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STRATEGIC MARKETING THEORY BUSA7078 9506134M INDIVIDUAL ASSIGNMENT 2012 MARCH 27
TITLE Vulnerable Consumers in Developing Countries: Toward a responsible and sustainable marketing approach
Keywords Subjective World Paradigm, Vulnerable Consumers, Responsible Marketing, Developing countries, South Africa, Sports Sponsorships
1. ABSTRACT 2. INTRODUCTION 3. DEFINING THE SUBJECTIVE WORLD PARADIGM 3.1 DEFINITION OF VULNERABLE CONSUMERS 3.2 BOTTOM OF THE PYRAMID AND VULNERABLE CONSUMER 4. MARKETING AND VULNERABLE CONSUMERS 4.1 SPORTS EVENTS’ SPONSORSHIPS BY ALCOHOL, FAST-FOOD AND TOBACCO COMPANIES 5. CONSUMER PROTECTION LEGISLATION IN SOUTH AFRICA 6. IMPLICATIONS FOR MARKETERS 7. CONCLUSION
1 2 3 5 6 8 8 11 13 15
Within developing markets. within developing markets. aptly referred to as the Bottom of the Pyramid consumer (Prahalad.1. the Labelling Laws as well as Credit Act of 2005. Smith and Hiss.an example of a country with a demographic profile of an audience large in vulnerable consumers. 2008). The continued interest by marketers. In particular. has to date introduced a number of Consumer Protection legislations to create a less-vulnerable marketplace for these consumers inclusive of the Consumer Protection Act of 2008. their plans to do so will only become real when court challenges are lodged through intensified and vigilant activism (Gabriels. It is in fact. South Africa . while the Consumer Protection Legislations plan is to serve the consumers interests. 3/ 21 . in the presence of Consumer Protection Laws. However. 2011). that the said vulnerable consumer has been able to now be allowed to operate within a fair marketplace (Wright. Lambert. The taking advantage of a vulnerable consumer who is unable to distinguish right from wrong in consumption has enabled these marketers to truly achieve their sales whilst leaving this consumer “harmed”. such a consumer has often denoted one who is also of poor means economically. ABSTRACT Brenkert (1998) defines a vulnerable consumer as a consumer who is likely to be harmed because what they want. 2004). unfairly harms them. to pursue their profitcentric strategies has largely in the interest of their businesses (Surujlal (etal 2009).
• Thirdly. maintenance as well as monitoring of the established laws. 2007. Shaw & Shaw. Richter and Bhana 2006. This paper will aim to answer the question of: should consumers in developing countries be considered as vulnerable and consequently be protected by legal measures or regulations. This. the role of Consumer Protection Laws. the negative impact. an outline of the Subjective World Paradigm and the Psychological base of marketing a framework for clear understanding of the existence of a vulnerable consumer found in developing countries. Three key objectives will deliver the above-said argument using research-centric proof to unpack that: • Firstly. Surujlal and Dhurup. 1998). 2009). Surujlal. of the absence of Consumer Protection Legislations in developing countries given marketers’ questionable and unethical marketing activities when selling their products within developing markets. businesses in South Africa have “bent the rules” of ethical protocol at the expense of the consumer who is being sold those goods and services (Brenkert. done by taking advantage of a consumer base unable to distinguish right from wrong in consumption of products marketed to them (Panday. especially in developing countries. to the vulnerable consumer. 4/ 21 . The paper will conclude with implications going forward in ensuring a more vigilant approach towards the adherence. INTRODUCTION In pursuit of driving profits of goods and services sold. It is such behaviour which has raised a question regarding ethical marketing behaviour by these marketers. • Secondly. in establishing ethical codes of conduct which protect vulnerable consumers from marketers’ activities.2.
is the Subjective World Paradigm (Arndt. It should also be mentioned. Lastly. Prior to unpacking what this paradigm or alternative view of the world refers to. Marketing Theory. 2006). the Subjective World Paradigm was borne out of its shared relations with the Interpretive Paradigm which was formulated in the 1980’s (Arndt. herein. 1995). the Interpretive Paradigm. 2010). The importance of the consumer’s experience as “being-in-the-world” is cemented in the belief of this Interpretive Paradigm construct in ensuring that the thorough understanding of consumers’ personal experiences or experienced knowledge serves as scientific data (Szmigin etal. As such. emphasises a presentation of a reality of a world whose focus is on trying to understand consumers’ experiences more so around what they subjectively experience in their minds during consumption (Szmigin and Foxall. refers to a shared assumption or a theory agreed upon.3. in encapsulating the sentiments of engaging with these consumers as opposed to being detached outside observers. Ardnt (2005) surmised that only when there is a “give-and-take” connection with the audience of interest will marketing behaviour of such an audience be truly understood. DEFINING THE SUBJECTIVE WORLD PARADIGM Marketing theory applicable to laying the definitive understanding of the marketing system in which vulnerable consumers are rooted in. here refers to a framework which allows for a more intelligible as well as visual understanding of the entire marketing process under which these types of consumers operate in (Baker and Saren. 2000). 2000). Paradigm. Arndt (2005) took this definition further in emphasising that it is truly the “subjective as well as intersubjective experiences of individuals” that form the basis of understanding marketing behaviour within this Subjective World paradigm. it is imperative that the definition of paradigm is also brought to fore. The latter. 1995). that a noticeable trend with respects to paradigms has been noted with some seen some taking centre stage in dominance or prevalence until they are challenged successfully by a competing paradigm (Harker and Egan. 5/ 21 .
