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History 1951-2002

The D-section was established in 1951 as one of the five original research units in the Business Research Institute (FFI). In 1991 the name was changed to "Marketing, Distribution, and Industry Dynamcs" to reflect that the research during the 1980s came to focus change processes in firms, industries, and markets.

Professor Lars-Gunnar Mattsson
Head of the D-section (1980-2002)


Professor Folke Kristensson
Head of the D-section (1951-1980)


The D-section was established in 1951 as one of the five original research units in the Business Research Institute (FFI). Professor Folke Kristensson, who headed the D-section for 28 years (1951-1980), was the first person awarded a doctorate at the Stockholm School of Economics in 1946. The "D" originally stood for "Distribution and Economic Structure". To this name was later added "Market Policy".

In 1991 the name was changed to "Marketing, Distribution, and Industry Dynamcs" to reflect that the research during the 1980s came to focus change processes in firms, industries, and markets.

To understand the D-section´s research on Distribution (retailing and wholesaling) during the early decades, the pioneering work by professor Gerhard Törnqvist during the 20s and 30s should be appreciated. Törnqvist applied economic analysis to retail pricing and to issues related to the structure and structural rationalization of distribution systems.

Folke Kristensson´s major research interests were industrial organization and regional economic problems from a business and/or public policy perspective. Kristensson´s dissertation "Studies in the structure of Swedish textile industries" stressed the interaction between manufacturing structure and distribution/marketing structure and put the individual firm in its industry/market context. The study was the scientifically most important of several inquiries after WWII into the structural problems of Swedish industry. Kristensson had also been involved in economic development projects for the City of Stockholm. During the 1950s Kristensson played a major role in a government investigation on Distribution ("Varuhandelsutredningen: Pris efter Prestation") and in the public discussion on issues related to competition and effectiveness of distribution.

This background influenced the research projects at the D-section during the first decades, in the sense that many were related to contemporary structural changes in the Swedish economy with special emphasis on the Greater Stockholm area and on the distribution sector. Roland Artle´s dissertation 1959 applied Leontief´s input-output analysis to the Stockholm economy. Lars Persson´s thesis from 1960 is a study of customer behaviour in Vällingby, the first suburban shopping center in Stockholm.

Until the late 50s "marketing" as a function in firms and in society in Sweden was mostly studied as economic aspects of distribution channels and distribution structure. Karl-Erik Wärneryd, later professor of Economic Psychology, with a background in behavioural sciences, however began studies in mass communication and consumer behaviour within a research program at the D-section. This program was preceded by his research on motives and decisions in top management´s market policy. In 1962 this program became the foundation for a new research unit, the P-section (Economic Psychology) with a focus on mass communication and on economic behaviour by individuals and households.

The Greater Stockholm research program

A major research program during the second half of the 1960s was the Greater Stockholm research program. This program led to a growth in the size of the D-section during the 60s from a handful individuals to about15 researchers. Studies related to the shopping center development and input-output analytical studies continued within this program. Another project, led by Bertil Thorngren dealt with the spatial aspects of economic activities with focus on interorganizational communication and corporate decisions. This project resulted in the early 1970s in doctoral dissertations by Bertil Thorngren, Lars Otterbeck, Hans Dalborg and Rolf Back. Folke Kristensson summarized the program in a report entitled: "People, firms and regions: a structural economic analysis" The research program was an important input into the planning process for the changes and growth of the "Greater Stockholm" region during the 1960s-70s.

An important aspect of the structural development of the Swedish distribution system during the 1960s was increased dominance and growth of partially integrated wholesale/retail organizations in the convenience goods sector, the so called "blocs". Lars-Gunnar Mattsson´s dissertation from 1969 described and analysed the integration concept and related integration to efficiency variables, applying a systems approach. After the dissertation he studied how the manufacturer´s "marketing mix"- activities were influenced by integration within the "blocs".

Marketing behaviour in retailing was also studied in late 1960s in three licentiate theses: Björn Carlson and Bertil Kussofsky studied distributor brands, Leif Lindh pricing and price wars in the gasoline market and Leif Borin store localization decisions. Harry Nyström´s dissertation, defended in 1970 also concerned retail pricing and focused on if customer´s perceived the store´s general price level was influenced by frequency of price changes. Nyström integrated economic and psychological theories. Furthermore, during the early 1970s Leif Lindh reported on cooperation in marketing activities between retail blocs and manufacturers and Göran Asplund defended a doctoral thesis on strategy formulation as a complex decision process within a "bloc". A special aspect of strategic decision process is how company presidents in big companies are selected. Anders Lindström´s licentiate thesis gave insights into this aspect of governance in the Swedish economy in the late 60s.

Innovation and diffusion processes were studied in the first part of the 1970s and resulted in the middle of the decade in three dissertations. Jan Valdelin and Bengt Brodin focused on product development of consumer goods and Karl-Olof Hammarkvist on introduction and diffusion of new products in a producer goods market. Valdelin related his analysis to the concentrated structure of the distribution system. He was also one of the first business researchers in Sweden who in depth discussed the case method as a research method. Hammarkvist´s study was one of a handful dissertations in Sweden that in the middle of the 1970s pioneered industrial marketing by studies of industrial buying, finding out important characteristica of behaviour in industrial markets.

