It is generally agreed that the time, money, buildings, and managerial and creative skill devoted to marketing activities could be used in other productive ways and, therefore, that individual firms and industries, and society at large will generally be made better off if marketing tasks are accomplished as efficiently as possible. However, the agreement is not so general as to the specific marketing tasks that are required and the way in which efficiency is to be measured (McCracken, 1988). Many firms engaged in marketing see their own operations as essential and attempt to perform them efficiently.
Their suppliers or customers may view these same activities as inessential and strive to eliminate them entirely in their own search for superior operating methods. Similarly, advertisers may regard as highly efficient those large-scale promotion campaigns that influence consumers to purchase their products, whereas the consumers involved may (rightly or wrongly) view the bulk of advertising expenditures as inessential to their own enjoyment of the merchandise. Even within the firm, there is the problem of identifying the particular costs and results relevant for comparison in efficiency analysis.
In addition, there is considerable difference of judgment as to the importance of aspects of marketing activity that constitute pleasures in themselves, and for which an efficiency analysis is therefore irrelevant. The purpose of marketing activity has been described as the delivery of a standard of living, and our concept of living standards includes the quality of life as well as the number of physical goods available. Thus, a final question with respect to the social role of marketing is its impact on the conditions of human existence.
Does marketing activity because people to spend their money and live their lives in ways that are less satisfactory to the individuals involved than other ways available? Is an abundance of consumer goods purchased at too high a price in terms of working hours, or authoritarian regimentation, or social conformity induced by mass communications?
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