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Any sphere of activity is known to affect the society as a whole, as well as its individual citizens. But while some of the activities have a direct influence (e.g., industrial emissions or introduction of new materials), others act indirectly, and their influence is difficult to assess. Factually, marketing could be referred to the second group. Further the paper aims at describing author’s vision of marketing and its relationship with society.
First, it should be noted that the impact of marketing on individual consumers is harming consumers by 1) high prices, 2) usage of mislead techniques, 3) use of methods to impose the goods, 4) sale of unsound or unsafe products, 5 ) use of planned obsolescence of goods and 6) low-level maintenance of disadvantaged consumers (Lummus, 2003). But in general, the marketing system is usually blamed for the fact that it panders to the spread of such evils of the modern society, as excessive commercialism and artificial desires, lack of necessary social goods, cultural erosion, and excessive political influence of business.
Enterprise system really encourages excessive interest in materialism. Today, people are often judged not by what they are, but by what they own. A person is not considered successful, if he/she doesn’t have a house in the suburbs, two cars, most fashionable clothes and latest gadgets (Lummus, 2003). On the other hand, studies show that the abundant variety of products to meet all human needs makes the situation change in the opposite direction. Modern people begin to lose passion for acquisitiveness. They spend more time on recreation, games, learn to be grateful for small favor, pay more attention to the establishment and development of close human relationships and ordinary human happiness, rather than the pursuit of things (Fitchett, 2000).
In this case, the predilection for material things is not observed as the natural human feeling, but as the aspiration created by marketing, stimulating people’s passions. To create the samples of the good life based on materialism, marketing uses mass media: demonstrative consumption is applied in order to make other people envious. To earn necessary sums of money, people start working harder. Their purchases contribute both to the growth in output and the increase of production capacity of industries. In turn, the industrial production increasingly relies on marketing to stimulate the desire to acquire the produced goods. Therefore, people are viewed as a certain link that connects the production and consumption and could be easily manipulated. The need start to be determined by what is produced at the moment (O’Shaughnessy, 2007).
However, in this conclusion, the opportunities of business in the creation or promotion of needs are likely to be exaggerated. In normal social conditions, people face a number of ways of life contradicting each other and choose only some of them on their own taste. In addition, people have a natural protective reaction against exposure to the media, selective attention, perceptual distortion and memorization. The media are most effective when appealing to the existing needs, rather than trying to create new ones (Fitchett, 2000). Moreover, people are looking for information concerning the purchases of a broader nature, and therefore do not rely on single sources of information. Even at small acquisitions, which could be committed under the influence of advertising messages, repeat purchases will occur only if the operational properties of the goods meet the expectations of the consumer. Finally, the high failure rate of new products on the market contradicts to the assertion of the ability of firms to control the demand of the society (Bansal, 2001).
If to look deeper, our needs and values influenced not only by the actors of the market, but also the family, people of our circle, religion, our ethnicity and educational level. For instance, if Americans are too mercenary, it is only because the system of values which they hold has been formed during the fundamental processes of formation of society, which in its significance are deeper then the results of the impact of business media.
Marketing is also accused of over-stimulating demand for goods for personal consumption (e.g., cars) to the detriment of public welfare (roads, on which these cars drive). Distribution of goods for personal use requires an appropriate level of public services, which are usually not enough (development of streets, freeways, traffic control and parking services, the safety and protective services from the police and hospitals). In the example with cars, despite quite clear need to maintain a balance in this field, the result is horrendous traffic jams, chronic colitis of cities, leading to social imbalance and social costs that neither producers nor consumers are willing to pay for (Lummus, 2003).
Critics argue that the marketing system also brings an erosion of culture. Human sense organs are constantly exposed to attacks from advertising. Serious TV programs are interrupted by advertising inserts; printed materials are lost among the pages of advertising, wonderful landscapes are defaced by billboards. Advertising invasion is continuously introducing thoughts about sex, power, and prestige into human consciousness (O’Shaughnessy).
Entrepreneurs respond to these charges of creating the commercial fuss as follows. First, they expect that their advertisements reach, in the first place, the target audience. In connection with the use of channels of mass communications the part of ads willing or not reaches people who are not interested in a particular product and therefore have a sense of boredom or irritation from advertising. But those who buy magazines addressed to their interests, such as Vogue or Fortune, rarely complain about the ads, because they advertise products the buyer is interested in. Second, the advertisements ensure freedom of commercial radio and television in their role of disseminating information and hamper the growth of magazines and newspapers prices. Most of the population believes the inclusion of commercials in the program is a very modest fee for it.
Another direction of criticism comes down to the fact that business possesses wide political power (e.g., there are politicians who support the interests of specific sectors of industry to the prejudice of the public) and excessive power over the mass media, limiting the freedom to an independent and objective coverage of events. On the other hand, the media now start publishing bolder editorial content designed to interest various market segments. Excessive power of business causes the creation of life counter-forces for neutralizing its expansive interests (Bansal, 2001).
In general, nowadays most companies have already recognized all the new rights won by consumers. Thus, the enlightened marketing encompasses five main principles: marketing with customer orientation, innovative marketing, value marketing, marketing of public mission awareness, and socio-ethical marketing (Flichett, 2000). Marketing system should function in a way to capture, maintain and meet the needs of consumers and improve their quality of life. In its quest to meet the needs of consumers, business can perform certain actions, which do not bring benefits to the society everybody. So, marketing activity should develop the basic principles of ethical behavior. Any system of morality is based on the idea of good life and correlation between individual and social well-being. Having worked out clear principles, marketing activities will be able to cope with many complicated socio-ethical problems both in the field of marketing and other spheres of human activity.
Bansal, H.S., Mendelson, M.B., & Sharma, B. (2001). The impact of internal marketing activities on external marketing outcomes. Journal of Quality Management, 6(1), 61-76.
Fitchett, J. A., & McDonagh, P. (2000). A citizen’s critique of relationship marketing in risk society. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 8 (2), 209-222.
Lummus, R.R., Duclos, L.K., & Vokurka, R.J. (2003). The impact of marketing initiatives on the supply chain. Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, 8 (4), 317-323.
O’Shaughnessy, J., & O’Shaughnessy, N.J. (2007). Reply to criticisms of marketing, the consumer society and hedonism. European Journal of Marketing, 41 (1-2), 7-16.