Cause-Related Marketing: Ethics and the Ecstatic

Smith, Warren and Higgins, Matthew (2000). Cause-Related Marketing: Ethics and the Ecstatic. Business & Society, 39(3) pp. 304–322.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/000765030003900304

Abstract

This article evaluates the ethical implications of the practice of cause-related marketing (CRM). The authors note how CRM is consistent with a contemporary rhetoric that argues that consumers are displaying a developing interest in the social commitments of the corporate world. However, following the work of Zygmunt Bauman, the authors suggest that CRM actually threatens these sentiments. Of particular significance is its incorporation of a charitable act within an act of exchange that is mediated by marketing technique. This serves to prevent any encounter with Bauman’s “Other.” Instead, the pretense of engagement has to be preserved by increasingly vociferous avowals of concern. These become examples of the ecstatic, a seductive force that renders the extreme meaningless and amoral. Finally, the authors argue that the nature of ethical commitment produced by CRM cannot be divorced from the instrumental benefits that are generated.

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