Posts con el tag ‘Business ethics’

Messi vs. Cristiano: best poll ever

Persuasion vs. manipulation has been a hot topic in marketing for years. Persuasion is understood as a process that uses written or spoken words to change a person’s attitude or behaviour toward some event, idea, object or other person(s). Manipulation is understood as skilfully managing or influencing people, especially in an unfair manner. Between the two concepts lies a thin red line, which authors like Martin Lindstrom have used to produce bestsellers like Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds.

Our team at ESADE works with a different idea – market orientation – which involves organisations that make changes in products or services for particular purposes, both commercial and social. In essence, the idea is to serve the motto of George R.R. Martin: “When you know what a man wants you know who he is, and how to move him.” Let’s manipulate our solution to make it more attractive.

Hubbub is an organisation with no definitions or mottos: they just like good challenges. When they saw that traditional wellness programmes weren’t working, they challenged themselves to create a better solution. So they manipulated a bid to reduce litter on the streets of London: residents were encouraged to throw their cigarette butts into a special kind of bin – a fascinating and cleverly manipulated bin. Cigarette smokers outside Embankment station can use the new cigarette butt boxes to cast their vote on who they think is the world’s best football player: Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

This is a fun theory approach used in social marketing. More examples: the Peppermint Pointillist displays, also in central London. In this case, Hubbub had to solve a sticky issue: the average piece of chewing gum costs 3p to buy and £1.50 to remove. So a solution was
manipulated: stick your gum on a ‘x’ to reveal an image or fact.

I love these guys: manipulating objects for social good.

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Care as the best marketing strategy

We are launching a new section on this blog: the Student Series. After five years of teaching subjects on the social effects of marketing, we thought it was vital to offer different students a space to share their thoughts on the topic.

Sonia Glushkovsky is a student in the International Bachelor of Business Administration (iBBA) programme at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto, Canada, specialising in Marketing and Operations Management. She is currently studying at the ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, as part of an exchange programme.

Gary Vaynerchuk once noted, ‘The best marketing strategy ever? Care.’ The Oxford Dictionary defines the verb ‘to care’ as ‘Feel concern or interest; attach importance to something’. Therefore, businesses need to be interested in ‘something’, but what? Profit?  Themselves? The answer is society, an important stakeholder for any caring business anywhere in the world.

 Of course, that ‘care’ needs to be authentic and genuine, and not simply a hollow message communicated in a marketing campaign. To achieve a win-win situation, efforts must focus on areas that are aligned with the corporate strategy. A company’s internal corporate culture (values) and daily business operations shape its image and can alter profits dramatically. Many companies have corporate social responsibility programmes and focus on ethical issues such as environmental stewardship, providing safe and equal working conditions, and supporting local charities and communities. Even Henry Ford once said, ‘A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.’

 Not only does caring make you feel like a good citizen, it boosts your company’s image, reputation, and brand in the eyes of both your customers and the public at large. Partnering with local charities that support your values is a prime example. The intangible and tangible benefits to be gained from social marketing are unlimited, from empowering your employees in order to increase productivity and loyalty to generating free publicity in the media.

 Many companies use social marketing to differentiate themselves in the market. Coca-Cola, for instance, has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund’s campaign to protect polar bears. For animal lovers and conscientious soft-drink consumers around the world, the polar bear effort is a decisive factor when choosing between Coke and Pepsi. 

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A bunch of slacktivism, neknominations and ice buckets

The Ice Bucket Challenge has generated, in addition to more than ten million dollars in funding in the US and nearly 10 million uploads to YouTube, accolades such as that pronounced by Wharton, describing it as a phenomenal marketing campaign.

The project, which was launched when Pete Frates challenged his friends, has given rise to various readings, regarding social network marketing, social marketing and third sector management. It has also generated the usual ethical criticism of the limits to NGO fundraising: the participants don’t learn anything about the cause, they participate for essentially selfish reasons dressed up as altruism, and they do it to look good for their friends. It’s just slacktivism, a feel-good way to support a cause whose only positive effects are on the participants themselves. Welcome to the world of real people.

