Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to offer a reflective account of the emergence of new marketing theory as seen through the lens of the Nordic School of Service.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on documents and the authors' self-lived history and current involvement (“management action research”).
Findings – Northern European scholars, especially from Finland and Sweden, have felt free to design their own theory, at the same time collaborating internationally. Contributions include an early alert to services and business-to-business (B2B) marketing being neglected; dissatisfaction with service quality; that the service economy is more than the service sector; and the insight that relationship marketing and many-to-many network marketing better represent service reality. A novel service logic abandoning the divisive goods/services, B2B/B2C (business-to-consumer), and supplier/customer categories, based on commonalities and interdependencies is arriving. Nordic School methodology is characterised by induction, case study research, and theory generation, to better address complexity and ambiguity in favour of validity and relevance. In the 2000s, the synthesis provided by service-dominant (S-D) logic, IBM's service science, and network and systems theory have inspired a lively international dialogue.
Research limitations/implications – The hegemony of the marketing management of mass-manufactured consumer goods was challenged when services entered the marketing agenda in the 1970s. During the 1980s and 1990s the differences been goods marketing and service marketing were explored and the understanding for relationships, networks and interaction developed. It gradually laid the ground for the integrated goods/services approach that is now the major challenge for service researchers and practitioners alike.
Originality/value – It is unfortunate if developments of marketing in the USA are perceived as a universal standard for marketing. By studying contributions from many cultures and nations in other countries the paper enhances the understanding of the diversity of marketing. This article presents such a case from Northern Europe.