD ’56

Mr. Marketing Management.
February 23, 2016

Philip Kotler profoundly influenced the field of marketing with his best-selling 1967 book, Marketing Management. Now in its 15th edition, the text has become the world’s top choice for teaching marketing in graduate business schools. ­Kotler, described as the father of modern marketing, attributes the book’s sustained popularity to its foundation in social science and economic science combined with organizational behavior theory, consumer behavior theory, economic analysis, and mathematics.

Kotler studied classical economics with Nobel laureates Milton Friedman, Paul Samuelson, SM ’77, PhD ’87, and Robert Solow, earning a master’s degree at the University of Chicago before getting his PhD at MIT. However, he disagrees with a key point in classical economic theory—that all consumers make decisions to maximize their satisfaction and all producers try to maximize their profits. “Their behavior is much more complex and cannot be captured in such simple assumptions,” Kotler says. His work has produced a more comprehensive picture of consumers’ and marketers’ behavior and the role of the product supply chain.

Philip Kotler

Early in his career, Kotler worked on corporate social responsibility and then on consumer behavior. “I developed the field of social marketing to investigate ways to change consumer behavior in areas such as smoking, failing to exercise or eat nutritious foods, and water conservation,” he says. “I developed the idea that certain behaviors should be ‘demarketed.’ For example, to get people to smoke less: raise the price, make cigarettes less accessible, and show evidence of how harmful smoking can be.”

His recently published 57th book, Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System, analyzes problems including persistent poverty, growing income inequality, and ecological damage from production. A forthcoming companion book, Saving Democracy: Real Solutions for a Troubled Political System, dissects problems such as low voter turnout, congressional gridlock, and controversial Supreme Court decisions. “My two books are aimed at people who care about our future and are concerned about making capitalism and democracy work better for more people,” he says.

Four years ago Kotler founded the World Marketing Summit, an annual two-day conference focusing on global markets. It’s been held, to date, in Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Tokyo. He remains active as the S.C. Johnson & Son Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

When he’s not at Northwestern, he and his lawyer wife, Nancy, live in Longboat Key, Florida. They have three married daughters, Amy, Melissa, and Jessica, and nine grandchildren. An inveterate traveler, Kotler collects contemporary art glass and miniature Japanese sculpture.

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