Service-dominant logic

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Service-dominant (S-D) logic is meta-theoretical framework for explaining value creation, through exchange, among configurations of actors. The underlying idea of S-D logic is that humans apply their competences to benefit others and reciprocally benefit from others’ applied competences through service-for-service exchange (Vargo and Lusch, 2004). Since the publication of the first S-D logic article entitled "Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing"[1] in 2004 in Journal of Marketing, S-D logic has become a cocreated effort of numerous scholars across disciplines, who share the common goal of contributing to the understanding of human value cocreation, by developing an alternative to traditional logics of exchange. Hence, S-D logic has been continually extended and elaborated. Among the most important extensions have been (1) the development of the service ecosystems perspective that allows a more holistic, dynamic, and systemic perspective of value creation and (2) the emphasis of institutions and institutional arrangements as coordination mechanisms in such systems (Vargo and Lusch, 2016).

The core of S-D Logic[edit]

At the core of of S-D logic is the idea all exchanges can be viewed in terms of service-for-service exchange, the reciprocal application of resources for others’ benefit (Vargo and Lusch, 2004). Focus on service (singular) steers attention to the process, patterns, and benefits of exchange, rather than the units of output that are exchanged (e.g., goods). S-D logic argues that in order to create value, that is to maintain and increase wellbeing and viability, actors engage in interdependent and reciprocally beneficial service exchange (Lusch and Vargo, 2014). Hence, value creation occurs in networks in which resources are exchanged among multiple actors and is therefore more accurately conceptualized as value cocreation (Vargo and Lusch, 2008, Vargo, Maglio and Akaka, 2009). Recently, S-D logic has moved toward a dynamic, systems orientation in which value cocreation is coordinated through shared institutions (norms, symbols, and other heuristics), often massive-scale resource integration and service exchange processes (Lusch and Vargo, 2014, Vargo and Lusch 2016).

Axioms and foundational premises[edit]

The core ideas of S-D logic are formulated into foundational premises. Stephen Vargo and Robert Lusch put forth the original eight foundational premises of S-D logic in the seminal, 2004 article. Since then, the foundational premises have gone through modifications and additional premises have been added as S-D logic has been extended and elaborated (Vargo and Lusch, 2006, 2008, 2016). Currently, S-D Logic has eleven foundational premises (FPs). Five of these have been identified the axioms of S-D logic (Vargo and Lusch, 2016), from which the other FPs could be derived.

S-D logic axioms and foundational premises
Axiom 1/FP1 Service is the fundamental basis of exchange.
FP2 Indirect exchange masks the fundamental basis of exchange.
FP3 Goods are a distribution mechanism for service provision.
FP4 Operant resources are the fundamental source of strategic benefit.
FP5 All economies are service economies.
Axiom 2/FP6 Value is cocreated by multiple actors, always including the beneficiary.
FP7 Actors cannot deliver value but can participate in the creation and offering of value propositions.
FP8 A service-centered view is inherently customer oriented and relational.
Axiom 3/FP9 All social and economic actors are resource integrators.
Axiom 4/FP10 Value is always uniquely and phenomenologically determined by the beneficiary.
Axiom 5/FP11 Value cocreation is coordinated through actor-generated institutions and institutional arrangements.

The first axiom (FP1) ‘Service is the fundamental basis of exchange’ is based on the previously introduced definition of service as the application of operant resources (primarily knowledge and skill) for the benefit of another actor. S-D logic argues that it is always fundamentally service, rather than goods, per se, that actors exchange as they strive to become better off. It is important to emphasize that this ‘service’ (singular), a process, should not be confused with ‘services’, (usually plural), usually intended to denote a unit of (intangible) output, which is associated with goods dominant (G-D) logic. The first axiom is at the heart of S-D logic, and thus foundational to the other FPs. For example, it implies that (1) goods are distribution mechanisms for service provision (FP3) and (2) all economies are service economies (FP5). It also follows that money, when it is involved in exchanges, represents rights to future service. In other words, money can be viewed as a placeholder for future service and can be understood as a form of indirect service exchange that often masks the fundamental basis of exchange (FP2).

