Social Criticisms of Marketing: High-Pressure Selling: Chapter 7

Social Criticisms of Marketing: High-Pressure Selling
Social Criticisms of Marketing: High-Pressure Selling

Salespeople are sometimes accused of high-pressure selling that persuades people to buy goods they had no thought of buying. It is often said that cars, financial services, property, and home improvement plans are sold, not bought. Salespeople are trained to deliver smooth, canned talks to entice a purchase. They sell hard because commissions and sales contests promise big prizes to those who sell the most. Marketers know that buyers can often be talked into buying unwanted or unneeded things. A key question is whether industry self-regulatory or trading standards bodies, consumer-protection laws, and consumer-interest groups are sufficiently effective in checking and curbing unsavory sales practices. In this modem era, it is encouraging to note that one or more of these can work to the advantage of consumers. Or, where malpractices are pervasive, regulators will catch out wrongdoers, who will invariably pay the penalties for irresponsible marketing. This is evident in the ease of the mis-spelling of pensions and life assurance policies in the UK market


Shoddy or Unsafe Products

Another criticism is that products lack the quality they should have. One complaint is that products are not made well. Such complaints have been lodged against products and services ranging from home appliances, cars, and clothing to home and car repair services. A second complaint is that some products deliver little benefit. In an attempt to persuade customers to buy their brand rather than any other, manufacturers sometimes make claims that are not fully substantiated. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Independent Television Commission (ITC) introduced new rules covering the advertising of medicines and treatments, health claims, and nutrition and dietary supplements, including slimming products. The move, which follows the publication of new advertising rules by the Advertising Standards Authority, brings the ITC in line with public and private sector opinion, and recent European Union legislation governing the advertising and sales of these products. Health claims for food, for example, must now be fully substantiated. Creative ads must guard against encouraging overindulgence in products such as confectionery, so advertisers must pay attention to health implications.4 In markets where many brands are promising a wide array of product benefits, consumers are often left confused. In fact, consumers often end up paying more for product benefits that do not exist. A third complaint concerns product safety. Product safety has been a problem for several reasons, including manufacturer indifference, increased production complexity, poorly trained labor, and poor quality control. Consider the following cases of costly and image-dam aging crises brought upon vehicle manufacturers:

Marketing's Impact on Other Businesses: Chapter 8

In 1990, consumer activists declared the Daihatsu Sportrak as 'potentially unstable' and Suzuki was urged to recall tens of thousands of similar cars. This problem pales by comparison with that faced by the Ford Pinto, which became the symbol of automotive disaster when several people died during the 1970s in fuel tank fires allegedly linked to a design fault,. More recently, Chrysler issued one of the largest product recall notices in the history of the motoring industry, calling back 900,000 vehicles, ranging from pick-ups to a selection of 'people carriers' including the Voyager, Wrangler, and Jeep Cherokee models, for a variety of reasons in seven different recalls. One of the biggest recalls in 1997, according to figures from the British vehicle inspectorate, was one undertaken by V\V, asking 150.000 Golf and Vento saloon owners to have their cars checked for wiring faults. In 1996, VW also recalled 350,000 of its models worldwide because of a potentially faulty electric cable, as well as some 950,000 Golfs, Jettas, Passats, and Corrados because of problems, including a cooling system fault, which could potentially damage engines and injure passengers. Early in 1997, Vauxhall called in more than 39,000 Veetras to check loose fuel pipes. Even Rolls-Royce was forced to check some of its Bentley Continental T sports coupes (at £220,000 apiece) because of concerns that.t airbags were firing unexpectedly

For years now, consumer protection groups or associations in many countries have regularly tested products for safety, and have reported hazards found in tested products, such as electrical dangers in appliances, and injury risks from lawnmowers and faulty car design. The testing and reporting activities of these organizations have helped consumers make better buying decisions and have encouraged businesses to eliminate product flaws. Marketers may sometimes face dilemmas when seeking to balance consumer needs and ethical eon si decorations. For example, no amount of test results can guarantee product safety in cars if consumers value speed and power more than safety features. Buyers might choose a less expensive chain saw without a safety guard, although society or a government regulatory agency might deem it irresponsible and unethical for the manufacturer to sell it. However, most responsible manufacturers want to produce quality goods. The way a company deals with product quality and safety problems can damage or help its reputation. Companies selling poor-quality or unsafe products risk damaging conflicts with consumer groups. Moreover, unsafe products can result in product liability suits and large awards for damages. Consumers who are unhappy with a firm's products may avoid its other products and talk other consumers into doing the same. More fundamentally, today's marketers know that self-imposed, high ethical standards, which accompany customer-driven quality, result in customer satisfaction, which in turn creates profitable customer relationships.