The Ice Bucket Challenge reminds us how to create value based on insights into people. People like simplicity (all they need is a mobile phone and a friend to film them). They use social media to amplify their narcissism. They want to do good if it makes them feel good, if it’s cool. People are motivated by and participate in activities like milking and neknomination. We climb on board the latest meme so long as it can be personalized, so long as it doesn’t require us to sacrifice our own identity, but rather lets us project it instead. Fun, easy, popular.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is not a sustainable fundraising strategy for the third sector: no organization can survive on sporadic viral online campaigns. However, the market-oriented approach is sustainable: creating value for people, offering activities that create value for them, accepting the mediocrity of human nature, so long as whatever we do is in keeping with our organization’s vision and values.

There are three approaches to the Ice Bucket Challenge: criticize people for disguising their narcissism as altruism, design promotions willing to “take the money wherever it comes from”, or learn about insights into people to increase the value our cause can create. Which one do you choose?

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What are managers busy about?

You hear about companies that are interested in, that develop, and that implement CSR. You also hear about customers who require a more socially responsible attitude from companies — although when it comes to spending money, they remain distrustful of these activities. And you also hear about companies that have adopted market-orientation processes as a competitive strategy but have yet to decide where society fits in as a stakeholder.

ESADE’s programmes allow us to interact with managers who are responsible for prioritising the various aspects mentioned above. Today’s managers have shown a growing interest in combining both orientations. Is this mainly because they strive to gain competitive advantage, or because they prioritise on the basis of their personal values?

At the end of the day, CSR implementation, the market orientation, and the possible interrelationships between the two — societal marketing, social marketing initiatives, shared value strategies — depend on managers and their personal values:

-          CSR has been interpreted as decision-making based on economic reputation management. However, whenever someone goes above and beyond the legal limits on responsibility, we must ask ourselves if that individual’s behaviour is better explained by his or her personal values. This would be a form of CSR in which managers assume responsibility for identifying and adapting to the interests of citizens affected by the company’s actions.

-          The market orientation is developed within the paradigm of stakeholder theory. Once again, individual managers are responsible for deciding which stakeholders are given priority. Various studies, including the McKinsey Global Surveys, have found managers who work in a society-oriented manner because it allows them to maximise potential shareholder value while also addressing personal concerns such as global warming.

To reinterpret Henry David Thoreau, managers not only must maximise their dedication — like worker ants — but they must also ask themselves, “What are we busy about?”

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Are you ready to judge your clients?

For his book Social Marketing, Gerard Hastings chose the evocative subtitle “Why should the devil have all the best tunes?” This phrase illustrates the feeling, shared by many marketers, of trying to have a positive impact on society through their work. Why should effective marketing only be applied to sell products that hinder sustainable development, whether by burning fossil fuels, generating childhood obesity or perpetuating social differences in Bangladesh?

The surprising thing is that marketing, and the professionals who work in this field, are able to evolve from the ‘dark side of the Force’. Research shows that working is marketing is almost viewed as something you wouldn’t want the other parents at your children’s school to know about. Let’s look at the data: 65% of citizens have a negative attitude towards marketing; marketing is seen as a villain for its role in stimulating unsustainable levels of demand; marketing makes us buy things we don’t want; marketers cause our society to engage in unsustainable levels of consumption simply because companies give us economic resources to do so, because the competition is doing the same thing… and because we know how to do it. Like Jessica Rabbit said, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”

Marketers have an intimate justification: we respond to the preferences of consumers, who are free and sovereign individuals. Caveat emptor: the responsibility lies with the buyer.

But the future does exist. As Varey once said, “Marketing surely has a future – what will we have it be?” Working for the forces of good – putting forth our best music – will require, as Kotler suggested, that we break one of our most sacred rules: Don’t judge what the customer wants. Are we really ready to judge our customers, instead offering them proposals that – as we will explain to them – are for the good of the future?

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“Betcha Can’t Read Just One”

Jeff Bezos, who recently purchased The Washington Post, is on a quest for a new golden era based on the philosophy that guided him in building “Put the customer first. Invent. Be patient.” Mr. Bezos concludes: “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at the Post, too.” What do customers  and readers value? What kinds of value? How can we innovate to increase our value?