The second axiom (FP6), ‘Value is cocreated by multiple actors, always including the beneficiary’, contradicts the traditional worldview, in which firms are seen as the sole creator of value. Rather, it suggests that value is something that is always cocreated through the interaction of actors, either directly or indirectly (e.g., through goods). This axiom also enables one to see more clearly that the service-oriented view is inherently relational, because value does not arise prior to exchange transaction, but rather following it, in the use of the exchanged resources, in a particular context and in conjunction with resources provided by other service providers. This value creation is seen as unfolding, over time, with a consequence of continuing social and economic exchange, implicit contracts, and relational norms. The original scope for this axiom was intended to shift the primary locus of value creation from the firm’s sphere to the customer’s and from the primacy of value-in-exchange, toward the primacy of value-in-use. More recently, S-D logic has begun to use to term value-in-context to capture the notion that value must be understood in the context of the beneficiary’s world and the associated resources and other actors (Vargo et al. 2009). This collaborative nature of value creation is best viewed from a higher level of aggregation than the dyad (e.g., meso- or macro levels) (Chandler and Vargo, 2011). That is, value co-creation through service-for-service exchange is at the very heart of society. It is also important to distinguish between co-production and the co-creation of value (Lusch and Vargo, 2006). Co-production refers to the customer’s participation in the creation of the value-proposition (the firms offering), such as through co-design, customer-assembly, self-service, etc. Co-production is thus relatively optional and its advisability depends on a host of firm and customer conditions. This is different from co-creation of value, which is intended to capture the essential nature of value creation: it always involves the beneficiary’s participation (through use, integration with other resources, etc.,) in some manner.

The third axiom (FP9) ‘All social and economic actors are resource integrators’ highlights that all actors are, fundamentally, not only providing service but also integrating resources, from various resources (Vargo and Lusch, 2011, Wieland, Koskela-Huotari and Vargo, 2016). Thus, the concept of resource-integrator does not just apply to the actor typically referred to as a "producer" (e.g., the firm), but also, to a whole range of other actors, including what is usually referred to as the "consumer" or the "customer". It sets the stage for thinking about the mechanics and the networked nature of value co-creation, as well as the process through which the resources for service provision are created or emerge, the patterns of resource integration and the availability of resources from various market-facing, public, and private sources. It is through the resource integration and its many possible explicit and implicit combinations, facets, and intricacies that value is cocreated.

In the fourth axiom (FP10) of S-D logic, ‘Value is always uniquely and phenomenologically determined by the beneficiary,’ the term ‘beneficiary’ reflects the generic nature of actors. In reciprocal service exchange all actors are both providers and beneficiaries. This axiom reinforces that value is experiential. The key message of this axiom is that all value propositions (e.g., goods, service provision, etc.) are perceived and integrated differently by each actor and thus, value is also uniquely experienced and determined. That is, value must be understood in terms of the holistic combination of resources that lead to it, in the context of other (potential) resources (Chandler and Vargo, 2011). It is thus always unique to a single actor and, it follows, can only be determined by that actor, or at least with the actor as the central referent.

The fifth axiom (FP11) ‘Value cocreation is coordinated through actor-generated institutions and institutional arrangements’ draws attention to the role of institutions and the process of institutionalization in value cocreation. It is important to note that here the term institution does not refer to an organization. Instead, institutions are humanly devised rules, norms, and beliefs that enable and constrain action and make social life predictable and meaningful (Scott 2001; see also North 1990). Institutions and institutional arrangements— higher-order sets of interrelated institutions – enable actors to accomplish an ever-increasing level of service exchange and value cocreation under time and cognitive constraints in service ecosystems (Vargo and Lusch, 2016). This benefit, however, comes at a potential expense, as institutionalization can also lead to lock-in.

Service ecosystems perspective[edit]

To fully unlock the complex nature of value cocreation within the society, S-D logic has recently introduced the concept of a service ecosystem (Lusch and Vargo, 2014, Vargo and Lusch, 2011). As actors specialize in providing ever more sophisticated configurations of applied resources for each other, the systemic dependencies and interdependencies among them result as the emergence of complex exchange systems (Chandler and Vargo, 2011, Vargo and Lusch, 2011). S-D logic uses the term ‘ecosystems’ to identify these systems because it denotes actor–environmental interaction and energy flow. More specifically, the term ‘service ecosystem’ is used to identify the particular kind of critical flow—mutual service provision (Vargo and Lusch, 2016). Service ecosystems are defined in S-D logic as “relatively self-contained, self-adjusting systems of resource-integrating actors connected by shared institutional arrangements and mutual value creation through service exchange.” (Lusch and Vargo 2014; Vargo and Lusch 2016).

