The concept of value – in terms of being a descriptive ‘goodness’, physically external to a person – has been discussed and researched since the times of ancient Greek philosophers – Plato & Aristotle. It was one of the central themes of Adam Smith’s work (1776) and of Karl Marx (1909). In marketing, the discussion on value was initially centred on utility added by the marketer; the consumers were seen as rational and utility-maximising individuals (Arndt, 1981; Converse, 1945; Holbrook, 1987; Kotler, 1967, 1973; Schaefer & Crane, 2005; Tauber, 1972; Thomas, Challagalla, & McFarland, 1999). Value research has been debated widely in the last three decades and some distinct schools of thought have emerged, which I have discussed in the next section. The American Marketing Association has also given due importance to value in its last three definitions, replacing product as the intended object of exchange. The latest definition (as of January 2014) reads: “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” (“Definition of Marketing,” 2013, emphasis added).
Some important conceptions of value from Philosophy, Sociology and Economics
One of the foremost thinkers on value – Plato – proposed the idea of intrinsic value and instrumental i.e. extrinsic value. The concept of intrinsic value refers to value that something has in itself, while items with instrumental value are good to have as they become a means to achieve some other purpose (Seung, 1996; Zimmerman, 2010). Plato’s student, Aristotle divided value into two types – use value and exchange value (Fleetwood, 1997). According to Aristotle, the use value of an article as a subjectively experienced benefit which “derives from its being productive of the individual person's good” (Gordon, 1964, p. 117), where ‘productive of good’ includes achieving social prestige or even a sense of pride. He further qualifies that the use value of the same article can vary between individuals due to its subjective nature. The demand of an article depends on its use value; the more extensive the range of use, the higher the demand (Staveren, 2001). Exchange value according to Aristotle is dependent on the market demand of an article.
The ideas of Adam Smith (1776) regarding value-in-use and value-in-exchange had a profound impact on the development of economics and study of market-based exchanges. In Smith’s understanding “value-in-use”
Economist and Sociologist Karl Marx developed his own interpretation of use value and exchange value (Marx, 1909). According to Marx, use value represents the usefulness or the “utility” (1909, p. 42) of consuming a commodity and is entwined to how the commodity can be used or the specific human needs it fulfils. A commodity also possesses an exchange value i.e. its value when compared to any other commodity. Exchange value,...