Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the «Diamond Owl» intellectual game «What? Where? When?»
Liberal ArtsNomina
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ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Philip Kotler from a family of Ukrainian emigrants – the founder of marketing as a science

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Philip Kotler from a family of Ukrainian emigrants - the founder of marketing as a science
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Philip Kotler (born 1931) is an American economist and marketer. Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.




We honor and respect people who have achieved outstanding results in any science – and we are doing the right thing. But there are scientists who are less common, but deserve more respect. Those who not only achieved results in some science, but created this science themselves.

The Great Herodotus is not just an ancient Greek historian. He is deservedly called “the father of history”. His book in nine chapters, each of which is named after a muse, dedicated to the Greco-Persian wars, is the world’s first historical work, there was nothing like that before him.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Philip Kotler from a family of Ukrainian emigrants - the founder of marketing as a science
Roman statue of Herodotus

A Greek scientist wrote his Historical Notes, who already lived under the rule of Rome, named Strabo. But it did not come to us. But his book Geography (in Greek Geographica) became the first widely known scientific work on this discipline. Herodotus is still called “the father of history”, and Strabo – “the father of geography”. It is probably nice to have such children…

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Philip Kotler from a family of Ukrainian emigrants - the founder of marketing as a science
Monument to Strabo

Do not think that only the ancients could be the “fathers of sciences”. Quite rightly, clothier Anthonie van Leeuwenhoek, who mastered the manufacture of powerful lenses at his leisure, with the help of which he saw bacteria and erythrocytes for the first time in the world, is called the “father of microbiology”.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Philip Kotler from a family of Ukrainian emigrants - the founder of marketing as a science
Anthonie van Leeuwenhoek

And now I would like to tell you about another founder of science, who to a large extent created it. Moreover, quite recently, in the second half of the last century, but its popularity is enormous and only growing. It is worth doing, if only because his parents are our fellow countrymen.




Almost all sources in which there is a biography of Philip Kotler say that his parents moved abroad from Ukraine. But no one specifies where exactly, and most importantly, they do not explain at all why they have moved from such wonderful places to the antipodes?

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Philip Kotler from a family of Ukrainian emigrants - the founder of marketing as a science
Emigrant vessel

There was even no hint of what the matter was – whether they wanted to become heroic in the wild prairies, or the Ukrainian climate did not suit their pampered organism. Probably, they thought that it was enough to indicate the date of their emigration – 1917 – and all the questions about this matter would disappear.

Entering the United States started out in trouble. Everyone was dropped off on the small island of Ellis Island, about 5,000 people a day, and everyone went up the stairs to the registration hall on the second floor, and the doctors looked at them and caught the lame or the breathless – why would they?

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Philip Kotler from a family of Ukrainian emigrants - the founder of marketing as a science
Ellis Island

Further – more: they raised their eyelids with chopsticks – was there trachoma, rummaged in the hair – looked for a crust, marked the unsuitable ones with chalk on clothes: “E” – sore eyes, “L” – limped, “X” – feeble-minded… Approximately every fifth was not allowed – as sick or unreliable.

The similar inspection took from 3 to 6 hours, and then everyone walked up the “stairs of separation”, divided into three marches. Medium – for those who did not come, they were waiting for expulsion. The left one is for those wishing to settle in New York. On the right – to the railway ticket offices for everyone else. Maybe they will get lucky somewhere…




Philip Kotler’s parents, for example, were lucky – by the way, like many: basically, emigrants in the United States survived and adapted, I hardly heard of those who returned home voluntarily (in our time, too). Anyway, they found each other and got married – already not bad!

Obviously, they also did a good job at their works – when their son was born in 1931, he did not only graduate from high school, but also entered the University of Chicago, which  even now is fraught with some financial strains for the average American family. But Philip’s parents were able to afford it.

The university was not an easy one – it is enough to say that it now ranks fourth in the world in Nobel Prizes: 89 of its employees and students received it. In addition, 13 of his alumni have become billionaires, which confirms its success in teaching economics.

At just 22 years old, he not only completed his bachelor’s degree, but also defended his master’s thesis in economics. The head of the Department of Economics at that time was Milton Friedman, who was already written about in this column, – an authority on a global scale, a supporter of complete economic freedom.

The battles between the “Chicago boys” and Keynesians in economics have not subsided to this day, but the master is not very interested in macroeconomics at the level of public policy. He is occupied by the basic level of the economy – the exchange of goods for money and the laws governing it.




