Back to the Future

I recently attended the “Does Marketing Need Reform?” conference in Boston, hosted by Bentley College. Lest we think that this question has only risen to prominence in the marketing arena over the last few years, I wanted to share a tidbit provided by Dr. Philip Kotler of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern in his keynote speech. Dr. Kotler shared a list of questions from a book published in 1953 called Social Responsibilities of the Businessman, by Howard Bowen …

  • “Should [the businessperson] conduct selling in ways that intrude on the privacy of people, for example, by door-to-door selling…?”
  • “Should he use methods involving ballyhoo, chances, prizes, hawking, and other tactics which are at least doubtful good taste?”
  • “Should he employ ‘high pressure’ tactics in persuading people to buy?”
  • “Should he try to hasten the obsolescence of goods by bringing out an endless succession of new models and new styles?”
  • “Should he appeal to and attempt to strengthen the motives of materialism, invidious consumption and ‘keeping up with the Joneses'”?

Well, it’s clear that we did all of that and more. But should we?