Marketing has the power to improve lives, sustain livelihoods, strengthen societies, and benefit the world at large. At the same time, marketing can have a dark side—it has the power to hurt consumers, employees, communities, markets, institutions, and the environment that surrounds us. This Special Issue of the Journal of Marketing on Better Marketing for a Better World (BMBW) brings together wide-ranging research to assess, illuminate, and debate whether, when, and how marketing contributes to a better world. The fourteen papers in the Special Issue address four key topics—Sustainability and Climate Concerns, Economic and Social Empowerment, Health and Wellbeing, and Prosocial Giving. They use a diverse array of methods to address these topics: these include lab and field experiments, analyses of archival data, and ethnographic research. The papers offer rich insights on how to use the power of marketing for good, and they open up avenues for future research on these topics.
All the articles are linked below. The Special Issue Editors will host a webinar launching the Special Issue on May 12 at 12:00 PM Eastern. Register with this link. They will also host webinars in June and July 2021 featuring the authors of these papers. In these webinars, the authors will discuss the inspiration for their research, the implications of their findings for practitioners, and ideas for future scholarly investigation. Scholars, students, and practitioners are all invited to participate in these webinars. The webinars will also offer opportunities for participants to mingle with the authors and other scholars and practitioners interested in the topics, and to create connections for future research. These webinars—and associated activities described on the BMBW website at BMBW.org—serve as a beginning of an exciting initiative for our field, rather than the culmination of an important project.
Rajesh K. Chandy, Gita Venkataramani Johar, Christine Moorman, and John H. Roberts, “Better Marketing for a Better World”
The Special Issue editors make the case that it is time for research focused on Better Marketing for a Better World to be more central to the field. BMBW research examines the impact of marketing beyond the firm’s bottom line with the goal of enhancing the welfare of the world’s other stakeholders and institutions. The editors suggest that too often, researchers’ assumptions about BMBW research act as barriers that prevent them from pursuing BMBW research. Given this background, the editors offer recommendations on how these barriers can be overcome individually and institutionally. They invite scholars to make BMBW research central to their research agenda and offer three initiatives to create an active BMBW research community: a monthly series of online BMBW Workshops, training to impart knowledge and tools, and the creation of a data repository.
Sustainability and Climate Concerns
Wanqing Zhang, Pradeep Chintagunta, and Manohar Kalwani, “Social Media, Influencers, and Adoption of an Eco-Friendly Product: Field Experiment Evidence from Rural China”
Can social media contribute to creating more sustainable business practices? The authors of this article investigate how online social media tools can promote the adoption of a new eco-friendly pesticide in rural China. A key finding is that even for a new product such as a pesticide, a low-cost social media support platform can effectively promote adoption. Results indicate that the combination of peer information and information from the firm on a social media platform facilitates learning about product features among farmers and alleviates their uncertainty about product quality and appropriate product usage. Nevertheless, at the trial stage of the adoption funnel, the platform underperforms the firm’s customized one-on-one support because available information does not resolve uncertainty in supplier credibility and product authenticity. Having a local influencer on the platform helps resolve this problem. This study should interest firms, NGOs, and policy makers who seek to promote low-cost adoption of new eco-friendly products and technologies.
Jennifer Sun, Silvia Bellezza, and Neeru Paharia, “Buy Less, Buy Luxury: Understanding and Overcoming Product Durability Neglect for Sustainable Consumption”
Fast fashion is hard on the environment. This article suggests that consumers can adopt a more sustainable consumption lifestyle by purchasing durable, high-end products. Across six studies, the authors examine the sustainability of high-end products, investigate consumers’ decision making when considering high-end versus mass-market goods, and identify effective marketing strategies to emphasize product durability, an important and valued dimension of sustainable consumption.
Real-world data on new and secondhand accessories demonstrate that high-end goods can be more sustainable than mid-range products because they have a longer lifecycle. Importantly, consumers engage in more sustainable behaviors with high-end goods, owning them for longer and disposing them in more environmentally friendly manners. Nevertheless, a series of studies shows that many consumers prefer to allocate the same budget on multiple mass-market goods in lieu of fewer high-end products partly because of product durability neglect, a failure to consider how long a product will last. Actionable strategies for marketers offered to help consumers overcome product durability neglect and nudge them towards concentrating their budget on fewer high-end, durable products.
