Societal marketing and morality

Andrew Crane, John Desmond

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

112 Citations (SciVal)


Societal marketing emerged in the early 1970s, promising a more socially responsible and ethical model for marketing. While the societal marketing concept has attracted its adherents and critics, the literature on societal marketing has remained sketchy and underdeveloped, particularly with respect to its underlying (and largely implicit) moral agenda. By making the moral basis of societal marketing more explicit, this article primarily seeks to offer a moral critique of the societal marketing concept. By situating discussion within notions of psychological and ethical egoism, argues that, in moral terms at least, the societal marketing concept is clearly an extension of the marketing concept, rather than a fundamental reconstruction of marketing theory. While acknowledging the use of the societal marketing concept in practice, this use is problematized with respect to a number of critical moral issues. In particular, the question of who should and can decide what is in the public’s best interests, and elucidate the moral deficiencies of the rational‐instrumental process upon which marketing decisions are frequently rationalised. Suggests that attention should be refocused away from prescribing what “moral” or “societal” marketing should be, and towards developing an understanding of the structures, meanings and discourses which shape and explain marketing and consumption decision making and sustain its positive and negative impacts on society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-569
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2002

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2002, MCB UP Limited.


  • Decision making
  • Ethics
  • Marketing
  • Marketing concept
  • Social responsibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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