Research Insights 4.3 The Impact of Product Portfolio Strategy on Financial Performance

The Marketing Environment

Source: Morrison, A. and Wensley, R. (1991), ‘Boxing up or boxing in: A short history of the Boston Consulting Group Share/Growth Matrix’, Journal of Marketing Management, 7, 2, 105–29.

Abstract: This paper looks critically at the history, mainly from public sources of the development of the Market Share/Market Growth matrix by the Boston Consulting Group and its popularization in both the practitioner and academic domains. The application of the "Boston Box" became a powerful means of simplifying and "boxing up" complex issues of marketing strategy. However, of particular interest is the question of whether this central technique in any marketing strategy analysis of the seventies or eighties also bred its own form of "marketing myopia" and "boxed in" strategic discussions to a limited set of options and prescriptions. A short survey of marketing lecturers in the UK was also conducted to establish the current state of undergraduate teaching of the "Boston Box" itself which suggests that there are still considerable areas of concern in terms of the teaching of such techniques.


This highly readable and critical article outlines the history of the development of the Boston Box portfolio analysis concept from academic and practitioner perspectives. The authors conclude that the concept is useful in strategic planning, but that those using it should be aware of its limitations—namely, around the scope of the technique, the assumptions it makes, how it defines and classifies markets in terms of share and growth, its failure to consider the political dimensions of strategy development, that there are strategic implementation difficulties in real firms, and that it explains what strategy to undertake, but not how to undertake it.