The Societal Marketing Concept

Some have questioned whether the marketing concept is an appropriate philosophy in an age of environmental deterioration, resource shortages, explosive population growth, world hunger and poverty, and neglected social services. Are companies that successfully satisfy consumer wants necessarily acting in the best, long-run interests of consumers and society? The marketing concept sidesteps the potential conflicts among consumer wants, consumer interests, and long-run societal welfare.

Yet some firms and industries are criticized for satisfying consumer wants at society's expense. Such situations call for a new term that enlarges the marketing concept. We propose calling it the societal marketing concept, which holds that the organization's task is to determine the needs, wants, and interests of target markets and to deliver the desired satisfactions more effectively and efficiently than competitors in a way that preserves or enhances the consumer's and the society's well-being.

The societal marketing concept calls upon marketers to build social and ethical considerations into their marketing practices. They must balance and juggle the often conflicting criteria of company profits, consumer want satisfaction, and public interest. Yet a number of companies have achieved notable sales and profit gains by adopting and practicing the societal marketing concept.

Some companies practice a form of the societal marketing concept called cause-related marketing. Pringle and Thompson define this as "activity by which a company with an image, product, or service to market builds a relationship or partnership with a 'cause,' or a number of 'causes,' for mutual benefit."23 They see it as affording an opportunity for companies to enhance their corporate reputation, raise brand awareness, increase customer loyalty, build sales, and increase press coverage. They believe that customers will increasingly look for demonstrations of good corporate citizenship. Smart companies will respond by adding "higher order" image attributes than simply rational and emotional benefits. Critics, however, complain that cause-related marketing might make consumers feel they have fulfilled their philanthropic duties by buying products instead of donating to causes directly.

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