The Western system of academic titles has not two, but three levels – the bachelor’s degree is slightly below the candidate of sciences, the master’s degree is slightly higher, but below our doctor, and the doctor, as in the USSR, is the highest level. Kotler did not stay in Chicago to receive his doctorate – he found an even more prestigious university.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has overtaken the University of Chicago in the number of Nobeliates – there are already 97 of them among its alumni and employees. Norbert Wiener’s alma mater remains a leader in such industries as robotics and artificial intelligence.

The university released many bright personalities from its walls, and not only scientists – the founder of Intel Corporation Robert Noyce, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and even UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sat on its students’ benches, and they are not alone…

It was there that in 1956, only 25 years old, Kotler defended his doctoral dissertation in economics. After that, he took advantage of postdoctoral studies – additional courses specifically for doctors of science who want to improve in any field of knowledge for further work. He studied mathematics at Harvard, behavioral science at Chicago.



The object of his scientific interests has already appeared. Back in 1902, at the universities of Michigan, California and Illinois, three different teachers, almost independently of each other, decided to give a course on this topic – obviously, the need for it was acute and universal.

The name for this industry also appeared – marketing. In 1926, the United States even created the National Marketing and Advertising Association, later renamed the American Marketing Association. Now they are in many countries.

But marketing was not considered a separate science, which must be specially dealt with, for a long time – so, a certain body of knowledge, it is not clear what unites them. Kotler, on the other hand, turned marketing into an independent science, giving it a clear definition: “Marketing is a type of human activity aimed at meeting needs and wants through exchange”.

In 2003, the Financial Times noted Kotler’s three major contributions to marketing and management:

First, he has done more than any other writer or scientist to promote the importance of marketing, transforming it from a secondary activity to a more “important” production job.

Second, it continued the trend started by Peter Drucker by shifting the focus from price and distribution to a greater focus on customer satisfaction and the benefits of a product or service.

Third, he expanded the concept of marketing from sales to the general process of communication and exchange and showed how marketing can be extended and applied to charities, museums, performing arts organizations, political parties, and many other non-profit institutions.


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In 1962, Kotler began teaching a course in marketing at the Kellog School of Management, Northwestern University. You can see for yourself – this concept existed before him. But it was Kotler who raised marketing to the level of an established science, of interest to both manufacturers and consumers.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Philip Kotler from a family of Ukrainian emigrants - the founder of marketing as a science
Kellog’s School of Management

Five years later, Kotler published his book Marketing Management: Analysis, Planning, Implementation and Control. It was refined several times, sometimes even changing its name, and in 2016 its 15th edition was published in the USA – not to mention translations into languages ​​of the world.

If earlier textbooks on marketing were descriptive, this book was the first to use elements of economics, organizational theory, behavioral psychology, choice, and analytics. It described the theory and practice of marketing, as well as demonstrated the results of empirical research, provided examples of entertaining cases.

On December 9, 1996, the Financial Times named this book one of the 50 Greatest Business Books of All Time. And that was just the beginning – Kotler authored and co-authored 166 articles and 80 books on marketing, including his autobiography My Adventures in Marketing.




Kotler began his book with the words: “In today’s complex world, we all need to understand marketing. When we sell a car, look for a job, raise funds for charity or promote an idea, we do marketing. We need to know what the market is like, who operates on it, how it functions, what its needs are”.

Explaining why it is necessary and why it cannot be done without it, he writes, “We need to understand marketing and our role as consumers and our role as citizens. Someone is constantly trying to sell us something, and we must be able to recognize the applied methods of selling”.

He explains the need to somehow understand marketing for everyone with the words, “Knowledge of marketing allows us to behave more intelligently as consumers, whether it is buying toothpaste, frozen pizza, a personal computer or a new car”.

He begins each chapter with a description of a marketing event – the battle between Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola, the war of prices for personal computers, the market rise of Miller beer… The purpose of this presentation is clear from his words, “Reality quoted throughout each chapter fills dry information about marketing with the heartbeat of life”.

And here is what he says about the basic principles of creating a book, “It should be interesting to read. It should cover all the main points that both the market figure and the ordinary citizen need to know. The narrative should develop logically from chapter to chapter. The presentation should be based on scientific research data, and not on hearsay and speculation”.




