Author, Prof. Kalsom Kayat
Consumers are the heart of Marketing. Marketing creates, communicates and delivers value to consumers through research, innovation, creative thinking and strategic management in order to satisfy consumer needs thus keeping the customers happy while sustaining the profit. In their effort towards achieving all those goals, many businesses and marketers cross the line between being innovative/creative and manipulative. Responsible marketing should be practised by marketers today.
The core element of responsible marketing is the truth. Sure, we need to romanticize our products and services somewhat to put them in their best light, but that is something that can be done truthfully, and not manipulatively. A dictionary even defines manipulation as to “manage or influence skillfully.” Yet another defines manipulation as to “control or play upon by artful, unfair or insidious means, especially to one’s own advantage.” Those definitions really do not sound too bad. But in reality, manipulation is equivalent to cheating. And when it happens at one’s vulnerable moments, it may move from “cheat” to “dupe”. A desperate heavy person may easily fall for “Lose weight without diet or exercise” advertisement, agreeing to exchange his/her money for a diet shake from a seller with the hope that in return, he/she will turn into a slimmer person. Yupp, many marketers dupe consumers, for profit.
We are at the point of time where giving society access to happiness is key. The then Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon stated in his message that Sustainable Development Strategic Plan 2030 forms an effective plan to provide a decent life for all the people and that through promoting the progress made to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals, we can help spread the happiness and ensure peace. Marketers too should be involved in realizing these goals by being truthful, which is the core element in responsible marketing. Marketers must now romanticize their products and services creatively yet truthfully, and not manipulatively. As an example, Chouinard’s company market truthfully by attractively presenting their product benefits and sticking to their expressed mission of reducing, repairing, reusing, recycling and provide appropriate services. Their integrity is probably best displayed in their November 2011 advertising campaign: “Don’t Buy This Jacket” to help reduce the wasteful buying frenzy of “Black Friday”, including sales of their own apparel. And they still make a profit. They still sustain.
In their effort to sustain sales growth and maximize profit, marketers must remember they are responsible and accountable to the society’s happiness and the environment’s wellbeing. KPIs are important, so are the lives of others. We cannot be feeling good if we achieve our KPIs and make the profit, yet our consumers are hurt by our product because some of its ingredients are harmful to their health or children employees have to work long hours or the sea turtles die in the process
Prof. Kalsom is a Resident Faculty at OYAGSB, UUM. Follow her on Instagram.