Planned Obsolescence'

Critics have charged that some producers follow a program of planned obsolescence. causing their products to become obsolete before they need replacement. In many cases, producers have been accused of continually changing consumer concepts of acceptable styles in order to encourage more and earlier buying. An obvious example is constantly changing clothing fashions. Producers have also been accused of holding back attractive functional features, then introducing them later to make older models obsolete. Critics claim that this practice is frequently found in the consumer electronics and computer industry. The Japanese camera, watch, and consumer electronics companies frustrate consumers because a rapid and frequent model replacement has created difficulties in obtaining spare parts for old models; dealers refuse to repair outdated models, and planned obsolescence rapidly erodes basic product values. Finally, producers have been accused of using materials and components that will break, wear, rust or rot sooner than they should. For example, many drapery manufacturers are using a higher percentage of rayon in their curtains. They argue that rayon reduces the price of curtains and has better-holding power. Critics claim that using more rayon causes the curtains to fall apart sooner. European consumers have also found, to their annoyance, how rapidly certain European brands of toasters rust - for an appliance that rarely gets into contact with water, this is an amazing technological feat! Marketers respond that consumers like style changes; they get tired of the old goods and want a new look in fashion or a new design in cars. No one has to buy the new look, and if too few people like it. it will simply fail. Companies frequently withhold new features when they are not fully tested when they add more cost to the product than consumers are willing to pay and for other good reasons. But they do so at the risk that a competitor will introduce the new feature and steal the market. Moreover, companies often put in new materials to lower their costs and prices. They do not design their products to break down earlier, because they do not want to lose their customers to other brands. Thus, much so-called planned obsolescence is the working of the competitive and technological forces in a free society - forces that lead to ever-improving goods and services.


obsolescence A strategy of causing products to become obsolete before they actually, need a replacement

Business Actions Towards Socially Responsible Marketing: Chapter 9

Poor Service to Disadvantaged Consumers

Finally, marketing has been accused of poorly serving disadvantaged consumers. Critics claim that the urban poor often has to shop in smaller stores that carry interior goods and charge higher prices. Marketing's eye on profits also means that disadvantaged consumers are not viable segments to target. The high-income consumer is the preferred target. Clearly, better marketing systems must be built in low-income areas - one hope is to get large retailers to open outlets in low-income areas. Moreover, low-income people clearly need consumer protection. Consumer-protection agencies should take action against suppliers who advertise false values, sell old merchandise as new, or charge too much for credit. Offenders who deliver poor value should be expected to compensate customers, as in the case of many UK pension providers, who were required to meet mis-spelling compensation targets following the disclosure of malpractices by an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation. We now turn to social critics' assessment of how marketing affects society as a whole

Marketing's Impact on Society as a Whole

The marketing system as we - in Europe and other developed economies outside North America — are experiencing it, has been accused of adding to several 'evils' in our society at large. Advertising has been a special target. It has been blamed for creating false wants, nurturing greedy aspirations, and inculcating too much materialism in our society


False Wants and Too Much Materialism

Critics have charged that, in advanced nations such as the USA, the marketing system urges too much interest in material possessions. People are judged by what they own rather than by what they ore. To be considered successful, people must own a smart-looking house or apartment in a prime residential site, expensive cars, and the latest designer-label clothes and consumer electronics. Consider, for example, the training-shoe market. These days, training shoes have gone the same way as cameras, watches, and mobile phones: functionality is useless without 'tec lino-supremacy' and high style. Take Nike's Air Max Tailwind which features: 'Flexi-laces' which stretch to give foot comfort; 'interactive eye stay for one-movement tightening and adjusting; 'mesh upper' made of lightweight synthetic leather for cooler feet; 'plastic air pockets' filled with sulfur hexafluoride for added cushioning; 'flexible grooves' in the arch of the shoe to allow natural foot movements and give support and 'waffle soles' with grooved treads for traction and support! So sophisticated has it become that it is no longer even enough to say that you have a pair of Nikes. Its famous tick the logo is now more globally visible than the crucifix, so your Nikes had better be a very rare variety and/or very expensive if you expect to seriously impress, Alternatively, you could go for a limited edition Adidas or something slightly underground like DC skate shoes

