The societal marketing coneept holds that the organization should determine the needs, wants and interests of target markets. It should then deliver the desired satisfactions more effectively and efficiently than competitors in a way that maintains or improves the consumer's and the society's well-being. The societal marketing concept is the newest of the five marketing management philosophies.
The societal marketing concept questions whether the pure marketing concept is adequate in an age of environmental problems, resource shortages, worldwide economic problems and neglected social services. It asks if the firm that senses, serves and satisfies individual wants is always doing what's best for consumers and society in the long run. According to the societal marketing concept, the pure marketing concept overlooks possible conflicts between short-run consumer wants and long-run consumer welfare.
Consider the Coca-Cola Company. Most people see it as a highly responsible corporation producing fine soft drinks that satisfy consumer tastes. Yet certain consumer and environmental groups have voiced concerns that Coke has little nutritional value, can harm people's teeth, contains caffeine and adds to the litter problem with disposable bottles and cans.
I'hrce considerations underlying the societal marketing concept
Such concerns and conflicts led to the societal marketing concept. As Figure 1,5 shows, the societal marketing concept calls upon marketers to balance three considerations in setting their marketing policies: company profits, consumer wants and society's interests. Originally, most companies based their marketing decisions largely on short-run company profit. Eventually, they began to recognize the long-run importance of satisfying consumer wants, and the marketing concept emerged. Now many companies are beginning to think of society's interests when making their marketing decisions.
One such company is the international corporation Johnson & Johnson, which stresses community and environmental responsibility. J & J's concern for societal interests is summarized in a company document called 'Our Credo', which stresses honesty, integrity and putting people before profits. Under this credo. Johnson & Johnson would rather take a big loss than ship a bad batch of one of its products. And the company supports many community and employee programmes that benefit its consumers and workers, and the environment. J & J's chief executive puts it this way: 'If we keep trying to do what's right, at the end of the day we believe the marketplace will reward us.'13
Consider the tragic tampering ease in whieh eight people died from swallowing cyanide-laced capsules of Tylenol, a Johnson & Johnson brand. Although J & J believed that the pills had been altered in only a few stores, not in the factory, it quickly recalled all of its product. The recall cost the company $240 million in earnings. In the long run, however, the company's swift recall of Tylenol strengthened consumer confidence and loyalty, and Tylenol remains the leading brand of pain reliever in the US market. In this and other cases, J & J management has found that doing what's right benefits both consumers and the company. Says the chief executive: The Credo should not be viewed as some kind of social welfare program - it's just plain good business.'1-1 Thus over the years, Johnson & Johnson's dedication to consumers and community service has made it one of America's most admired companies, and one of the most profitable.
Increasingly, firms also have to meet the expectations of society as a whole. For example, society expects businesses genuinely to uphold basic ethical and environmental standards. Not only should they have ethics and environmental policies, they must also back these with actions. Consider, for instance, the bad publicity The Body Shop received during the early 1990s when the company came under attack in 1992 over its environmental standards. Some critics who researched the company's ethical and environmental practices charged that the high standards which it claims to uphold might be less genuine than it would like the world to think. The critics also expressed a broader concern - that the company persistently appears to exaggerate its involvement in worthy causes. Such charges cannot be ignored by the company's management, particularly its founder, Anita Roddick, and chairman, Gordon Roddick, who have long been involved in promoting ethical and environmental causes within the business world. Any tarnishing of The Body Shop's image removes the organization's point of differentiation and, therefore, increases its vulnerability to competition.14 As a riposte to the allegations that The Body Shop was not living up to its own standards on issues such as animal testing, the company took the lead in the UK to undertake an ethical auditing exercise. At the beginning of 1996 it published its first Values Report, a massive affair spanning five volumes and over 300 pages of data and feedback from stakeholders - suppliers, customers, employees, shareholders and others representing the public at large - in three mam areas: environment, social policy and animal protection.
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