Peter Bowbrick on Quality, Grades and Brands




Quality Grades and Brands
The Art of the Economist
Marketing Economics
Academic Fraud


This page gives links to my books and papers on quality, so they can be downloaded.

Quality is fundamental to economics. It is fundamental to marketing. The old economists could talk about two commodities, corn and steel, as though they were totally homogeneous.

In today’s market this is absurd. Every product, whether it be a car or a computer or a pizza, has an enormous range of qualities. There are an enormous number of competing products within any category. Often two qualities of a same product, a Rolls Royce and a Mini for example, are not competing purchases as far as most consumers are concerned.

Most products sell on quality. Supermarkets and manufacturers compete on quality. And I am talking of quality as a marketing tool here, not ISO 9000, TQM, QA, etc. In economics and marketing we assume that management has sufficient cop on to produce the quality they aim for: the problem is that they usually aim for a quality that does not sell.

My book, The Economics of Quality, Grades and Brands, is the definitive book on the subject. It is concerned with quality, grades and brands in the real world, and with presenting a theory that can be used to analyse products and markets, and to make money. It brings together the best of the theory into a cohesive whole. And it leaves out a lot of ivory-tower theory that cannot be applied to the real world, that does not work if there are more than two quality characteristics, or if one is a variable like red, for instance.

“The Economics of Grades” is a classic, a paper that has been in use in universities for quarter of a century. There is no sign of anything replacing it.

“The Case against Minimum Standards”, is again a classic. It was seen as heretical when it was written and aroused enormous hostility from civil service quality units in particular. It is now accepted theory.

The Appraisal of the EEC Fruit and Vegetable Grading system is significant as the first application of hard theory, combined with evidence, and a deep understanding of the marketing system from producer to the supermarket shelf, to analyse a state-operated system of standards. It showed that the system was positively harmful to consumers and local producers, with the costs vastly higher than the administrative costs. Again this aroused enormous hostility from civil service quality units in particular. They resisted its conclusions and continued to waste money on a vast scale. Some at least have now come round to my conclusions.

My refutation of Lancaster’s theory of quality is significant as his paper was one of the dozen most cited in economics. I showed that it is economically untenable. It is never used in practice – though people using other approaches such as Waugh’s often cite Lancaster as the originator. Lancaster himself complained of this.

Peter Bowbrick,  "A Bibliography on the Economics of Quality and Grades." 

Peter Bowbrick, The Economics of Quality, Grades and Brands, Routledge, London 1992. 

Peter Bowbrick, Limitations of Lancaster’s theory of Consumer Demand, PhD Thesis, Henley Management College, 1994. 

Peter Bowbrick, The Economics of Grades”, Oxford Agrarian Studies. 11, 65-92. 1982. 

Peter Bowbrick, An Economic Appraisal of the EEC Fruit and Vegetable Grading System. Dublin. 1981.     

Peter Bowbrick, The case against minimum standards”, Journal of Agricultural Economics. 28: 113-117, May. 1977.        

Peter Bowbrick, A critique of Economic Man Theories of Quality  Economic man theories of quality

Peter Bowbrick, Pseudo-research in marketing - the case of the price:perceived quality relationship”, European Journal of Marketing. 14(8) 466-70. 1980.

Peter Bowbrick, “A perverse price-quality relationship”, Irish Journal of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology. 6 93-94. 1976.

Peter Bowbrick, “Quality theories in agricultural economics”, Presented at EAAE Seminar Agricultural Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, 1996.

Peter Bowbrick, “Limitations of non-behavioural approaches to the economics of quality” Conference of International Association for Research on Economic Psychology and the Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics, Rotterdam, 1994.

Peter Bowbrick, “The Misuse of Indifference Curves in Quality Theory”, Working Paper, Henley, The Management College, Henley on Thames. 1991.

Peter Bowbrick, “The Misuse of Hedonic Prices and Costs”, Working Paper, Henley, The Management College, Henley on Thames. 1991.

Peter Bowbrick, “Towards a General Theory of Search”, Agricultural Economics Society Conference. April, 1991.

Peter Bowbrick, “Justifications for compulsory minimum standards” British Food Journal, 92 (2) 23-30, 1990.

Peter Bowbrick, “Justifications for compulsory minimum standards”, Agricultural Economics Society Conference. April. 1989.

Peter Bowbrick, “Stars and Superstars”, American Economic Review. June. p459 vol 73 1983.      

Peter Bowbrick, “Evaluating a grading system”, Irish Journal of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology. 7 117-126. 1979. 

Peter Bowbrick, “Compulsory grading and the consumer”, Acta Horticulturae. 55. 1976.    

Peter Bowbrick, “A new approach to the economics of grading”, Paper to Irish Agricultural Economics Society. 1974.            

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