Claudia Gonzalez-Arcos, Alison M. Joubert, Daiane Scaraboto, Rodrigo Guesalaga, and Jörgen Sandberg, “‘How Do I Carry All This Now?’: Understanding Consumer Resistance to Sustainability Interventions”
Interventions that aim to encourage people to be more sustainable increasingly cause consumer resistance (i.e., refusals to accept or support the intervention) even when people want to behave more sustainably. Informed by behavioral science, the extensive efforts of policymakers and social marketers have yet to bridge this “green gap” between consumers’ positive attitudes and their actual behaviors. This research applies a practice-theoretical perspective that explains why consumer resistance emerges, how it threatens the success of interventions, and how it can be reduced. The study shows that individual behaviors are not separate from, but are embedded in, social practices, and thus interventions require the broader social practice to change to be effective. According to the study, sustainability interventions should not target individual consumer behavior, but instead support the processes of social change more effectively, thereby reducing resistance at the outset. The study also offers actionable recommendations on how to monitor and adjust interventions to manage consumer resistance that may emerge later.
Siddhanth (Sid) Mookerjee, Yann Cornil, and JoAndrea Hoegg, “From Waste to Taste: How “Ugly” Labels Can Increase Purchase of Unattractive Produce”
Consumers demand fruit and vegetables that are aesthetically pleasing. Producers and retailers meet this demand by throwing away large amounts of food that fail to meet these aesthetic standards. In this article, the researchers examine why consumers are reluctant to purchase unattractive produce and test a low-cost, easy-to-implement intervention: emphasizing the aesthetic flaw of unattractive produce via ‘ugly’ labeling (e.g., “Ugly Cucumbers”). Across seven experiments, the authors find that ‘ugly’ labeling corrects consumers’ negative expectations regarding attributes of unattractive produce—particularly tastiness, which increases purchase likelihood. The authors also show that ‘ugly’ labeling is most effective with moderate rather than steep price discounts and goes against managers’ intuition: It is more effective than alternative labeling that does not emphasize the aesthetic flaw, such as ‘imperfect’ labeling. These findings provide a clear pathway to sell unattractive produce at a price that maximizes sales and reduces food waste.
Economic and Social Empowerment
Stephen Anderson, Pradeep Chintagunta, Frank Germann, and Naufel Vilcassim, “Do Marketers Matter for Entrepreneurs? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Uganda”
Promoting growth by differentiating products is a core tenet of marketing. However, establishing and quantifying marketing’s causal impact on firm growth, while critical, can be difficult. This research examines the effects of a business support intervention in which international professionals from different functional backgrounds (e.g., marketing, consulting) volunteered time to help Ugandan entrepreneurs improve growth. Findings from a multi-year field experiment show that entrepreneurs randomly matched with volunteer marketers significantly increased firm growth. Compared to control firms, the entrepreneurs in the marketer treatment group grew monthly sales by 51.7% on average, while their monthly profits improved by 35.8%, total assets increased by 31.0%, and number of paid employees rose by 23.8%. Marketers helped entrepreneurs develop premium products to differentiate in the marketplace. These efforts can be a win-win. Multinationals can burnish corporate social responsibility credentials by loaning marketers to help entrepreneurs, while entrepreneurs achieve significantly better business results.
Emily Garbinsky, Nicole Mead, and Daniel Gregg, “Popping the Positive Illusion of Financial Responsibility Can Increase Personal Savings: Applications in Emerging and Western Markets”
This article finds that one reason people under-save is because they think they are more financially responsible than their peers, even when they are not. Offsetting this unrealistic belief motivates people to restore this diminished self-view. Researchers developed an intervention that offsets this positive illusion by inducing the sense that one is spending superfluously, defined as consumers’ perceptions that they are unnecessarily and frequently spending more than saving (e.g., going out to eat instead of cooking at home). Across six experiments, the superfluous-spender intervention increased both intentions to save and actual savings. However, the intervention only increased savings when it caused people to think about spending that was under their control and it was most effective among people who were motivated to perceive themselves as financially responsible (i.e., those scoring low in materialism happiness).
