Societal marketing is a term which asserts that the marketing style of companies is designed to cater to consumer wants and interests as well as long term interest of the society (Motzek, 2011). The societal marketing orientation is a swifted concept from social marketing that is generally used to depict corporate social responsibility. Organizations indulge in long term policies to design marketing strategies which are in the welfare and development of society towards a sustainable future (Bose, 2018). Today, organizations indulge in transitional marketing practices that help the company to expand based on long term interests of the overall consumer market (Marconi Freitas-da-Costa, 2011). The societal marketing is adopted to gain multiple benefits such as positive brand image, competitive edge, perform corporate social responsibility, and position the organization in the business environment with robust strategic capability (Crane & Desmod, 2002). However, there are some factors which affect the societal marketing such as the culture of a country, consumer market demands, and financial strength to take the initiative of planning a different marketing style (Galan-Ladero & Alves, 2019).
This paper is aimed to conduct a brief review of the literature to know about distinct marketing practices, particularly societal marketing. The review is later analyzed by underpinning personal thoughts and learnings from the reviewed content in evaluative fashion. The conclusion accompanies a set of recommendations for further research in a similar area. The recommendation section also identifies absent concepts and ideas to be explored in further research. The last section presents a synthesis of findings and concludes the report.
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The literature review section briefly states the practices of sustainable practices of renowned companies in order to grasp the learning of societal orientation in business. The companies are selected due to their renowned position in the global environment. The marketing approach of top brands of the world like Apple, McDonald’s, Samsung, Nike, L’Oréal, Mercedes Benz, and The Body Shop are evaluated to learn the art of business practices under societal orientation and the consequent impact on the brand’s customer satisfaction.
Maman, Gardere and Sharir (2016) conducted research on distinct practices of Apple Inc. that contribute to society’s well-being and development. In 2007, Apple emerged by bringing breakthrough in mobile phone industry through iPhone launch and ruled the mobile industry. However, in 2012, Apple lost the top position to Samsung, which quickly responded to smartphone launch by designing Samsung smartphones with distinct yet imitating features of iPhone (Aliekperov, 2019). Nevertheless, Apple is still the world’s top brand, with the largest brand equity worth. Also, the responsibility that Apple feels towards society’s long term benefits, and the consumer demand fulfilment is high. For instance, Apple has launched the mental health application for consumers who can record and monitor their emotions and feelings to sustain mental peace (Maman, Gardere & Sharir, 2016). The marketing of application is conducted via print and electronic media yet position the brand once again for distinct and creative features offered to the customer.
On the other hand, a research paper by Madani and Mimie asserts that the specialty of the brand Samsung is integrated marketing (Madani & Mimie Abdulai, 2014). Innovation-based marketing practices are created to capture the attention of consumers. The brand works on consistent marketing practices that reflect sustainability innovatively in order to develop customer’s retained purchasing decision. Moreover, the practices of marketing are aimed to create a difference in people’s life by using Samsung products which are strategically highlighted in Samsung’s advertisements and TV commercials. The purpose is to indulge in societal brand image and suffice the CSR factor by underpinned messages.
Along the same lines, Nike uses brand identity as a tool to market their products. The research shows that Nike uses premium pricing and differentiation strategies to create distinct marketing plans for customer attention (Mahdi, Abbas, & Taher Ilyas Mazar, 2015). The strategy of Nike is based on customer needs and wants and the long term interest of society in a general manner. For example, Nike sells ‘sustainable’ shoes by using recycled material to create souls and heel pads and market the shoe to create a soft, societal image of the brand. Nike shoes designed since 1994 contain at least 50% recycled manufacturing waste and since 2008 have been made with 100% renewable energy at our AirMI facilities (Kaufman, 2016).
Meanwhile, The Body Shop brand holds a robust position in the market by initiating the plant-based, earth-friendly and sustainable practices from the beginning of brand launch. The Body Shop is a member of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and all activities of production, marketing, and selling involve the concept of sustainability in obvious fashion (Jahroh, 2019). The company’s products are made with natural ingredients, and paper-based recyclable bags are used to sell them. These activities reflect on the brand’s societal approach in all business practices which could improve the environment and sustain the climate’s natural stature.
While talking about the world’s renowned brands, the marketing approach of McDonald’s cannot be ignored. The research on McDonald’s illustrates that the brand works on intrinsic motivational strategies to attract customers. The print advertisement, TV commercials, and sales promotion are thoroughly used to attract customers (Howard, 2015). However, the selling orientation of marketing is totally based on business profit and aim to sell fast food. The brand does not pay heed to the criticism and the worldwide controversy to attract people towards an unhealthy lifestyle. Although McDonald’s run various CSR projects, the brand has never shifted from their notion that McDonald’s product offerings are not based on societal approach. The rapidly expanding network of McDonald’s is consistently selling products without caring for 122 lawsuits filed against the products in different countries and the extreme controversy from health experts (Campbell, 2001).
