Marketing is Bad?
Consumerism and Materialism
.updated 2013 May 30
INTRODUCTION Sometimes I think I am a hypocrite being a marketing professor when in truth the best solution for the world is for companies to do less marketing and stop selling so much junk we do not need. We should move into small villages with mixed farming and eat organically grown foods - but, as many philosophers have pointed out, (and physicists too) we cannot go backwards in time.
If we had foresight, we would have limited our urban areas to a couple of hundred thousand people instead of these pavement sprawls of several million - would it not be better to live in small villages separated by a couple of miles of green space?
Some people explain that our large urban areas spawn more and more pollution and requirements for vehicles that pollute our air cause we feel the need to drive farther and farther along the "good roads"  - we suffer the curse of  successful technological developments throughout the 1800's and 1900's.

The rush of the information age is upon us and all countries are struggling in a globalized world to feed their millions of citizens, at the same time the consumer products companies are striving fervently to exploit the last technologies to make stuff you don't need and use the latest communications devices to market to you to buy these products - all in an intensive competitive environment.

Which leads some people to say "Marketing is Bad" and it is the cause of consumerism and materialism.



This Dilbert cartoon is funny, but actually, it is funny cause in reality because many people associate some types of
arketing with unethical practices exactly as is joked about in the cartoon.

a Def'n

The word "Consumerism" has several different meanings

   1.  In the late 1990's, it was used to describe the movement were people used the power of communications technology to protect and inform consumers - advocates also sought to use lobbying to convince companies to adopt practices such as honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards. It was empowerment for the consumer to be treated fairly
   2. The word is also used by economists to describe a theory that a progressively greater consumption of goods is beneficial to the people and the society - some people point out that if you citizens have a lot of possessions, they will be happy, and companies making "stuff" are good for the economy and technological advances.
   3. In more recent years, the word is used in a negative way to describe how people, influenced by sophisticated marketing techniques exploiting celebrities, develop an attachment to materialistic values or possessions and that these possessions become very important to our sense of well being. For example, having a nice car is somehow perceived to be better than simply being a nice person. 

For the purposes of this unit, we will consider Consumerism to mean things in a negative context - simply the circumstances of our modern world were people get too enthusiastic about acquiring consumer products for no real substantial purpose.

Complaints about marketing
  • Advertising is annoying
  • The manufacturers lie about the product
  • Advertising is wasteful
  • Products arenít really safe
  • Quality is not as good as they say
  • Packaging is not strong
  • Labelling is deceptive
  • Middlemen add to the price
  • Middlemen are seen as not adding anything of value
Complaints about marketing
  • Marketing makes people too materialistic
  • Credit too easy to get - ppl buy stuff they donít need
  • Too much unnecessary stuff offered
  • Serves the wealth, exploits the poor
Complaints about marketing
  • Products pollute, or their packaging pollutes
Materialism and urban violence In 2005, and early 2006, there have been a number of community leaders, church ministers, and sociologists that put forth the idea that one of the causes of gun violence in our cities is the increasingly materialistic attitude that people have - meaning companies use marketing techniques to sell their products in a way that implies it is necessary for you to have the latest shoes, iPod, watch, cellphone etc. in order to be successful, have friends, get hooked up etc.... and if people are not in a position to have money to buy these things (cause they have no job or education) then they'll just got out and rob someone to get what they want.

If you doubt this explanation, all you have to do is read the community newspapers in Toronto to see all the times when kids are getting jumped outside of a high school by a group of several people, and their shoes, jackets, cellphones are being taken from them - if they resist, they are beaten up, or shot.

So, maybe ............ marketing is bad because it is being used to create an unhealthy desire for these products, and the desire causes people to do stupid things to acquire stuff that really isn't important in the long run.

Moira Welsh wrote an article in the Toronto Star in May 2004 in which she discussed the growing gang violence and explained "...They see the videos with the cars, the jewelry, they want all that."

Marketing does serve a useful purpose Now, if you have any doubts about whether marketing serves a useful purpose, or if marketing really can make  difference, i'll refer you to this cartoon below which was posted by my former student Marc N. (in CCT322 and MGD415 at UTM). Marc posted this May 30th 2013 in the Facebook group I have for former students, and I immediately "right button" clicked it and put it in here cause it is indeed a "teachable point" that demonstrates quite clearly how something such as "naming" (a function of branding) can be an aspect of marketing; that can make a difference.

Thanks Marc. (Marc ( )works at which is an SEO company founded by another very successful former student of mine, Dev Basu.