The marketing discipline has overwhelmingly focused on maximizing positive outcomes, such as happiness and satisfaction for consumers and revenues, profits, and marketing-mix effectiveness for companies. However, marketers can also examine reducing negative outcomes for individuals, firms, and society at large. We call this approach mitigation in marketing (MiM), which entails understanding, measuring, alleviating, and assuaging the potentially harmful consequences of consumer, firm, and employee activities.
Studying MiM requires theories, approaches, and insights that may fundamentally differ from existing marketing approaches focused on increasing positive outcomes. And researchers must acknowledge that emphasizing positive outcomes in marketing is intrinsically different from mitigating negative consequences; the two approaches are not mere opposites. Mitigation is not necessarily detrimental to goals like increasing customer satisfaction, maximizing firm profits, or achieving hedonic consumption. However, exploring MiM in the context of all its intended and unintended consequences for different stakeholders has the potential to significantly advance the marketing discipline.
Mitigation-based perspectives are important for both marketing theory and practice. Modern society must mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, racial and gender disparities, product waste, and social isolation due to online media consumption. Consumers worry about marketing’s negative effects on their privacy, safety, health, and wellness. Firms have similar issues. Rather than focusing simply on sales, they increasingly seek to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of their products (e.g., Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder). Moreover, firms have begun introducing new products to mitigate the negative effects of existing products (e.g., renewable energy sources replacing oil and gas).
Against this background, the Journal of Marketing Research is developing a Special Issue on MiM. With it, we intend to encourage research seeking to understand, explain, manage, and predict the effects of mitigation. The ultimate goal is to spur a body of research explicitly examining mitigation as a goal, process, and outcome of marketing constructs, theories, activities, and processes. The research should benefit a variety of stakeholders, including consumers, investors, firms, executives and employees, and policymakers.
As a starting point, several issues warrant investigation:
- Harmful events. How can firms mitigate the occurrence of harmful events like product failures, negative word of mouth, negative reviews, complaints, service failures, and product side effects? What models, frameworks, and theories can help firms develop and implement mitigation efforts for these widely studied phenomena? Innovative empirical approaches and data sets are encouraged.
- Consumer decisions. What consumer decision models examine the mitigation of addiction, binging, overeating, indulgence, and other vice behaviors? Frameworks such as self-control, goal management, and resource depletion can be extended from traditional domains like eating and exercising to social media addiction, unsafe driving behaviors, cheating, and lying. How do consumers think about mitigating harmful consumption due to product and service failures, privacy violations, unhealthy ingredients, product side effects, and legal issues? What recourse can consumers exercise in addition to purchasing insurance, making complaints, switching brands, and spreading negative word of mouth? How can marketing encourage engagement in disaster. mitigation strategies (e.g., utilize resources for disaster preparedness)?
- Firm decision models. What firm- and manager-level decision models incorporate mitigation to explore marketing phenomena? For example, researchers might explore models to minimize failure (e.g., total quality management, house of quality) or environmental impact of goods and services. Furthermore, how and why do consumers react negatively to stockouts, lack of product availability (e.g., food deserts), or lack of information (e.g., ingredients, side effects), and how can firms model the reactions? Firms might create a competitive advantage through mitigation. For example, LifeLock’s business model relies on mitigating harm due to identity theft. Extending the concept of harbingers of failure to new domains might also provide a basis for innovative models. And mitigation might apply to firm-level decision making models, such as the goal to explicitly balance a focus on maximizing outcomes and minimizing harm to different stakeholders. Members of the Business Roundtable, for example, have declared their companies are committed to not only maximizing shareholder value, but also mitigating potential negative outcomes for other stakeholders.
- Marketing strategy. Can a broader perspective on mitigation inform marketing strategy? For example, researchers might examine the type and level of marketing activities in which firms should engage during downturns to mitigate losses, bankruptcies, and customer defection. The perspective might incorporate sudden disruptions like COVID, terrorism, or hurricanes. More generally:
- How can marketing strengthen its position and avoid budget cuts? What should be marketing’s goal, nature, and purpose when disruptions occur?
- Can marketing help businesses better prepare for or rebuild after crises?
- Other substantive domains. The MiM perspective lends itself to many domains, including safety, privacy, discrimination, and fatigue and isolation. For example:
- If consumer responses to privacy crises differ based on whether the benefits of data sharing are balanced against adverse consequences like hacks and leaks, what strategies can firms use to mitigate consumer concerns?
- How can marketing encourage behaviors like health screening for cancer or COVID-19, insuring oneself against harm (e.g., vaccination), and making decisions that do not underweight negative outcomes? For example, should flood insurance be mandatory, or could marketing make it more attractive?
- What approaches might firms use to manage negative online reviews and their consequences? Models of the effects of positive and negative reviews would provide a better understanding from both the customer and firm perspectives
- How do consumers respond to perceived and real discrimination in marketing activities, such as differential pricing, targeted advertising, and limited availability (e.g., lack of airports in small cities). Although such practices can be profitable, how might firms mitigate their downsides from a stakeholder perspective?
- Why and how do consumers underuse warranties and insurance? What does research on warranty and insurance modeling suggest from a MiM perspective?
The suggested topics represent a small sample that researchers can study within the MiM domain. The Journal of Marketing Research Special Issue editorial team welcomes all approaches to examining relevant issues, including behavioral, empirical, analytical, and strategy-based perspectives. Researchers are encouraged to employ a wide variety of methods, including—but not limited to—lab experiments, field experiments, secondary data sets, analytical models, and post-positivist methods.
Deadline: January 15, 2022
Conference: September 22, 2021; details here. Presenting at the conference is not a guarantee of or requirement for publication.
Special Issue Planned Date: 2023.
Editorial Team: Current co-editors and associate editors of JMR, plus guest associate editors (to be announced later).
Submissions: Please submit papers online here.