Leadership, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, Part 7: Curative Marketing

Curative international marketing restores and develops international economic health and may be the next step up for marketing. “Restore” indicates something lost that once was there. “Developing” refers to new issues to be addressed with new tools and  frames  of  reference. “Health” in turn posi­tions the issue as important to overall welfare. Marketers must deliver joy, pleasure, fulfillment, safety, personal growth,  and  advancement towards a  better society.

Curative international marketing accepts responsibility for problems to which marketing has contributed. It then uses marketing’s capabilities to set things right, to heal past wounds, and to increase the well-being of the individ­ual and society on a global level. Curative marketing’s two perspectives consist of looking back to check on what marketing has wrought and making up for past errors with future action.

Global problems require a global approach. Curative international  market­ ing needs to draw on fields like jurisprudence, cultural anthropology, philoso­phy, and history. Such a perspective acknowledges that marketing is too important to be left to marketers alone, consonant with Keynes’s questioning “how and whether economics should rule the world.”

International marketers need to focus on  past  errors  and  mistakes  inflicted  by international marketing and sweep these out from under the carpet in the spirit of  Wiedergutmachung, or restitution.

Marketing’s disregard of local idiosyncrasies has sometimes been like the introduction  of  a destructive virus on a  culture,  akin to  bringing snakes to Guam which almost exterminated all the local birds and to how European outsiders brought smallpox, flu, and typhus viruses that decimated the Inca of Peru. More contemporaneous is a current lawsuit:

The Pine Ridge Indian tribe is suing five beer companies for their role in the alcohol­ ism and fetal alcohol syndrome that plague the tribe’s reservation. The Oglala Sioux Tribe claims that the beer companies—which include Anheuser Busch and Molson Coors一sold beer on the perimeter of the teetotalling South Dakota reservation with the knowledge that it would be smuggled in demanding $500 million for healthcare and rehabilitation. Whiteclay, a nearby town in Nebraska with four beer shops and only about a dozen residents, gets most of its customers from the reservation.

Tom White, the lawyer representing the tribe, told the Associated Press: “You cannot sell 4.9 million 12oz cans of beer and wash your hands like Pontius Pilate, and say we’ve got nothing to do with it being smuggled.” The reservation, which is about the size of Connecticut, has dealt with poverty and alcoholism for decades. One in four children born suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, and the life expectancy, between 45 and 52 years, is the lowest in the U.S.

Eastern Europe, in its transition from socialism to  market  practices,  pro­ vides another example. Advertisements were taken literally, leading to grave dis­ appointments by consumers because they did not  win  the  “promised”  car  or  look like model Heidi Klum. Local foods (and their producers) disappeared  because newly entering chain stores already had suppliers. People were condi­tioned to increase their consumption of products, which led, for many, to con­sumption  addiction.

Growth is seen by many as the envisioned key accomplishment of market­ing. Executives planning only to maintain market share last only for a very short time in their job. More is expected. Citius, altius, fortius (“faster, higher, stronger”) may be a great motto for the Olympics, but it leads to unexpected repercussions for marketers and their customers.

Consumers’ interest in and preparation for marketing are not evenly dis­tributed. Negative effects may result from marketing’s misleading of consumers or simply from unawareness or neglect. It is the obligation of international marketers to understand local conditions   and to anticipate and limit possible ill effects. Not everything that can be done should be done. There must be a marketing Hippocratic Oath: “First do no  harm.”  Beyond  that caveat,  market­ers need to do everything  possible  to  make  people  be  better  off  and  actually feel better.

A second key concern is the future outlook: how can marketing set things right again? Four core areas are international marketing’s pillars for a shining position on the hill: truthfulness, simplicity, expanded participation, and per­sonal responsibility.

THE U.S. SENATE REPORT ON TORTURE: Curative international marketing is a remedy

 

Michael R. Czinkota and Thomas A. Czinkota

The U.S. Senate report on the treatment of Islamic extremist captives has dealt a major blow to the reputation of American exceptionalism. “Curative International Marketing” can help restore the brand equity loss of the United States.

