Arts marketing and ethics: what you can and Kant do

O'Sullivan, Terry (2013). Arts marketing and ethics: what you can and Kant do. In: O'Reilly, Daragh; Rentschler, Ruth and Kirchner, Theresa A. eds. The Routledge Companion to Arts Marketing. Routledge Companions in Business, Management and Accounting. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 29–47.



In this chapter I want to explore the ethical nature of arts marketing. In particular I hope to demonstrate that, in spite of its common-sense appeal and affinity with the marketing concept of customer benefit, utilitarianism (i.e. an approach to ethics that focuses on consequences) is of limited use in helping us do arts marketing ethically. While acknowledging the partial relevance of a utilitarian approach, I will argue that the deontological approach to ethics associated with Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) is a surer guide to reflective, responsible and sustainable arts marketing practice. While it could be argued that this is true of all applications of marketing, it is peculiarly so in the context of the arts because of the respect for human autonomy implicit in the aims of arts organisations. Nantel and Weeks (1996, p. 9) argue for the inclusion of a Kantian perspective to complement what they saw as the utilitarian approach on which marketing is grounded ‘by its very definition’ (1996, p. 9). My aim in this chapter is to argue, in contrast, that ‘by its very definition’ arts marketing is more appropriately based on Kantian ethics.

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