Madhu Viswanathan, Nita Umashankar, Arun Sreekumar, and Ashley Goreczny, “Marketplace Literacy as a Pathway to a Better World: Evidence from Field Experiments in Low-Access Subsistence Marketplaces”
Many of the world’s consumers live in low-income settings that are often far away from commercial marketplaces. This article studies consumers in rural and isolated tribal settings that range from low-income to extreme poverty. The researchers found that people who have knowledge and skills both as buyers and as sellers become better consumers, start income-generating microenterprises, and improve their wellbeing. In particular, the team demonstrates that subsistence consumers require not only the knowledge and skills that pertain to what and how to participate in a marketplace as a buyer and a seller, but also the need to understand why doing so is beneficial and why marketplace activities occur. Overall, marketplace literacy is largely about marketing and, as a result, marketing as a discipline has a unique role to play in facilitating this pathway to a better world.
Health and Well-Being
Johannes Habel, Sascha Alavi, and Kim Linsenmayer, “Variable Compensation and Salesperson Health”
Sales is a particularly stressful profession. This article reveals that one source of this stress is the share of a salesperson’s variable compensation; that is, the share of compensation that depends on sales performance. The study first examined a business that reduced the variable share in salespeople’s compensation plan from 80% to 20%. After this reduction, salespeople’s sales performance decreased, but interestingly, so did their sick days. Thus, when receiving a higher fixed salary, salespeople worked less hard, but they gained health in return. The study then surveyed salespeople and found that variable compensation shares lead salespeople to experience increased stress and burnout, particularly if those shares are relatively high. However, these experiences strongly depend on the individual salesperson’s ability and social resources. Finally, the study found that managers choose lower variable compensation shares if they are made aware of the stress induced by their decisions, and if they are empathic.
Yanwen Wang, Michael Lewis, and Vishal Singh, “Investigating the Effects of Excise Taxes, Public Usage Restrictions, and Anti-Smoking Ads Across Cigarette Brands”
The prevalence of strong brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Budweiser, and Marlboro in “vice” categories has important implications for regulators and consumers. While researchers in multiple disciplines have studied the effectiveness of tobacco counter-marketing strategies, little attention has been given to how brand strength may moderate the efficacy of tactics such as excise taxes, usage restrictions, and educational advertising campaigns. In this paper, the authors evaluate the impact of anti-smoking interventions on smokers’ choices of brands and quantities. Researchers show that while cigarette excise taxes decrease smoking rates, these taxes also result in a shift in market share towards stronger brands. Market leaders may be less affected by tax policies because their market power allows strong brands such as Marlboro to absorb rather than pass through increased taxes. In contrast, smoke-free restrictions cause a shift away from stronger brands. In terms of anti-smoking advertising, minimal effects are found on brand choice and consumption.
Nicole Robitaille, Nina Mazar, Claire I. Tsai, Avery M. Haviv, and Elizabeth Hardy, “Increasing Organ Donor Registrations with Behavioral Interventions: A Field Experiment”
Statistics point to an ever-increasing demand yet inadequate supply of available organ donors. In the U.S., there are over 113,000 individuals on the transplant waiting list and 22 die each day waiting. One way to address this ever-growing demand is to increase the number of individuals registered.
This paper proposes that a simple verbal prompt leveraging the concept of reciprocal altruism could make a difference. It nearly doubled organ donor registrations during field testing. In the Province of Ontario, researchers were able to increase actual, new in-person registrations in a prompted-choice context using easy-to-scale, low-cost interventions supported by process improvements. This result was achieved without limiting the freedom of individuals, raising ethical concerns (i.e., changing defaults), or passing new legislation. The study’s best performing intervention, prompting perspective-taking through reciprocal altruism (“If you needed a transplant would you have one? If so, please help save lives and register today.”) significantly increased registration rates from 4.1% in the control condition to 7.4%, an 80% increase.
