Is Marketing Evil?

So, back in 2014 I wrote a report on the notion that so many people think that marketing is evil. We are using cunning tools to do the devils work and make people by shit they don't need. Here we are two years later and very little has changed..



Marketing is by definition a tool brands and organisations use to stimulate a change in population behaviour. This is resonating even more so in today’s society, where the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising), found that we are subjected to over 665 advertisement messages daily (Pringle and Field, 2012). Drawing on from this ever saturated ‘spam’ bombardment from brands it can be argued that perhaps the marketing industry has ignited a variety of needs and wants amongst a hedonistic population who derive from consumption.

This debate aims to asses the impact and power brands have over the consumer mind and whether or not the industry is exploiting it’s tight grip on the market. The ongoing debate of ‘what is a brand’ and whether the creation of such monopolistic brands has inflated a market that has accelerated far greater than ever before.

Content Vehicle

Marketing has quickly and become a vehicle of brand related content. It is very rare for brands to become solely reliant on their abilities to produce a certain product and stick to that. For example, Red Bull, have created and owned the extreme sports segment of the market ever since they decided they were going to become more than a brand but a community. The industry leading brands do this in order to monopolise serval markets, which is why it is argued by Fahy and Jobber (2012) that the necessarily higher price for goods is not backed up with evidence of superior quality. However, the rise of technology and brands delivering free information on a variety of topics contrasts this slightly out dated ideology. Furthering on from this Fahy and Jobber (2012) found that the consumers purchase behaviour of such brands was spearheaded by a perception of greater value than its competitors. Brands are continuing to exploit the consumers mindset of perceived value as Arnold (2009) finds the add emotive aspects are aimed at increasing this perception. These are both excellent standpoints from a brand that operates in a minimalistic none saturated markets; such as the finance industry for example.

Technological advancements and consumers owning their own media with their own band of followers has spearheaded the needs of corporations to implement a heavy bent towards CSR planning at the forefront of their brand values. Brands such as: Innocent, TOMS, Etsy and Patagonia have paved a new path for marketers in the 21st century where this need is highlighted - not from a marketing perspective but from a business economic growth view. The aforementioned brands have underpinned themselves as the contributor to society as a news outlet. TOMS has 2.1m organic Twitter followers* and are not selling but educating their captivated audience in this way. It is only through the brands education about the societal problems that they begin to see an inclination of sales growth. The growing shift in societal brands is incredible in terms of the scope of the market. As materialism is now an ethical concern amongst the industry it is argued that “studies of tribe in Afrrics, who have never been influenced by marketing’s pervasive and persuasive powers, also display signs of materialism. They argue that desire for status is a neutral state of mind, with marketing simply promoting the kinds of possessions that may be regarded as indicators of status and success” (Jobber & Ellis-Chadwick, 2013)



However, O’Shaughnessy and O’shaughnessy (2002), have argued that as result of our modern contemporary practices within the industry it can be accused that the brands have created a sense of unnecessary wants. Market monopolising brands, such as Apple, have now created a degree of loyalty beyond reason. The monopolising brands such as Apple have created a following of evocation and a relationship of intangibles with their consumers. It can be argued that Aaker (1997) concept of brand personality; human characteristics that consumers can relate to and engage with create and stimulate this monopolisation as the super brands just get their exploits so right. The late Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, “Be a yardstick for quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected”. This demeanour of attitude displayed by Jobs is far greater than that of a simple sales promotion. This backs up the further findings from O’shaughnessy and O’shaughnessy (2002) as they confirm that consumers are seeking to align themselves with group purchasing position in a certain societal mould. (Baines et, al 2011) argues that this in fact contrasts and displays the opposite of the brands aims and creates this hedonistic consumption. Baines is quoted as saying it increases a ‘desire to belong’. The primal instincts that we have emphasises the importance of objects and the need they hold to establish a social meaning (Woodward, 2007). This contributes to the idea that brands add value of our lives and without the exploits of marketing we would be less of in both tangibles and intangibles.


The evolution of technology and media outlets in todays society scrutinises the output of brands and the negligence they may have over society. Brands that solely look to operate for profit with a blatant disregard for the good of society are now highlighted very quickly and as Fahy and Jobber (2012) have found that consumers are made aware of a vast array of information to make informed choices. Fay and Jobber (2012) argue that if you are to question whether brands are encouraging this hedonistic society you must relate back to whether or not value is added.

In concluding this piece, my own opinion would be that marketing is a tool for good and it is even less so now with the media scrutiny and media outlets available.

*At the time of writing (27/3/15)


Upon reflecting of the overall stance on this subject it was evident that there were two points of view. From deducing my own reading in the bibliography and to clarify a point of conclusion I fully referenced this academic paper through extensive research. It was important that the sources use were credible and hence why some of the readings listed in the bibliography could not then be used. Endeavouring to use reputable sources I looked extensively at sourcing Jobber and Fahy who have become two renowned marketers.

The essay title seemed at first to be very straight forward and something that could be answered with my own language and experiences. However, when exploring further into the topic it became an apparent factor that the essay had a greater deal of complexity. It is with this insight that I had to re-draft and earlier written essay as I had previously over emphasised a point of view without fully taking into account the opposing factors. As a result this has taught myself a vast array of analytical skills that can further be transferred into practical work. 

Sam CheemaComment