Social Marketing: Perspectives and Viewpoints

By William Lazer; Eugene J. Kelley | Go to book overview

19. WHAT ARE THE SOCIAL AND ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF MARKETING EXECUTIVES?*

James M. Patterson

There is no specific, concrete guide to responsible action for marketing executives, beyond a sort of "watered-down" commercial version of the Golden Rule.

Let us face the fact that the search for a general set of rules defining the social responsibilities of marketing is misguided in principle and doomed to fail.

Instead of asking, "What are the social responsibilities of marketing?", the question might better be, "What workable guides are available to help a marketing executive to evaluate alternative courses of action in a specific concrete situation?"


RESPONSIBLE ACTIONS

The really difficult problem of defining responsible marketing actions lies in those everyday marketing activities that raise simple questions of equity, fairness, and morality--not just questions of legality. To quote from Howard Bowen's classic questions about the responsibilities of businessmen,

Should he conduct selling in ways that intrude on the privacy of people, for example, by door-to-door selling . . .? Should he use methods involving ballyhoo, chances, prizes, hawking, and other tactics which are at least of doubtful good taste? Should he employ "high pressure" tactics in persuading people to buy? Should he try to hasten the obsolescence of goods by bringing out an endless succession of new models and new styles? Should he appeal to and attempt to strengthen the motives of materialism, invidious consumption, and "keeping up with the Joneses"?1

The marketing executive faces nagging questions about the propriety of attempting to manipulate customers, and in particular of the ethics of using emotional and symbolic appeals in various forms of persuasive

____________________
*
Reprinted from "What are the Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Marketing Executives?" Journal of Marketing, Vol. 31 ( July 1966), pp. 12-15.
1
Howard R. Bowen, Social Responsibilities of the Businessman ( New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953), p. 215.
Indiana University.

-217-

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