Andrea Weihrauch and Szu-Chi Huang, “Portraying Humans as Machines to Promote Health: Unintended Risks, Mechanisms, and Solutions”
To fight obesity and educate consumers about how the human body functions, health marketing and education materials frequently portray humans as machines and encourage consumers to act more “machine-like,” with slogans such as “Fuel your body, not your emotions” or media such as National Geographic’s TV series “The Incredible Human Machine.” In this article, researchers discovered that this well-intentioned strategy can have an unintended dark side that hurts a vulnerable segment of consumers. There is hope, though, because this research provides a practical solution to help circumvent this backfire effect—to team these visuals with a message that reassures consumers that making head-based, machine-like food choices is doable. The results ring a cautionary bell for governments, nonprofit organizations, policy makers, for-profit health marketers, and consumers: The use of human-as-machine imagery can be more complicated than intended because confronting consumers with expectations to be machine-like can be risky if it is not aligned with their abilities.
Jacqueline Rifkin, Katherine Du, and Jonah Berger, “Penny for Your Preferences: Leveraging Self-Expression to Encourage Small Prosocial Gifts”
Star Trek or Star Wars? Puppies or kittens? Can either-or questions be used to increase prosocial giving? Recently, cafés started inviting patrons to vote with their tips. Similarly, the ASPCA recently asked people to donate money by expressing their preference for cats versus dogs (“Vote for your Paw-sident”). This set-up, in which the act of giving is framed as a choice between two options, is called the “dueling preferences” approach. This study seeks to understand whether it can effectively increase prosocial giving and if so, why? Across several experiments, the dueling preferences approach increased people’s likelihood to tip and donate as well as the amount they gave. This approach works because it provides people the opportunity to say something about who they are—something people find intrinsically appealing and are willing to give money for. Those interested in increasing prosocial giving can harness this approach by thinking critically about the kind of issues about which people want to share opinions. If implemented thoughtfully, this approach can be a powerful tool for increasing prosocial giving.
Sungjin Kim, Sachin Gupta, and Clarence Lee, “Managing Members, Donors, and Member-Donors for Effective Non-profit Fundraising”
Nonprofits can retain and cultivate committed givers by allowing them to give in more than one way. In this paper, the authors collaborated with a successful US nonprofit organization that engages with more than 100,000 individual givers each year. The nonprofit runs an annual membership program in which members receive benefits based upon their tier of membership, such as a quarterly magazine or exclusive guided tours. Alternatively, individuals can give to the nonprofit via a donation program, but, unlike members, donors do not get benefits except the “warm glow” of giving. The authors studied individuals who chose either membership or donation to start giving. Over five years, almost half of these individuals transitioned to giving in both forms. That is, many members became donors in addition and many donors also became members. Moreover, as member-donors they gave larger amounts and gave more frequently. The authors also find that predictive models can help identify individuals who were more likely to become member-donors based on their characteristics and past giving patterns.
Kuangjie Zhang, Fengyan Cai, and Zhengyu Shi, “Do Promotions Make Consumers More Generous? The Impact of Price Promotions on Consumers’ Donation Behavior”
Despite growing concerns regarding consumerism related to promotions, this research documents a positive effect of price promotions on consumers’ donation behavior. Specifically, the study shows that price promotions can increase consumers’ perceived resources, which in turn increase consumers’ donation behavior. The study also examines several managerially relevant factors that can affect the magnitude of this positive effect of price promotions on consumers’ donation behavior. Explaining the success of the Giving Tuesday movement, the study shows that charitable organizations can benefit most when they solicit donations immediately after the price promotions. Charitable organizations can optimize their campaigns by choosing strategic targets and timing for donation solicitations—consumers who are taking part in promotions, with donation solicitations occurring immediately after a price promotion event. For firms, price promotions offer a great opportunity to raise funds for charitable causes, in the spirit of corporate social responsibility.