The service ecosystems concept is similar to the service systems concept of service science (Service science, management and engineering, e.g., Maglio et al. 2009), defined as “a configuration of people, technologies, and other resources that interact with other service systems to create mutual value”. However, the service ecosystem definition in S-D logic emphasizes the more general role of institutions, rather than technology. Likewise, the service ecosystems conceptualization is somewhat similar to Layton’s (e.g., 2011) conceptualization of a marketing system. However, he sees both knowledge and institutions as environmental, or exogenous, to marketing systems, whereas in S-D logic they are seen actor-generated and endogenous to service ecosystems (Vargo and Lusch, 2016).

S-D Logic narrative[edit]

The five axioms and the service ecosystems perspective help to communicate an S-D logic narrative of value cocreation – the central focus of this alternative worldview. This narrative is recursive over time, as actors integrate resources, provide reciprocal-service and cocreate value through “holistic, meaning-laden experiences in nested and overlapping service ecosystems, governed and evaluated through their institutional arrangements” (Vargo and Lusch 2016, p. 7).

Applications of S-D logic[edit]

It is important to highlight that despite the early perception that S-D logic was uniquely concerned with “services” marketing, S-D logic is not uniquely about any single sub-discipline of marketing. In fact, it is not even uniquely about marketing, at least in the traditional sense of the word. Many scholars across disciplines have therefore contributed to the evolution and development of S-D logic.

Within marketing, S-D logic has been applied to virtually all of its sub-disciplines. In supply chain management and logistics, scholars have started to think in terms of value networks and systems and focus on cocreation due to the influence of S-D logic (see e.g. Flint and Mentzer, 2006; Tokman and Beitelspacher, 2011, Yazdanparast, Manuj, and Swartz, 2010). S-D logic was also linked with branding and brand cocreation early on (Ballantyne and Aitken, 2007, Merz, He and Vargo, 2009) and identified as the natural ally of consumer culture theory (CCT) (Arnould, 2007). S-D logic is shown to facilitate a seamless integration of ethical accountability in marketing decision-making (Abela and Murphy, 2008) and used to guide practitioners to achieve and sustain strategic advantage (Bettencourt, Lusch, and Vargo, 2014). Recently, S-D logic has also been applied to marketing sub-disciplines such as international marketing (Akaka, Vargo, and Lusch, 2013) and social marketing (Luca, Hibbert, and McDonald, 2015; Russell-Bennett, Wood, and Previte, 2013).

The S-D logic framework has also found considerable resonance outside of marketing. S-D logic has been applied in such diverse fields as information systems (Alter, 2010), health disciplines (see e.g. Hardyman, Daunt, & Kitchener, 2015; Rehman, Dean, & Pires, 2012), arts philosophy (Boorsma, 2006), tourism management (see e.g. FitzPatrick, Davey, Muller, & Davey, 2013), public management (Osborne, Radnor, and Nasi, 2013) and innovation studies (Michel, Brown, and Gallan, 2008).

Moreover, scholars are extending the S-D logic with applicable management tools such as the Service-Dominant Strategy Canvas ( Lüftenegger, Comuzzi and Grefen, 2015).

S-D Logic conferences[edit]

In 2005, an international group of academics led by David Ballantyne met to discuss these issues at The Otago Forum (2005, 2008, 2011), with special issues of major marketing journals emerging, as a consequence. Other international interest emerged that broadened to include service management and service science. This broadened interest is reflected in the Naples Forum on Service (2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015) that has a special focus on service systems and networks, service science and service-dominant logic. Lusch and Vargo, established the Forum on Markets and Marketing (FMM) to: (1) explore foundational and theoretical issues related to marketing, including the understanding of markets and marketing systems and (2) further the development of S-D logic. FMM has been held in 2008 at the University of New South Wales, in 2010 at Cambridge University, in 2012 at the University of Auckland, in 2014 at the CTF, Service Research Center Karlstad University, Sweden and in 2016 in Venice by Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick. It is common as well for major academic conferences in marketing and service research to have special sessions and/or invitations around S-D logic.

S-D Logic Award[edit]

To recognize the contributions of individuals that have worked to advance the theory and practice of S-D Logic, Robert Lusch and Stephen Vargo established the S-D Logic Award.[2] Recipients have included Evert Gummesson, Emeritus Professor, Stockholm University (2011 recipient), Jim Spohrer, Innovation Champion & Director, IBM (2013 recipient), Irene Ng, Professor of Marketing and Service Systems, University of Warwick.


  1. ^ For this work, Lusch and Vargo have been awarded the Harold H. Maynard Award by the American Marketing Association for "significant contribution to marketing theory and thought" and the Sheth Foundation Award for "long term contributions to the field of marketing."
  2. ^ More information about the S-D Logic award


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