Let us interweave the Post’s marketing challenge with professor Jean-Jacques Lambin’s reflection about the challenges facing marketing: Should the marketing process satisfy short-term or long-term needs? Should it be more concerned about a person’s well-being than the person herself? And should it foster social or individual value?

Let’s expand this reflection using a global example: the snack-food industry, as described by Michael Moss. In his latest book, Moss describes how the food industry uses innovation to maximise the addictive effect of snack foods: salt and fat go straight to the brain, glucose levels in the blood shoot up, and crunchy textures leave us always wanting more. The food industry executive Indra Nooyi has admitted as much: reducing fat content and making snack foods healthier would be better for consumers’ health, but it would also make the products less addictive, cause immediate sales to drop, and lead to a loss of value for shareholders. The historic result: “Betcha Can’t Eat Just One.”

I love the story about Jeffrey Dunn, former chief operating officer at Coca-Cola. Dunn was fired after suggesting that consumers in Brazil’s favelas needed many things but that sodas were not one of them, and for trying to eliminate vending machines from public schools. In his book, he shares the marketing pitch he used some years later to sell baby carrots: consumers who are regular snackers make up a segment of 146 million people, let’s position baby carrots as simple as “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food”.

Why not transfer the snacking slogan to a newspaper, even when it represents not just a business but a “public trust”?

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If You’re in Marketing, Kill Yourself

I found this lovely headline on social media, spewed forth by someone – probably an engineer – who hasn’t been convinced by the message of this blog: that marketing can help society and marketing professionals can create value for society.

The outburst was in response to a new marketing application: train windows that talk. If you’re riding the metro and you lean against a window, advertising – about insurance, detergent or whatever – can now be delivered directly to your brain. The advertising agency BBDO created this new application, known as Sky Deutschland. Tired commuters who lean their head against a window receive vibrations that are translated by the brain into sound – a voice inside their head that no one else can hear. Talking windows.

This technology – also found in Google Glass – could be used to pipe music, public-transit information, weather forecasts and, of course, advertising directly into commuters’ brains. This development was foretold not by Orwell but by Professor Farnsworth of Futurama: “It’s very simple. The ad gets into your brain.”

The technology is out there, and marketers must now decide how to apply it. It’s a technology suited to sensory marketing. The sense of sight is relatively simple; we can identify around 200 different colours, whereas the sense of smell can distinguish up to 10,000 aromas. We know that the sense of hearing brings emotions into perception. Even as adults, our brains react to sounds we first heard in the womb. In one study, when people were asked to describe an emotional experience, 96% recalled hearing a song (compared to 70% who mentioned some sort of sexual activity).

The list of potential social-marketing applications for talking windows is already growing: fundraising, public-health messages, campaigns against antisocial behaviours. But to paraphrase Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm, when faced with a horde of velociraptors: scientists have been so busy developing technology that they haven’t stopped to think about whether they should. God help us, we’re in the hands of engineers. And engineers are the death of marketers.

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Why charity needs to get down to business

“Charity industry” is a concept that usually produces an awkward silence when introduced in our management program for NGO.

We introduce the concept by means of a famous quote by Bernard Koucher (cofounder of MSF):  “If you want to achieve something in this area, you have to be a businessman and be sensitive to advertising and marketing … If you do not agree that the law of the market is also valid for the charity industry, you get your nowhere introduction”.

To most nonprofit managers, charity industry reads like an oxymoron; exempt as they consider themselves to be from the mundane considerations of business.

But the “b word” is the reality of the situation. In the US alone there are a whopping 1.4 million separate nonprofit entities, making up 10% of the total economy.

Nonprofit organizations are not exempt from the notion of “industry” and all its concomitant human problems: job insecurity, a bit of corruption here and there, not much transparency; not to mention a lack of clear incentives attached to operational efficiency (probably because donor euros are not regarded as investments).

As a result, the charity business is increasingly perceived as the unsavory side of humanitarian intervention.

Let’s take a tour of what’s been said about it in the last few months alone.

First there’s Arte TV’s investigation, which highlighted numerous instances of fund-raising activities that had gobbled up most of the donations – in some cases up to 100%, meaning that not a single cent arrived at its intended destination.

