A Marketing Research tool for Marketing Systems Teaching


Christine Domegan, College of Business, Public Policy and Law, National University of Ireland, Galway

publication date

March 01, 2020


Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (external link).

cite as

Domegan, Christine (2020), ” A Marketing Research tool for Marketing Systems Teaching,” Macromarketing Pedagogy Place, (accessed August 21, 2020), [available at http://pedagogy.macromarketing.org/project/PP202003E/].


Marketing Systems; Marketing Research


Group Assignment; Project; Report


This assignment is part of an undergraduate Marketing and Sustainability module where students are introduced to marketing systems theory and practice. Among other systems concepts, students are challenged with feedback and nonlinear causality thinking.

This assignment involves drawing causal loops and crafting loop narratives to build a visual picture of the relationships and interdependencies in a marketing system. Behavioural and structural dynamics are examined. The process of drawing positive and negative causal loops together as a group facilitates critical and reflective dialogical interactions for a sustainable future. It develops teamwork and communication skills. The causal loop diagrams are one part of the marketing research in a marketing systems project for WHO Healthy Cities.

Rationale for this project

Marketing theory and practice, to be of relevance to complex and wicked problems, the UN SDGs and a post-pandemic world, is best served by listening to, learning about and leveraging the increasing complexity and dynamics of our world, our societies, our communities and our daily lives.

Classroom example

A group of four engages in a series of steps to draw causal loop diagrams (CLDs).

This begins with a conventional literature review, in-depth expert interviews, and/or a survey to generate a list of singular barriers and enablers at work in the chosen system. Next, the group conducts paired comparison to create a set of barrier and enabler themes.

Then, students develop qualitative single causal loops using a computer software package or white boards, sticky notes, and pens. Each causal loop is checked for its theoretical basis and a narrative is developed. In another session, the individual CLD are coherently blended by the team into one qualitative systems dynamic map to create a picture and story about the system and related problem on hand. Map formation involves clustering loops around similar issues and finding points of marketing and theory congruence between these loops. During the clustering of the individual loops, the system’s dominant behavior and structures can be identified.


  1. This assignment is best done in groups of 3 or 4.

  2. Software is available to draw causal loops but the loops can also be done with black pen and paper, depending on student preferences, skills, time and resources.

  3. The causal loop drawings can be supported by group work, teamwork and conflict management tutorials.

  4. The group can weave the individual causal loops together to generate a systems map in a further assignment.

Feedback from students

For all students, this is their first experience and understanding of a systemic or holistic picture of a marketing system they are living in on a daily basis.

For most, it is also their first introduction to how marketing and marketing systems relate to the UN’s SDGs. Students rate the cognitive dimensions, such as problem solving and problem analysis, and the affective aspects. for example, communication, leadership, and working in groups, on the higher end of a 7-point scale regardless of gender, career preferences, and prior working experiences.


  1. Daniel H. Kim. Introduction to systems thinking. Pegasus Communications, Waltham, MA, 1999.

  2. John Sterman. Causal loop diagrams. In Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modelling for a Complex World, chapter 5, pages 137 – 157. McGraw-Hill, NY, 2000.