Similarly, Google is a surprising name on the list of brands that do not follow societal marketing. The brand has been accused of secretly collecting data of billions of customers through cloud computing of regional data (Spil & Marcel, 2013). Google data sources are encrypted, yet the central server receives and records all data. In the past, data leakage scandals have lifted the trust of Google customers, but the brand does not give any explicit clarification. Even today, Google health, Google map, Google drive, and Gmail accounts are not considered 100% safe as the customer consistently reports against them (Eduardo Pinheiro, 2007).
The review of societal orientation in business practices, particularly related to production and product offerings, asserts that societal orientation strengthens the brand value. The customer commemorates with the brand’s ethical decision and makes frequent purchasing decision due to which companies earn profit and a strong market position (Marconi Freitas-da-Costa, 2011). However, some big brands fail to comply with a societal orientation such as McDonald’s and Google. The customer of today indulges in brands that provide tangible as well as intangible benefits and consider brand’s ethical performance too (Vasconcelos, 2011).
I have reviewed seven companies in the previous section. The top brand Apple’s review improved my learning about sustainability and societal orientation concept. Usually, it is observed that societal orientation and customer attraction policies are confined to ‘green’ policies, ethical advertisement, and sustainability only. However, Apple’s review added to my learning that societal practices could be improved by taking creative initiatives for people. The launch of a mental health app is a unique idea by Apple, which has enhanced my learning that societal orientation can be practised in any way. Moreover, I found it interesting to know that Apple has been consistent with the ‘unique’ brand image and taken the initiative which no other competitive brand has adopted till date. However, by the case of Samsung, the basic concept of changing people’s lives with not only sustainable practices but by offering them good products is a smart, business-oriented yet societal way to add welfare for people. I have learnt that Samsung promises people for a good lifestyle by offering high-quality products. But, a question pops in my mind that isn’t this approach adopted by other brands too? Certainly, Yes. I think that Samsung needs to work towards specific societal practices. Apart from the CSR policy, which is doing well, Samsung needs to upgrade the societal orientation of the brand in marketing messages.
On the other hand, Nike has kept the brand’s legacy of adopting sustainable practices in the production process. The review sheds light on the use of recycled fabric and earth-friendly raw material to manufacture shoes. I have learnt about minute details of the production process, which can leave a huge impact on overall product manufacturing process during mass production. For example, I thought that if Nike’s factory manufactures 1500 shoes per day and each shoe is fixed with recycled heel pads, the total impact of those 1500 shoes on climate and earth would be considerable. So, it was smart of Nike to think about taking little changes as a part of the societal approach and yet, gain the top position in the global shoe industry.
However, during the research, I found that McDonald’s’ has a controversial image due to the unhealthy food that it offers. It is disappointing to note that one of the topmost brands, which is everyone’s favorite is consciously avoiding societal interest on a larger scale and continues to sell unhealthy food. Although McDonald’s add new vegetable-based items, salads, and fruit desserts in their menu; it is evident that the brand has not moved away from the mainstream core product. Similarly, Google and Facebook both are renowned brands of internet age yet there is no radical action taken by said brands to stop controversies hovering over these brands regarding the leakage of private data and insufficient security policies for consumers. One of the reasons for the selling orientation of these brands is the concern for profit. Even without adopting a societal or environmental approach, both organizations have the biggest shares in their respective industries. Hence, they do not feel the need to pay heed to other marketing concepts.
Recommendations for future research
After conducting the research on the societal orientation of businesses and practices of some famous brands to satisfy and retain customers, I have located a few areas which could be researched further. The first area for further examination is to explore the genuine commitment of brands to societal business preparations. For example, Nike has declared manufacturing process to have recycled raw materials but are they consistent? Or do they have other products too which do not involve recycled raw material? Similarly, the second area for further examination is the financial strength of brands and its impact on the societal orientation of businesses. Detailed research is needed to explore whether high-end brands like Google and Facebook can perform societal orientation in business, or are there any smaller, medium enterprises that are doing sustainable practices.
Furthermore, in my research, I believe that areas of controversies and brand image are not discussed thoroughly. Although I learnt about McDonald’s’ controversial image and product offerings, I still believe that there should be extended research on brand controversies and the role of societal orientation. Another area which was missed in my research is the influence of brand image on societal approach. Brands can be under the influence of customers or stakeholders to practice societal orientation. The need is to research the motives which push a brand to adopt CSR or societal orientation which could enhance the positive brand image.
Societal business practices are designed to contribute to the welfare and development of society. Brands indulge in societal orientation to accomplish CSR as well as play their role for the welfare of society. The report has reviewed the business practices of renowned brands such as Apple Inc. and Mercedes Benz. All brands are found to be cautious of adopting societal business practices to accomplish sustainability aims. However, the production and product offering of brands is cautiously planned by The Body Shop, Nike, Apple, and Samsung to integrate the societal orientation from the beginning of product formation. The paper has improved learning about sustainability and societal orientation. It has identified missing areas of research brand image and brand controversies. Moreover, the paper also raises a question on motives of societal orientation for renowned brands and the role of financial strength on a brand’s decision to indulge in societal orientation. On the whole, the paper was a learning experience which not only improved learning skills but also improved knowledge of societal orientation in big organizations.
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