Marketing as if people mattered

Hastings, Gerard (2016). Marketing as if people mattered. Social Business, 6(1) pp. 5–14.



Marketing is bad for us. Despite - or indeed because of - all the consumer orientation, co-creation and excellent customer service, it is doing us immeasurable harm. The most obvious hazards come from the tobacco, alcohol and fast food markets which are causing carnage on such a scale that a new term, the 'industrial epidemic', has had to be coined by public health researchers. These consumption-driven maladies have for years now been killing more people than HIV/AIDS, TB, typhoid and all the other communicable diseases combined. However, the dangers spread much wider than the clinic; marketing is also driving social problems such as inequalities and community breakdown, threatening our spiritual welfare by offering materialist solutions to all life's problems, and encouraging the unsustainable lifestyles that now threaten our planet.
Policy makers have reacted by putting the blame on marketing tools like advertising, and have sought to regulate these. However, the problem is more fundamental than this. It stems from the core concept of consumer orientation, from the idea that it is desirable to create a world where (provided we have the money) every need and want we can imagine will be satisfied whenever and wherever we choose.
To address these problems, we need to think beyond mere regulation; we need a fundamental rethink about the function of marketing - a review not just of lifeboat provision, but the purpose of the voyage. Fritz Schumacher's (1993) celebrated book Small is Beautiful, which first challenged the conventional wisdom of economics three decades ago, has the subtitle: a study of economics as if people mattered. This paper presents a study of marketing as if people (and the planet) mattered.

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