The report recounts the torture employed, with interrogation results which were insubstantial in the war against terrorism. Directly and indirectly, the use of repellant interrogation techniques has soiled Americans with terrorist muck.  The use of intermediaries or a stump in the chain of command, do not provide plausible deniability. “Stomach slaps” and “rectal re-hydration”, gnaw on the tree of freedom. But remorse alone is insufficient.

At Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business we have worked for several years on the concept of Curative International Marketing as a new direction for countries and businesses, very apropos to the current ingloriousness. We use the term “curative” to connote restoration and development of international societal health. ‘Restoring’ indicates something lost which once was there. ‘Development’ refers to new issues, new tools and new frames of reference. ‘Health’ clarifies the importance to overall welfare, all of which marketing can address and improve. International carries the concept across borders.

Some may be distracted by the term ‘marketing’. Yet one needs to consider that any complaints, accusations and malfeasances will, in the first place, affect businesses in their public efforts around the globe. Firms will be shunned, deserted and even attacked. It this their marketing efforts which will dissipate hatred.  Also, when troops, interrogations and drones become insufficiently effective, business activities are the action sector which can most quickly and clearly communicate and display high morals. Particularly with focused education and training, managers can emphasize that not all that can be done, should be done. Since firms know that they will be the first to pay the price of hatred abroad, they also need to be the ones to dedicate themselves most rapidly to the restoration of a reputation symmetry.

Curative international marketing takes responsibility for problems which a society and its members have generated. Marketing can help set morally wrong actions right and  rebuild the wellbeing of individuals and society globally. Curative marketing determines what wrong has been wrought and then initiates future action to make up for past errors.

Moving on is not enough !  Mistakes inflicted on society cannot be swept under the carpet. Errors fester like a destructive virus culture. One needs the spirit of “Wiedergutmachung” or restitution. A curative marketing approach is instrumental for governments, managers, and firms in their work on five pylons crucial for a renewed shining position on the hill: Truthfulness, simplicity, less pressure, more participation and personal responsibility.

Truthfulness: Citizens have either been actively mislead, or been left with a sense of substantial ambiguity. Curative actions must be based on fact and insight rather than emotions within the context of societal change. One must restore a presumptive burden of honesty.

Simplicity: Simplicity adds value and is crucially linked to truthfulness, learning,  and making sure that one knows and understands the implications of decisions. More knowledge and training makes it easier to be truthful.

Less pressure: To soar is only one mode of behavior, even for eagles. Sometimes there is too much effort aimed to expand too fast. It may be time for a slow food era.

More participation: A new international outlook must make allowances for others. Inclusiveness helps with future change when power waxes and wanes. One tendency is to focus on and celebrate winners. But when the rising tide arrives, leaking vessels, untrained crews, and flaccid sails will only lead to hostile refugees.

Personal responsibility: Distance does not remove responsibility. One can no longer use intermediaries and, later on, be suitably astonished, surprised and mortified about their actions. Realistically, locals take even distant actions quite personally. Though there is frequent talk about mutual understanding, the actual overlap between societies remains miniscule. The average Chinese person understands as much about Columbus, Ohio as the average American knows about Tianjin, China.

Governments again assert a growing role. New global regulations and restrictions are not always free from fault and ambition. Global discord is growing. Conflict it is not resolved by simply moving on. One needs to invest the time and effort to systematically rebuild trust and admiration to which the United States used to be accustomed.

The sad conditions are a clarion call for international curative marketing. Nobody is perfect, but a fair compensatory effort can restore many opportunities. A strong international and moral presence by the U.S. and its businesses can well be a carrier and agent of positive change. At the front line they can mend broken dreams and fears of America.

 

Professor Michael Czinkota (michaelczinkota.com) teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. He has served in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Thomas Czinkota Thomas@czinkota.de) advises international companies from Frankfurt, Germany

Ethics in International Business

Watch Professor Czinkota and Professor Skuba’s thoughts on “Ethics in International Business”

“What matters is context and we have learned that business is not the end of it all; it’s not the only pot at the end of the rainbow. Business is one component of societal development…” – Professor Michael Czinkota, Georgetown University