During special sessions at the 2018 Summer AMA and ACR conferences, leading scholars discussed what research in their areas would look like if they adopted a Better Marketing for a Better World perspective. Learn about ideas regarding modern marketing that they shared below.
To me as a consumer sociologist, the “Better Marketing for a Better World” theme raises two important opportunities – a practical and a critical one.
Sales is an interesting area for the “better world” topic. Recent data from North America show $1.2 trillion spent on Salesforce, versus $165 billion on traditional marketing and $35.9 billion on digital. This is an area where more research is needed on how to do things better.
When talking about better marketing for a better world, there is a lot of ground we could cover. One big point is that the domain we pick to do our research in plays a big role on its impact. While we can keep our theory the same, we can make our research more powerful by picking choices tasks or contexts that have greater potential to resonate with people or to convince policy makers that our findings are important. If your theory calls for a study with choice task as the dependent variable, for example, you can choose a choice domain that is more important, such as healthcare options, over something that is equally as valid but less policy-relevant, such as grills.
When talking about better marketing for a better world, I believe the challenges for marketers is to take micro-level phenomena and learn how to scale these phenomena into macro-level solutions. With this in mind, I would like to focus on what I believe are the two key barriers facing the charitable giving industry in making the world a better place, and present a potential pathway to get over some of these barriers.
How would research in the quantitative area be affected if we took a “better-world” perspective? The “Three Cs” is a framework we can use to think about this issue: 1) Context, 2) Counterfactuals, and 3) Corporate actions.
When I think about “better marketing” and “better world”, the first thing that pops into my mind is “change.” When I think about the world and how it’s changing, I see a lot of opportunities for us, as researchers, to ride along with that change to make life better with our research.
What makes consumers and marketers better off? Is there a win-win solution? One opportunity marketers have to make the world a better place is to help consumers predict their own preferences more accurately.
What is a better world? A better world may be construed as one in which suppliers and customers/consumers (1) make better decisions, are healthier, and have a better quality of life, and (2) reduce waste and use assets more efficiently.
To have better marketing and a better world, we need to interrogate our understanding of what the “market” economy is—and to determine when the “market” economy holds or fails.
In my own research at the Center for Research on Consumer Financial Decision Making, we study savings, investing household debt, financial planning, health insurance, and financial literacy. Our research in these areas has the potential to create a better world, but it’s critical to involve practitioners if we are going to do so.
As scholars if we stretch our minds and our thinking about what marketing is, we can engage organizations and scholars from nontraditional fields. My belief is that if we want to really contribute these new areas, we need to look outside in, not inside out. A better world is out there looking for marketing to become more relevant. Here are some projects I am working on that adopt this perspective.
At its core, marketing is about figuring out what people really want and need and to deliver the desired benefits more effectively and efficiently than the competition. Thus, in order to develop better marketing for a better world, we need to think about what this really means. What do customers really want and need? And what does it mean to be more effective?
If you care about political society, marketing can help us understand how to advise policy makers and brands who engage with policy.
I have waited a long time for this call for a special issue to come to fruition. I don’t see this just as a special issue, I see this as a change of conversation. In this way, I agree with Len Berry and others who contend, “The purpose of marketing is to offer a higher quality of life. Firms that do that are rewarded.” We should ask of ourselves, how can we help firms do that?
Marketing for a better world is not always about altruism. It’s nice to do nice things for people just to be nice, but often that is insufficient motivation for a company. For example, our field’s previous approach to customer satisfaction was that it was about making consumers happy, just because it was a good thing to do. Then, in my research I looked at how customer satisfaction could increase company profits. The idea of “return on quality” allows a company to improve service not just as altruism, but also as a route to profits. Similarly, research has shown that eliminating group bias in bank lending is actually more profitable. Nothing motivates CEOs like a win-win!
When thinking about marketing, we almost automatically think about firms and profit maximization. While this is an important perspective, should we not have the courage to rethink some of our paradigms? Let me just give one example. I would love to see an article challenging the idea of the profit-maximizing price. There are other models, like the “prix-juste,” or the morally just price to charge. It sets a standard of fairness in economic transactions. This idea may be less absurd than it appears at first sight.
At the center of what we study is the customer, the company, and their relationship. That is the focus of the literature in marketing. Better marketing for a better world means we need to adopt a wider lens.