Special Issue Editors
Rajesh Chandy is Professor and the Tony and Maureen Wheeler Chair in Entrepreneurship and at London Business School where he is also the Academic Director of the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development. Rajesh’s current research lies at the intersection of business, innovation, entrepreneurship, and development. His recent projects have covered the impact of business skills among micro-entrepreneurs in South Africa, novel financing approaches in Ghana, property rights in slums in Egypt, innovation among farmers in India, highways and private education expenditures in India, and using big data for development outcomes. Chandy is an Area Editor for the Entrepreneurship and Innovation area at Management Science, and is a member of the advisory board of the Journal of Marketing. Chandy’s research and publications have received several awards, including the Mahajan Award for Lifetime Contributions to Marketing Strategy Research, the ISMS Practice Prize for research that contributes most to the practice of marketing, the Journal of Marketing Harold Maynard Award for contributions to marketing theory and thought. He has also received the AMA Early Career Award for contributions to marketing strategy research, and has been named an MSI Young Scholar. During 2006-2008, Chandy served as a member of the US Secretary of Commerce Advisory Committee on Measuring Innovation in the 21st Century Economy and in 2018, he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. Rajesh’s complete profile can be found here.
Gita V. Johar
Gita V. Johar is the Meyer Feldberg Professor of Business at Columbia Business School and Senior Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She received her PhD from the NYU Stern School of Business in 1993 and her MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta in 1985. Gita has been on the faculty at Columbia Business School since 1992. She served as the school’s Faculty Director for Online Initiatives from 2014-2017, Senior Vice Dean (Dean of Faculty) from 2011 to 2014, and inaugural Vice Dean for Research from 2010-2011. She is the Faculty Chair of the Steering Committee for the Columbia University Global Center in Mumbai. She also served as co-editor of the Journal of Consumer Research from July 1, 2014 to December 31, 2017. Gita studies consumer information processing, identity, persuasion and self-regulation as they are applied to branding and advertising. She is passionate about designing interventions for a better world and is currently working on projects related to preventing the spread of fake news as well as research on motivating sustainable consumer behaviors such as sharing one’s possessions. Gita is recognized as an expert on consumer behavior and has served as Associate Editor for the Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research and the International Journal of Research in Marketing; she is current an Associate Editor for the Journal of Marketing. Gita’s complete profile can be found here.
Christine Moorman is the Editor in Chief for the Journal of Marketing and the T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. Christine’s research examines the nature and effects of learning and knowledge utilization by consumers, managers, organizations, and financial markets. She has studied these effects in the context of innovation, marketing alliances and networks, and public policy. Christine has published her research in all of the major journals in marketing (and numerous management journals), where it has been honoured with numerous best paper awards and nominations. She has served as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Marketing Research and the Journal of Marketing and as an ERB member for the Journal of Consumer Research and Marketing Science. Christine is the founder and managing director of The CMO Survey and author of Strategy from the Outside In: Profiting from Customer Value, awarded the 2011 Berry Book prize for the best book in the field of marketing. Christine was named the AMA-Irwin-McGraw-Hill Distinguished Marketing Educator in 2018, a Fellow of the American Marketing Association in 2017, and she won the 2012 Paul D. Converse Award, the 2008 Mahajan Award for Career Contributions to Marketing Strategy, and the 2008 Distinguished Marketing Educator for the Academy of Marketing Science. She has served as an Academic Trustee for the Marketing Science Institute, as a member of the Board of Directors of the AMA, Chair of the Marketing Strategy Special Interest Group for the AMA, and as Director of Public Policy for ACR. Christine’s complete profile can be found here.
John Roberts is the Scientia Professor of Marketing at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia. His research interests include marketing strategy, branding, and decision making. John is a recipient of the American Marketing Association’s John Howard Award, its William O’Dell Award, and its Advanced Research Techniques Forum Best Paper Award. He has been a finalist in the Society for Marketing Science John Little Award for the top marketing science paper three times and the Gary Lilien Best Marketing Practice Award three times. In 2018, he was awarded the Society’s Buck Weaver Award for Lifetime Contributions to the Theory and Practice of Marketing Science. John sits on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Forecasting, Marketing Science, International Journal of Research in Marketing, and other journals. He is winner of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Marketing Distinguished Researcher and Distinguished Educator Awards. John has been a Professor or Visiting Professor at the London Business School, Australian National University, Stanford University, M.I.T., University of Hamburg and HKUST. John’s complete profile can be found here.