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Equality and diversity in marketing
Equality and diversity in marketing
This special issue of Equal Opportunities International focuses on issues of equality and diversity in marketing. It is intended to explore a range of equality and diversity issues in marketing as well as to start a dialogue between research traditions in the field of equality and diversity and in marketing.
The six papers included in this special issue (two conceptual papers and four empirically based research papers) span a number of key issues relating to equality and diversity in marketing. The broad range of topics and contexts that are covered in the collection of papers illustrates the wide-ranging nature of this subject matter. Increasingly, marketing academics are examining the interplay between the marketing function and issues around equality and diversity as we move away from a focus on marketing management to embrace the study of marketing ethics, critical marketing and anti-consumption.
While ardent proponents of a free market philosophy might argue that in a free market all sellers and buyers have equal rights it has long been recognised that this applies at best only under the theoretical conditions of perfect competition (e.g. Samuelson and Nordhaus, 1989). In real markets, different buyers and sellers have very unequal access to resources and therefore very different chances to satisfy their needs and wants through the market place. There is a recognition that marketers' use of segmentation and targeting as well as the development of customer relationship management and certain strands of relationship marketing can result in the exclusion of certain groups within the population as well as improving the relevance of marketing offerings to other groups. This has particularly been recognised with respect to economically disadvantaged consumers who, on the one hand, often do not have easy access to important goods and services, such as financial services or fresh food (Crane and Matten, 2004) and who, on the other hand, are sometimes thought to be targeted unfairly by unethical marketing practices, such as heavy promotion of problematic products, such as high alcohol beers, etc. or high interest financial loans (Smith and Cooper-Martin, 1997). Marketing practices have also been accused of being discriminatory in other respects, for instance through the unequal and unfair portrayal of particular groups of the population in advertising, such as gender or ethnic stereotyping (Pollay, 1986). Similarly, not all producers are thought to have equal and fair access to the market place. Power differentials between buyers and sellers, for instance in the frequently cited case of large supermarket chains imposing very low prices on small producers, are one example of this (Jones and Pollitt, 1998). Another can be the dominance of distribution chains by certain powerful groups, which can make it difficult for other groups of people to gain access to these distribution channels.
At the same time, the marketing concept is based on the idea that marketers follow customer expectations in producing and marketing their products for best success (e.g. Kotler et al., 2004), which should make room for a wide variety of consumer tastes and expectations being met. Aspects of consumer tastes seem to be converging globally, as perhaps witnessed by the success of global brands such as McDonald, Nike and others. However, there is also increasing evidence from more socially and culturally based consumer studies that different groups of consumers consume in different, culturally and group specific ways and attach different meanings to consumption (Holbrook, 2001). Consumption can be one means of building an identity and to demonstrate belonging to a group and difference from other groups (Bourdieu, 1984). Mainstream marketing practice is often accused of obliterating cultural difference rather than serving it, mostly through the global marketing of standardised products by large corporations (Baughn and Buchanan, 2001). More recently, the marketing academy has recognised the need to embrace the concept of diversity but often this consideration of the diverse nature of the marketplace is concerned with exploiting the potential of often neglected sections of consumer society (see Chan, 2006; Cui, 1997; Khairulla et al.,1996; Nwankwo and Lindridge, 1998; Rossman, 1994; Schreiber and Lenson, 2001). This can be seen in the focus on "pink" and "grey" consumers and on segmenting the market by racial and ethnic characteristics.
The papers in this special issue reflect the twin concerns with equality and diversity from a great variety of different angles. In the first paper, Marcelo Royo, Joaquín Aldás-Manzano, Inés Küster and Natalia Vila analyse male and female stereotyping in Spanish magazine advertising over a period of three decades. They find that such stereotyping continues to exist to the present period but that it has become much less prevalent over the period of 30 years. They attribute this to changes in Spanish society which have taken place since the 1970s, particularly a much greater proportion of women working outside the home and changed attitudes towards appropriate gender roles. From this they conclude that advertising is likely to reflect changing societal realities rather than shaping societal norms by perpetuating stereotypes.
The conceptual paper by Sam Bairstow and Heather Skinner focuses on the enactment of sexual identity in the context of internal marketing. Postmodernism and queer theory are used as theoretical lenses through which to interrogate the marketing and consumption literature in relation to sexual identity. In going beyond the notion of consumption of products or services, Bairstow and Skinner examine the consumption of work, linking this to an individual's status as internal customer and their broader identity.
Ruth Renschler's conceptual paper examines the role of two female artists early in the field of cultural entrepreneurship. Drawing on art history, entrepreneurial marketing theory and feminist theory, the paper highlights the relevance of considering the art enterprise and the individual artist in the wider development of entrepreneurship literature. The paper illustrates the need for alternative methods of investigating marketing and the importance of historical research in understanding the evolution of the marketing and entrepreneurship field. Rentschler shows how female artist entrepreneurs have been excluded from accounts of early activity in the art world, and her paper shows how these artists can be viewed as entrepreneurs through linking concepts of innovation, adaptability and the analysis of their marketing approach.
The research paper by Paul Gibbs, Mustafa Ilkan and Stavros Pouloukas examines differences and similarities with regard to the ethics of marketing as perceived by Muslim and Christian communities. The study which is based on data collected in the two secular, consumer societies which comprise the Island of Cyprus, found a high degree of commonality between Muslim and Christian students, despite apparent ideological and political differences. The findings indicate that expressed religious devoutness influences identity, but an increase in expressed devoutness did not result in increased likelihood for offence. While the Christian students included in the study indicated higher levels of devotion, they were less sensitive to offence than the Muslim students surveyed.
In their empirical paper, Bob Doherty and Sophi Tranchell investigate the topical subject of the mainstreaming of fair trade. Based on a longitudinal case study of the Day Chocolate Company, the paper explores the concepts of "radical mainstreaming", "clean-wash" and "alternative high street" in the retail sector. The paper shows that, in addition to distributing products through the "alternative high street", such as charity shops, "radical mainstreaming" by entirely fair trade companies can result in broadening awareness of the fair trade movement. This is in contrast to companies that use limited fair trade product ranges in order to engage in "cleanwashing" activities and hence have been accused of undermining ethical issues tackled by companies committed to the principles of fair trade. As increasing numbers of mainstream businesses develop fair trade lines, this paper argues the need for 100 per cent Fair Trade businesses, such as Day Chocolate Company, who believe in greater equality in international trade, to engage in radical mainstreaming in order to raise the profile of trade inequalities.
Stuart Roper and Binita Shah report on a qualitative study of the social impact of branding on pre-adolescent children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK and in Kenya. One of the contributions of the paper is in its focus on younger age groups of children and the cross-cultural nature of the research. The authors find that an intensive focus on branding can cause social division between children through the formation of brand-owning in-groups and non-brand owning out-groups, where children belonging to the latter group can be considered less valuable by their peers.
This issue also includes a review by Alex Nicholls of The New Social Entrepreneurship. What Awaits Social Entrepreneurial Ventures? Edited by Francisco Perrini (Edward Elgar, 2006).
Finola Kerrigan and Anja SchaeferGuest Editors
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