Ah! Marketing and its relentless endeavour of profit maximisation! A marketer would not mind making the world one hoarding and splashing its ads everywhere (how do you like seeing automobile, electronics, movie, lingerie etc. ads splashed across on every inch of trains, aeroplanes and their cabins, beautiful scenic highways, public spaces…?)
In the process of bringing a firm’s products and services to the end consumer, a marketer has left no stone unturned acting like a magician casting a spell on the consumer’s mind to spend, buy its products and justify whatever its selling. In this endeavour, the marketer has by and large ignored adherence to ‘virtues’ and ‘philosophies’ like ethics and responsibility towards society. Marketing is increasingly creating and encouraging artificial or false needs (Apple Corp. limiting supplies to create perception of high demand, cosmetic companies coming out with non-essential and expensive products), promoting discrimination (fairness creams, size zero body size) floating false promises (fairness creams, deceitful packaging or excess packaging, flu vaccines that really don’t work etc.) intensifying materialism, hoarding and greed (EMI offerings for luxury products, brand endorsements that pushes consumption etc.) All this kind of irresponsible marketing will impact an organisation negatively, damage the reputation/brand-name, bring slump in sales and profits, mistrust in shareholders, legal disputes and many more.
Ethical issues do influence marketing, its planning and long-term sustainability of the organisation. Ethics, as defined by Peter Stanwick and Sara Stanwick in their book ‘Understanding Business Ethics’ (2013), are values that individuals use to interpret whether an action or behaviour is acceptable or appropriate. It is very important for organisations to respond to ethical issues in their marketing strategy. Marketing mix should compliment ethics and social responsibility to be called as a responsible marketing that considers and honours the long-term benefits of its customers.
When a company vows to practice best interests of society in both short and long term, it practices responsible marketing. Responsible marketing is a philanthropic philosophy and includes many related marketing concepts like cause marketing, green marketing, environmental marketing and social marketing.
The responsible marketing process of an organisation has to be guided from the very start by ethical practices with focus on customer and societal needs and well-being. The marketing process should end with fair and enriching value creation of the business for their markets. Trend is changing now and increasing number of organisations and companies have become socially and environmentally aware when it comes to planning and implementing their marketing strategies. More and more companies are going ‘green’. During the Covid-19 pandemic we witness many companies promoting ‘social distancing, hand washing and stay at home’ practices. Online portals like Amazon, Nykaa, Myntra are selling only essential hygiene and health protection products. Uber and Ola ride services practiced hygiene and promoted adherence to social distancing guidelines during the pandemic. Local kirana and grocery stores adhere to rationed supply and social distancing through the pandemic lockdown.
For businesses that embrace responsible marketing practices, there are many distinct advantages. It provides financial advantages like tax-cuts and other incentives provided by the government, instills faith, goodwill in the market especially in the customer base and improves public relations. Companies gain more business as customers appreciate social responsibility. Responsible marketing will gain more and more leverage especially post COVID-19, because it promotes respecting the planet and each other as there will not be one without the other.
Keywords: Responsible marketing, social marketing, green marketing, marketing trends, COVID-19, ethical business.
About the author: Shahana Qutab is a doctoral research scholar of Social Marketing at IILM University, Gurugram, India.