A truth taken for granted in marketing is that exchange is at its core. Some marketing researcher goes even further and defines marketing as exchange (Bagozzi:1975). Exchange is also found in AMA’s definition of marketing from 2007 as well as in Service-Dominant (S-D) logic’s FP:1 that states “Service is the fundamental basis of exchange” (Vargo&Lusch:2006). Even though S-D logic points out the processual aspects of exchange as “service is exchanged for service” (Vargo&Lusch:2004), there is an inherent notion of giving and receiving in the concept, which indicates a finite game.
Business research in general, and more specifically marketing as a science, has traditionally put a lot of attention to solve the question of how to be the best in a finite game. Hence, deliver value to customers in an exchange (see Porter:1998). The aim, then, for a firm is to collect the perfect bundle of idiosyncratic resources inside the firms four walls (Wernerfelt:1984) which will give the company a sustainable competitive advantage (Barney:1991) in its value deliverance. Guided by Ronald Coase’s (1937) notions on the nature of the firm the winner is the firm who can minimize its costs associated with a market exchange the most. This firm-centric view implicates instrumental sellers acting on passive buyers, it also implicates that each offering is in itself unique. The logic of being a winner of a single finite exchange is also found in micro-economic founded research involving consumers, based on the notion of the economic man (Mill, 1836) and theories on the 4P: s (Kotler:2011, Borden:1964). Hence, at the heart of the exchange concept is the notion of a finite game with winners and losers, all with a focus on value maximisation in each exchange.
For companies such as Facebook, YouTube, LEGO with their Mindstorm series and Google with their Android operating system, exchange cannot solely explain, frankly speaking, their persistence. On one hand, these are all empirical cases of users as resource integrators that exchange their knowledge and skills with the company as well with other users. On the other, exchange is rather a currency for something more, and that is being able to participate. As an example, people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook (Facebook:Newsroom). To be able to participate, resource integrators need to contribute which makes the focus rather on an ongoing infinite game, than being exchanged in a finite game. Hence, focusing on participating is to recognize the social phenomenon of people doing/acting together – sharing – and thereby inventing and realizing value-in-use collaboratively over time.
Therefore, this conceptual paper has the aim to explain the need for S-D logic’s mindset to reorient from exchange as its theoretical centre, to instead put focus on participation as the foundation for both markets and marketing. We argue in this paper that resource integrators participation in an ongoing infinite game is what forms and shapes both markets and marketing. Hence, to paraphrase Vargo & Lusch FP:1 “Participation is the fundamental basis of service”.