Then there’s Valentina Furlanetto’s book, “L’industria della Carità” which sheds light on the “hidden side” of charity: a litany of inefficiencies, delays, misuse of funds and exploitation of labor.

And there’s also With Charity for All from Ken Stern a provocative examination of this billion dollar industry; because, yes, an industry is what it is.

Let’s talk marketing.

To increase their chances of achieving stated goals, organizations should think in terms of value: value to mass media, to donators, to citizens, to volunteers, even to workers.

If they don’t, they are doomed to suffer all the usual human and organizational failures.

And to lead a new, strategic approach to market orientation, we need professional leaders, as illustrated in this brilliant (as usual) TED talk.

We’re at a crossroads. And what we need are management leaders to fully develop the charity industry. And create some meaningful standards, may be an innovative Corporate Social Responsibility approach.


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Are marketers evil or craftsmen?

Teaching marketing under the learning paradigm usually brings us to the same reflection: is marketing ethical?.  We used to work with the George Brenkert phrase: marketing as a technology to be employed to achieve something that is entirely in the hands of the would-be marketer.

But recently undergraduate students posit a more specific question: is marketing inherently evil?.  Is marketing the hidden enemy (as shown in this video about how subliminal advertising tries to make you fat)? Or what about retail marketing as a developer of the Gruen Transfer as explained by Douglas Rushkoof: the moment when consumers enter a shopping mall and lose track of their original intentions, turned into a shopping drone by architecture, music, visuals and layout purposely designed to confuse and disorientate, and to cause individuals to spend more money

 Seth Gadin has his own answer to the question: Are marketers evil?. “Based on a long career in the business, I’d have to answer “some of them” (…) It’s evil to persuade kids to start smoking, to sell a patent medicine when an effective one is available. It’s beautiful to persuade people to get a polio vaccine. Just like every powerful tool, the impact comes from the craftsman, not the tool”.

Our team at ESADE has developed a different answer; one which we have learnt from Professor April Atwood (Albers School of Business & Economics at Seattle University).  We’ve decided to allow students to reach their own conclusion through an experiential learning process.  We will use the model of Problem Based Service Learning, working with an agency and social cause, to allow them to decide for themselves whether marketing is a cause or contributor to social problems, or a way to address them.

They will analyze how marketing influences teenagers to drink tons of fizzy drinks or to smoke at school.  They will also look at howsocial marketing gives value to the opposite point of view.  And with any luck, they will decide what kind of craftsmen they want to be.


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Consumers speak with their wallets

Un reciente artículo de Knowledge Wharton apela en su título a una área nuestra de investigación que nos apasiona, y sin embargo tememos que no logramos comunicar optimamente (como profesores, investigadores o referentes públicos): el poder del consumidor, la capacidad del ciudadano de escoger y transformar mediante su acto de compra. Y como puede llegar a ser más poderoso en esta vertiente que en unas elecciones donde por un lado no sabe escoger, la oferta es muy limitada y el marketing político le puede (ver nuestro artículo de esta semana marketing político estimulante). En definitiva como cuenta la viñeta de la agencia de Seattle Egg, como los consumidores querrán redefinir los valores de sus proveedores

“When values collide, consumers speak with their wallets”. Apasionante cada una de las conclusiones parciales: los consumidores actuamos al ver que los valores que intuíamos no se cumplen; las ONG deben ser mucho más consistentes en sus declaraciones que una empresa privada, porque en la filantropía no recibimos más que la convicción de que es el mejor partner para conseguir un mundo mejor; aunque generar ruido tiene un valor de acceso a los medios, mejor evitar colisiones en valores.

Una de las conclusiones la vemos reflejada en la tendencia Flawsome de otro web imprecindible como es Trendwatching. Como una organización debe tender a poder hacer desnudos frontales completos, “no solo ser transparente sino desnudo y orgulloso”. Si realmente creemos que los consumidores acabarán hablando con su poder de compra, debemos tender a generar organizaciones que puedan soportar realizar desnudos completos, y de cada uno de sus profesionales implicados. Algo con lo que no casualmente empezó el político Albert Rivera en su inicio en política.

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