Early 1970s

During the early 1970s there was a substantial increase in activities of three new institutes within the Stockholm School of Economics sphere: the Swedish Institute of Management (IFL), the Institute of International Business (IIB) and the Marketing Technology Center (MTC). Several members of the D-section became heavily involved in these activities, while others left for employment at other universities or in business. When Lars-Gunnar Mattsson returned to SSE in 1980, as the successor to Folke Kristensson who retired that year, and as head of the D-section, the number of active researchers was down to a small handful. In the middle of the 1980s, however the number had grown to 15.

Mattsson had during the 1970s served on the faculties of the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management in Brussels, Linköping University, University of California at Berkeley and Uppsala University and brought with him research interests and projects related to industrial and international marketing. He had participated in the early work on the industrial network approach at Uppsala. In cooperation with MTC, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) and researchers at Uppsala, a research program "Marketing for Competitiveness" (MOK) was launched. Its first result was the book "Marknadsföring för Konkurrenskraft" that was published in 1982. It received considerable interest in both business and academic communities and sales soon exceeded 20.000 copies. Until 2003 30.000 copies have been sold.

Håkan Håkansson from Uppsala University, as a project leader within MOK was instrumental in bringing the interaction between technical development and market(-ing) into the D-section´s research activities. Håkansson was for a couple of years as Associate Professor at SSE, a member of the D-section, before he returned to Uppsala.

During the late 1980s-early 1990s, three doctoral and one licentiate thesis from the MOK program were defended. Hans Benndorf and Göran Liljegren, both at MTC, and associated to the D-section, addressed respectively the marketing planning and the industrial selling processes from interaction and network perspectives. Both researchers had extremely good access to information from involved business firms.

Also the licentiate thesis by Lena Björklund on cooperation between firms in international systems selling is an output from the MOK program as is Anders Lundgren´s thesis.

Anders Lundgren studied technological innovation and analysed how digital image processing technology in Sweden evolved in emergent networks including scientific institutes, new ventures and established firms. He applied quantitative network methods for part of his analysis. A revised version of his dissertation was published by an international publisher. The licentiate thesis by Hans Kjellberg later explored the possibilities to use formal analysis to describe networks of actors in industrial settings.

During the 1970s-early 1980s the unfavorable development of Sweden´s export market shares became a political issue. Staffan Hultén tested in his dissertation the explanatory power of traditional,static and non-traditional, dynamic approaches. He found the latter to provide better explanations than the former.

A licentiate thesis outside of the D-section tradition was Per Hagstedt´s MTC-linked project on sponsoring, finished in the middle of the 80s.

Magnus Söderlund studied how decision makers perceive their environment. Even if the managers had similar positions in firms belonging to the same industry their cognitive structures were found to be quite heterogeneous. Magnus Söderlund after his dissertation continued to work on decision makers´ perceptions in research projects about the "market-oriented firm".

Early 90s

During the early 90s research programs evolved for three types of communication: freight transportation, passenger transportation and telecommunications. Major financial support for all these three programs came from the new "Board for Communication Research (KFB)"

Susanne Hertz´ thesis research focused on internationalization of Swedish freight transport companies. She found considerable network effects during such processes, related to internationalization of competitors, partners and of customers. She continued her transportation studies during the latter part of the 90s with emphasis on the dynamic network context of logistics and supply chain management. Some studies have concerned strategic alliances in the transportation industry.

Later a Norwegian transport researcher, Johanna Ludvigsen, associated to the D-section for her doctoral studies, presented her thesis on the development of a strategic alliance between European logistical operators.

Staffan Hultén initiated research on the Swedish high speed train project, the development of electrical and hybrid vehicles and deregulation of the Swedish passenger transportation markets. Torbjörn Flink´s licentiate thesis is a study of the development of high speed trains and industrial change.

Staffan Hultén also contributed to the development of the D-section´s telecommunication program, especially as regards mobile telephony.

The telecommunication research resulted in three doctoral dissertations that were defended during the late 1990s. Dimitrios Ioannidis showed how the interorganizational strategy of the Swedish national teleoperator, in terms of cooperation with suppliers and with other operators, was influenced by national and industry policies and regulations. Claes-Fredrik Helgesson, with important theoretical and methodological inspiration from the sociology of science and techniques, described and analysed the technological change from manual to automatic switching and from duopoly to state owned monopoly during the first decades of the twentieth century. Bengt Mölleryd contributed to knowledge about the development and growth of the Swedish mobile phone industry by showing the role of entrepreneurship across many functional areas and in many types of firms. Also Michael Kaplan´s licentiate thesis that analysed the effects of the sequential order between privatisation of telecom operators and the deregulation of the telecom market belonged to this program.

