As Marshall mcLuhan said:
“Ours is the first age where thousands of the
best trained minds have made it a full time business to get inside the public
and collective mind… to get inside in order to manipulate, exploit in control”
Many people have negative views of the
marketing world and believe itBR1 is an unethical practice. Some, namely Pollay, believe it pollutes our
psychological and social ecology, which raises moral alarm. While Pollay
acknowledges the fact that advertising has positive features, such as promoting
desirable social aims like savings and investment, or family planning, he
believes that the negative effects of marketing far outweigh the benefits which
it may bring. At this point I would find myself strongly agreeing with his
“Advertising makes me miserable.”
Advertising’s most fundamental impact may be
that it induces people to keep productive in order to keep consuming – to work
in order to buy. Take the iPhone for example. Every 12 or 18 months Apple will
release a new model of the iPhone, which they market as an upgrade and
completely superior to the previous model. This new model may vary only
slightly from the previous model in terms of function or aesthetics but Apple
will do everything in their power to make the new phone seem like a must have
and convince the consumer that they cannot do without it. Some people will
actively work extra hours and sacrifice other experiences to have this new $800
device because Apple told them that they “need” it.
This is a prime example of advertising
promoting more self doubt than self indulgence. These consumers will have a
fear of missing out on the new product and this advertising creates needs for
people rather than fulfilling them. It portrays the grass being greener
elsewhere and leads people to critically examine their immediate environment
and experience. People will feel inadequate if they don’t have the new phone
and will feel guilty if they let the opportunity of purchasing the new phone pass
With regard to ethical theory, a utilitarian
would likely have no issue with this “FOMO” culture and marketing approach as
it is seen to bring happiness to the consumerBR2 . The consumer will follow the “greatest happiness” approach by
purchasing the phone and gaining a sense of accomplishment but also possibly
superiority. It is a perfect example of egoism, the consumer satisfying their
own needs. Apple, as utilitariansBR3 , will view it as making consumers happy but as I have already
mentioned; Is it satisfying needs or creating them?
Kant on the other hand, would argue that
although the phone may provide initial happiness, it still isn’t ethical.
Without getting into the tax controversy surrounding Apple, what about the
people who don’t have the income to buy the phone? These people will be faced
with a sense of social exclusion and in Kant’s eyes people should say no to
this new phone due to a moral obligation they should have by feeling it’s their
duty to add positive value to the worldBR4 .
Pollay states that mass marketing promotes
conformity and I feel this is a big issue, especially with children. Although
kids are only a segment of the market, there is mass marketing within this
segment and it puts pressure on parents to provide these things for their kids
in fear that their child could be the only one in school without the new
football jersey or other latest craze. Although Irish people seem to love it
and it seems to be an inherent part of our culture, and without trying to sound
like the Grinch, I find the Late Late Toy Show to be somewhat contradictory of
what children should be taught about Christmas. It’s focused entirely of takingBR5 , rather than giving and spending time with loved ones. It’s a perfect
example of how commercialism and materialism have become a big part of our
world and nobody seems to notice it. The impacts of commercialised culture are
very much underestimated because we are viewing the culture from within. As
“Environments are invisible. Their ground rules,
pervasive structure, and overall patterns elude easy perception.”
In today’s society, we are bombarded with
marketing communication everywhere we look. We are distracted by one sided
rhetorical styles of advertising which inhibit rationality and common sense.
Trying to concentrate on other forms of media is like “trying to do your
algebra homework in Times Square on New years EveBR6 .” This marketing is intrusive and completely out of proportion.
99% of marketing follows the utilitarian
approach to ethicsBR7 . If it makes people happy – it’s generally okay. Corporations tend to
release misleading or false information regarding a product in order to get
consumers to buyBR8 . Jeremy Bentham would have no problem with this seeing as it promotes
overall happiness, both for the customer who is receiving the product and the
firm who are receiving money. However, Kant would argue that this is unethical
and that it’s wrong to lie in any situation. An example of a company practicing
this is Duracell. They deceived customers with their slogan “Lasts even longer”
which turned out to be untrue. Customers were paying a higher price for a
product which wasn’t of better quality. A non-consequentialist would ask the
question – would we be happy for this mass deception to be a universalistic
law? The answer is no, and therefore it is an unethical practiceBR9 .
Commercialism is romanticising the life being
lost, similar to museums encapsulating ways of life no longer possible.
Families are changing as well as roles of women and children (not necessarily a
bad thing) and prideful self-interest is impeding spiritual development. It can
isolate individuals, breed social competitiveness and even mental health
issues, and it’s something which I believe, at some point or another, will need
to be regulated heavilyBR10 .
BR1It? You mean marketing?
BR2You need to remember that utilitarianism concerns itself with the
greatest good for the greatest number, rather than the happiness of the
BR3What makes you think that Apple are utilitarian in their perspective?
BR4I think there is a slight risk here that you are trying to include as
many theories as possible, in a short essay, rather than taking a more detailed
approach to one or two theories.
Also while the example of Apple is quite
a good one, don’t forget that the question you are answering here is a general
one and you could perhaps do more to relate your chosen example back to the
question you were asked.
BR5Try to avoid over-generalising on the basis of your own personal
opinions. I think that your analysis of the Late Late Toy Show could also be a
little more nuanced, btw.
BR6Nice quote – do you have the source?
BR7Why utilitarianism? Why not egoism?
BR8Try to avoid over-generalising. What about saying ‘sometimes tend to
release’ rather than ‘tend to release’
BR9This point about non-consequentialism is well-made and would certainly
be given credit when grading an exam answer.
However you could certainly if you wished
go into a little more detail on how misleading advertising was a breach of
non-consequentialist ethics. Generally speaking if you decide to go with a
particular theoretical perspective you should then try to draw from that
perspective in a little more detail, rather than trying to include 3 or more
perspectives but in less detail. Here for instance you could have also talked
about advertisers using consumers solely as means and not recognizing them as
ends (a violation of Kant’s second maxim)
BR10This final paragraph needs a little more work. You could do more to
relate it back to the question you were asked and to sum up your main points. A
key issue here is to remember that the question asks about marketing
specifically, not commercialism generally.
One final thought – while you have
avoided trying to draw from too many theories, you have focused exclusively on
normative theory. The inclusion of a discussion of at least one form of
contemporary theory might have allowed you to bring out interesting alternative
perspectives on the question.