What is certainly not typical of Kotler is to rest on his laurels. He, as already indicated, publishes book after book and raises serious problems in these works. Most recently, he started blogging and published a book, imagine, on the disadvantages of capitalism.

It does not mean at all that he became a supporter of communism, anarchy or, for example, the feudal-communal system. He still believes that while capitalism is not without flaws, the rest of the existing systems are even worse. But why can’t capitalism be improved?

He writes, “It is now widely believed that people want to see the end of ‘cowboy capitalism’, in which everything is geared towards maximizing profits. They want to save capitalism from itself, because, on the one hand, many citizens continue to suffer from its negative qualities, on the other, the number of those who are disillusioned with its growing”.

He finds as many as 14 significant shortcomings in capitalism – here they are:

Does not offer a solution to the problem of poverty.

Promotes an increase in income inequality and welfare of the population.

Doesn’t provide a living wage for billions of workers.

Is not ready to provide a sufficient number of jobs due to the growing automation.

Does not force the company to fully provide social protection to the population.

Exploits the environment and natural resources if not tightly controlled.

Promotes business cycles and economic instability.

It is based on individualism and self-interest, which divides people.

Promotes high consumer debt, which leads to a growing financially rather than productively economy.

Allows politicians and businessmen to unite and ignore the economic interests of the majority of citizens.

Prefers short-term profit planning over long-term.

Insufficiently regulated in terms of product quality, safety, advertising veracity, and anti-competitive behavior.

Tends to focus only on GDP growth.

Should not violate social values ​​and make people happy.

But Kotler believes that the impact of these shortcomings can be reduced or eliminated altogether, and explains how, in his opinion, it can be done. Kotler’s recipes are already being applied in practice and give positive results. Not everything has been done, but the trouble has begun…




Marketing is now so popular that the person who created marketing as a science is literally snapped up in the world. Kotler is little confused by his venerable age (I remind you that he was born in 1931 – check the dates of your visits!) – he is very mobile and performs all over the world.

For example, in 2008 he visited Moscow at the invitation of the Adam Smith Institute with a speech on the topic of creativity. He advised marketers to pay special attention to new media, to rapidly developing modern information technologies.

To the question “Is marketing mathematics or art?” Kotler replied, “New techniques, tools and techniques are constantly coming into marketing. As soon as these tools appear in one country, they immediately become available to the whole world. Therefore, if you want to be different from others, you have to be very creative. But teaching creativity is impossible”.

And in 2009 he held a master class “Management and Marketing in an Age of Upheaval” in Odessa. Not only businessmen came to listen to him, but also cultural figures and politicians. The journalist who described this master class highlighted the following main messages of Philip Kotler to the audience:

“You don’t need to be a big country to invent something new – the future belongs to the third world countries.
In an era of crisis, as in a storm, many defend themselves and build strong and stable houses, but windmills need to be built using negative wind energy and thereby increasing assets.

The growth that follows the recession is expected to be slow, and it must be understood, because it is not as artificial as the rapid growth before the crisis.

The future belongs to online publications, it is due to the efficiency of information and relatively cheap advertising.

The easy life is your enemy, it lulls your vigilance”. Kotler’s final phrase was, “If you are still in the same business for five years, you will soon be out of it”.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Philip Kotler from a family of Ukrainian emigrants - the founder of marketing as a science
Listened to Kotler in Odessa in 2009




While there is no need to perpetuate the memory of Philip Kotler – at 90 he is quite cheerful and can do something else. But even for what he had already done, he was repeatedly awarded with a variety of honors. They are given to outstanding scientists for their undoubted successes.

Some of his achievements are unique. There is the prestigious Alpha Kappa Psi Award for the best article for one of the most important journals on his science, the Journal of Marketing. So, he is the only three-time winner of this award.

A typical award for a scientist respected by all is the title of Honorary Doctorate. Philip Kotler has 22 such titles! It’s nice that among the universities that have honored him with such an award, there are both the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and the Shevchenko Kyiv National University.

Kotler was inducted into the American Management Hall of Fame in 2013, and into the Marketing Hall of Fame in 2014. He also received eccentric marks of respect, such as the title of honorary citizen of the Indonesian city of Denpasar. In addition, he is widely known as a collector of Japanese swords and netsuke, as well as art glass. And all his awards simply cannot be enumerated!


All illustrations from open sources

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