Another #M4BW (Marketing for a Better World) Monday post. Out of the World Economic Forum, former Volvo CEO Pehr Gyllenhammar wrote this op-ed at CNN Business, “I brought socially conscious change to Volvo without hurting profits. Other CEOs cab do the same,” (January 22, 2020). I hope that headline alone lures you into the article and a discussion with your students.
Regular readers, and those who have already seen the 17th edition of Essentials of Marketing know that we believe business can contribute to making a better, more sustainable world — without necessarily sacrificing profits in the process. Barron’s recently posted an article on this topic, and while the real thing is behind a paywall, I found this copy online (I hope it lasts there for your review).
After Barron‘s ranked the 100 most sustainable companies (#1 Texas Instruments), it compared their stock market returns in 2019 (+34.5%) with those of the S&P 500 (+31.5%). The article is optimistic that this trend will continue. Why? Some of the reasons given in the article include:
- These companies attract employees — people want to work there,
- They are better at employee retention,
- Good environmental policies lower costs,
- Customers want to do business with these companies,
- Investors want to buy into sustainable companies.
The buy one give one business model has been around for many years. One of the early advocates was Tom’s Shoes which donates a pair of shoes for someone in need for each pair it sells. Warby Parker does the same for eyeglasses and Bombas for socks. In fact, you can find 16 examples in this article and slideshow at Refinery 29. This sounds like a great example of Marketing for a Better World (#M4BW).
I thought so, and then I read “Beware companies that promote ‘buy one, give one’ charity,” Vox, October 31, 2019). After thinking about this counterpoint, I wondered if the author had perhaps overstated her case — and I will still feel good that my purchase of Bombas helped put socks on a homeless person’s feet, my All Birds helped someone get shoes, and I still think Cotopaxi is a cool company with a powerful mission. But the Vox article does raise an important question and useful point of debate for the idea of marketing for a better world. It isn’t always clear when a company makes the world a better place. And if they make some people better off at the expense of others, how do we evaluate those tradeoffs? These examples and the article might prepare you for a class debate on this topic.
Marketing gets a lot of criticism. Those of us who teach marketing know that good marketing can contribute to a better world. Meeting customers’ needs and wants can help people. That “bright side” of marketing motivates a forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Marketing, which, in its call for papers, notes: “Marketing has the power to improve lives, sustain livelihoods, strengthen societies, and benefit the world at large. At the same time, marketing can have a dark side—it has the power to hurt consumers, employees, communities, markets, institutions, and the environment that surrounds us.” Often our students come into our marketing classes thinking about the “dark side.”
Inspired by the Journal of Marketing call for papers, a wide range of reading, and my own optimism about what marketing (and more generally business) can do, I am today starting the first of a series of posts that will be tagged #M4BW (Marketing for a Better World). These posts will highlight brands and businesses that have used marketing to create profits–and made the world a better place. To give you a background, I direct you to a TED Talk by Michael Porter (below). I have shared this with my students to stimulate a discussion about how marketing might contribute to a better world. It provides a nice supplement to our Chapter 1 coverage of value, triple bottom line, ethics, and social responsibility.
Welcome back, I hope everyone had a restful and relaxing holiday with friends and family! When I saw this Marketoonist cartoon I thought it was very topical for the start of a new semester. Marketing should be all about informing and enabling consumers but there’s always the risk (and temptation) to push ethical boundaries. As we welcome a new batch of students, talk with them about where those boundaries lie. Is it intrusive if consumers give permission to track information? What if they didn’t opt-in but instead you utilize an opt-out strategy? Are we doing a disservice to customers if we don’t utilize available tools and technology to optimize our messages?