Principles for Public Policy Towards Marketing: Chapter 10

Is there a similar enchantment with money in Europe? Asia? The rest of the world? It is neither feasible nor appropriate for this chapter to indulge readers in an extensive debate on cross-cultural similarities and dissimilarities in materialistic tendencies and behavior, and whether marketing is the root cause of these desires. Rather, we acknowledge the phenomenon of the 'yuppie generation' that emerged in the 1980s, symbolizing a new materialistic culture that looked certain to stay. In the 1990s, although many social scientists noted a reaction against the opulence and waste of The 1980s and a return to more basic values and social commitment, our infatuation with material things continues. For example, when asked in a recent poll what they value most in their lives, subjects listed enjoyable work (86 percent), happy children (84 percent), a good marriage (69 percent), and contributions to society (66 percent). However, when asked what most symbolizes success, 85 percent said money and the things it will buy.7 Critics view this interest in material things not as a natural state of mind, but rather as a matter of false wants created by marketing. Businesses stimulate people's desires for goods through the force of advertising, and advertisers use the mass media to create materialistic models of the good life. People work harder to earn the necessary money. Their purchases increase the output of the nation's industry, and the industry, in turn, uses the advertising media to stimulate more desire for its industrial output. Thus marketing is seen as creating false wants that benefit the industry more than they benefit consumers. However, these criticisms overstate the power of businesses to create needs. People have strong defenses against advertising and other marketing tools. Marketers are most effective when they appeal to existing wants rather than when they attempt to create new ones. Furthermore, people seek information when making important purchases and often do not rely on single sources. Consumers ultimately display rational buying behavior: even minor purchases that may be affected by advertising messages lead to repeat purchases only if the product performs as promised. Finally, the high failure rate of new products shows that companies are not always able to control demand. On a deeper level, our wants and values are influenced not only by marketers, but also by family, peer groups, religion, ethnic background, and education. If societies are highly materialistic, these values arose out of basic socialization processes that go much deeper than business and mass media could produce alone. The importance of wealth and material possessions to the overseas Chinese, for example, is explained more by cultural and socialization factors than by sustained exposure to Western advertising influences.

Too Few Social Goods

The business has been accused of overselling private goods at the expense of public goods. As private goods increase, they require more public services that are usually not forthcoming. For example, an increase in car ownership (private good) requires more roads, traffic control, parking spaces, and police services (public goods). The overselling of private goods results in 'social costs. For cars, the social costs include excessive traffic congestion, air pollution, and deaths and injuries from car accidents. A way must be found to restore a balance between private and arid and public goods. One option is to make producers bear the full social costs of their operations. For example, the government could require car manufacturers to build cars with additional safety features and better pollution-control systems. Carmakers would then raise their prices to cover extra costs. If buyers found the price of some cars too high, however, the producers of these cars would disappear, and demand would move to those producers that could support both the private and social costs.


Cultural Pollution

Critics charge the marketing system with creating cultural pollution. Our senses are being assaulted constantly by advertising. Commercials interrupt serious programs; pages of ads obscure printed matter; billboards mar beautiful scenery. These interruptions continuously pollute people's minds with messages of materialism, sex, power, or status. Although most people do not find advertising overly annoying (some even think it is the best part of television programming), some critics call for sweeping changes. Marketers answer die charges of 'commercial noise' with the following arguments. First, they hope that their ads reach primarily the target audience. But because of mass-communication channels, some ads are bound to reach people who have no interest in the product and are therefore bored or annoyed. People who buy magazines slanted towards their interests - such as Vogue or Fortune - rarely complain about the ads because the magazines advertise products of interest. Second, ads make much of television and radio free and keep down the costs of magazines and newspapers. Most people think commercials are a small price to pay for these benefits. 

Too Much Political Power

Another criticism is that business wields too much political power. 'Oil', 'tobacco', • pharmaceuticals, 'financial services, and 'alcohol' have the support of important politicians and civil servants, who look after an industry's interests against the public interest. Advertisers are accused of holding too much power over the mass media, limiting their freedom to report independently and objectively. The setting up of citizens' charters and greater concern for consumer rights and protection in the 1990s will see improvements, not regression, in business accountability. Fortunately, many powerful business interests once thought to be untouchable have been tamed in the public interest. For example, in the United States, Ralph Nader, a consumerism campaigner, caused legislation that forced the car industry to build more safety into its cars, and the Surgeon General's Report resulted in cigarette companies putting health warnings on their packages. Moreover, because the media receive advertising revenues from many different advertisers, it is easier to resist the influence of one or a few of them. Too much business power tends to result in counterforces that check and offset these powerful interests. Let us now take a look at the criticisms that business critics have leveled at companies' marketing practices.

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