Public policy influences on industrial and market change was also the phenomenon studied by Susanne Sweet in her thesis describing how industry coped with the legal ban on the use of chloroflourocarbons. She applies a network view in her analysis of three cases of CFC replacement processes. She later continued her research on environmental problems.

Research on entrepreneurship in an industrial network context, focusing on case studies of small, technology intensive firms resulted in Lena Nordenlöw´s licentiate thesis.

The telecommunication research program in 1997 led its main financial sponsor, KFB, to give major funding to a new research center, the "Center for Information and Communication Research (CIC)" with Bertil Thorngren as Director and Adjunct Professor. Thorngren returned to academics from extensive experience in telecommunication top management.

Also Karl-Olof Hammarkvist returned, as Adjunct Professor to the D-section in the late 90s from top management experience in the financial sector and developed teaching and research on marketing issues in financial markets.

To aid cooperation in research and teaching, in 1997 an informal "Marketing Area" comprising the D-section, CIC and the Center for Consumer Marketing (CCM)

The D-section´s methodological orientation towards longitudinal case studies is exemplified by two other dissertations focusing description and explanation of change.

Helén Anderson described a 60- year period of change and growth of a mechanical engineering firm, focusing on change and stability in the product assortment and how that is related to an interplay between internal resources and the external relations to customers and suppliers.

Per Andersson´s dissertation concerns industrial marketing change processes and how change is related to stability. A set of marketing organization changes in a company (Pharmacia Biotech) between 1989 and 1993 are put in their context of internal and external overlapping change processes. The change episodes are also viewed as embedded in more long-term processes of change.

Several of the above mentioned dissertations during the last couple of decades have involved aspects of "distribution", one of the core areas ever since the beginning of the D-section, A very important initiative in support of our distribution research was the decision in the early 90s by "Torsten and Ragnar Söderberg´s Foundations" to grant stipends for doctoral studies in this field.

Anna Nyberg, whose licentiate thesis analysed the effect on distribution channels of international mergers between manufacturing firms, applied evolutionary economics on two innovations in Swedish grocery distribution, the self-service format and the highly integrated bloc formation. It is interesting to note that the first major academic study of self service in Sweden was published by Lars Persson at the D-section already in 1955 and that Lars-Gunnar Mattsson´s dissertation in 1969 dealt with integration in distribution systems. Together with Staffan Hultén, Anna Nyberg has continued to study distribution phenomena from an evolutionary perspective.

The latter phenomenon was also in focus for Hans Kjellberg who, like C-F Helgesson, applied a "sociology of science and techniques approach (SST)" to his analysis of the "rationalisation" (in terms of techniques and organisation ) of grocery distribution during the formative decades of one of the "blocs". Kjellberg´s analysis shows in a promising way how SST can be applied to a phenomenon that already since Gerhard Törnqvist´s time has provided core issues for research at the D-section. Incidentally, Törnqvist is one of the actors in network process studied by Kjellberg.

Michael Kaplan´s inquiry into electronic commerce focused on the acquisition of capabilities needed to engage in this modern form of distribution. Two computer firms, Compac and Dell with different strategies are compared over almost two decades The dissertation relates the resource based view of the firm to the network approach.

Fredrika Ulfdotter´s licentiate thesis analysed the growth in the retail assortment of fruit youghurt as an aspect of internationalization of the Nordic market.

Anders Liljenberg´s dissertation competition provides a deep, literature based conceptual analysis integrating major ideas in Austrian economics and in economic sociology thereby also contributing to the markets-as-networks approach. Competition, as an essential phenomenon on markets, is seen as customer-geared, positively related to customer alertness and negatively related to social capital between customer and supplier.

Various aspects of marketing in a markets-as-networks perspective have been pursued during since 1980 also outside of the projects referred to above. Here can be mentioned analyses of market and marketing investments and of corporate strategy in networks, studies of internationalisation of small and medium sized firms and of internationalisation in highly internationalised markets. Ivan Snehota was, as a member of the D-section, involved in projects on the role of customer-supplier relationships in business development, the economy of business relationshipos and key-account management.

When Lars-Gunnar Mattsson retired as head of the section in 2002, the D-section also entered its second half-century. The number of D-section members was then about 20, a substantial proportion of whom with their doctorates. The present and future research is to an important extent related to, phenomenas and issues mentioned above.

We can see that the last two decades, compared to the first two has involved more studies of industrial and international markets, more extensive case studies and above all more emphasis on dynamic aspects of firms and industries/markets. Technology has been more in focus.

While the first decades was theoretically more based on industrial organization and theories of location of economic activities, the last two decades has been more based on theories under the wide umbrella provided by economic sociology (including interorganizational and network theories.)

However we can also see that the early emphasis on studies at industry/market level rather than on individual, isolated firm level or on the individual consumer level is still valid as is the broad definitioin of the boundaries of marketing as an academic subject and as a function in firms and in society. And distribution is still a major study area which makes the D-symbol a still valid one.

Written by: Professor Emeritus Lars-Gunnar Mattsson, 2003

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