1995). is worthy of noting. Here marketers’ understanding of the cognitive process by which consumers follow in making 6/ 21 . the Psychological basis of marketing lends itself to a relationship within this paradigm ( (Szmigin etal. A bird’s eye view of the role of decision-making as an example for understanding how the discipline of marketing is psychological. This metaphor. over and above the cited metaphors. in this instance that of the Subjective World Paradigm. 2000).The consumer in question under this paradigm needs to also be clearly described. The interest to engage with consumers in understanding their consumption experiences encapsulates the very definition of Psychology as a discipline of marketing. emphasises that psychology provides insight into customer behaviour. according to Baker etal (2010). is Arndt’s defining the consumer within this paradigm as being vulnerable. In conjunction with the focal interest of the consumer within this paradigm. is defined as a study about the behaviour and mental processes of consumers (Baker and Saren. Psychology. Arndt (2005) also utilises the metaphor of “language and text” to verify the behaviour of consumers within this paradigm. The use of metaphors in describing the consumers is believed to help influence the framework of analysis adopted. Related to the value of images in the behaviour of consumers. these writers argue. The consumer then is referred in visualry terms of “an experiencing man” metaphor in drawing even closer the emphasis of the value of everyday experiences for a consumer within this paradigm. in marketing behaviour is used in involving individuals to think aloud as they engage in various decisions pertaining to their consumption activities. enable more decisive and informative marketing management decisions and actions made during marketing plans’ formulations. to name but a few (Arndt. in turn. 2010). Pertinent to this paper. Such insights. The Psychological basis of marketing. The value of such a metaphor for marketing behaviour is in enabling marketers to continuously remember that much of human behaviour is driven by the different situations largely attributed to what is stored in their memories in the form of images. dreams and events.
that clarity be brought to fore in distinguishing a Disadvantaged consumer from a Vulnerable one. 1.1 DEFINITION OF VULNERABLE CONSUMERS Brenkert (1998) defines a vulnerable consumer as a consumer who is likely to be harmed because what they want. Here vulnerability of consumers. 2000). 1996). the role of psychology in influencing decisions on what is consumed and consumption patterns cis therefore undeniable. on the other hand. services or ideas) The construct of vulnerable consumers has also started to be used in enabling a better understanding of the processes of change and how these affect consumers at large (SA Government’s Poverty and Inequality Report. unfairly harms them. is not vulnerable in relation to others who are competing for a similarly desired product. It is within this framework of a paradigm that the definition of a vulnerable consumer is explored in relation to the Psychological discipline of marketing. In relating our earlier definition of the paradigm where language and text play a role in the consumption patterns of consumers’ behaviour. A vulnerable consumer.judgements has allowed the discipline to understand the decision making processes of consumers before they make purchases. as a construct is extended further to include not just those who lack assets 7/ 21 . Research has noted that this is done through the 5 decision-making stages. influenced by exposure to internal as well as external stimuli largely brought to fore by marketers’ marketing activities (Szmigin etal. but rather from the harm they may be subjected to because of those who market the products to them (Brenkert. It is imperative at this juncture. we use the term “products” to fully represent products which may be physical products. 1998). (Note to avoid saying products and services each time. Brenkert (1998) clarifies that a disadvantaged consumer is one who is perceived so because they are unable to compete fairly with others in the marketplace in pursuit of desired product.
5 billion people (Prahald. Whilst.but rather also those who are in possession of assets and are unable to cope in times of financial crisis in managing those assets. 2004) with a purchasing power of $5 trillion (Subrahmanyan et al 2008). Subrahmanyan et al (2008) also terms this consumer base as the poorest of the world in surmising on the economical term thereof of the Bottom of the Pyramid.2 BOTTOM OF THE PYRAMID AND VULNERABLE CONSUMERS Globally. that we explore further the definition of vulnerable consumers within the profiling of the Bottom of the Pyramid consumer base Prahalad’s (2004). it is recognised that irrespective of one’s level of income. Subrahmanyan etal (2008) surmises. clothing and fuel and with 80% of spending on these 4 basic necessities. Such examples. as a construct denoting consumption by the poor. 2008) That said. as human beings we all need to consume. 1. Marketers and their respective firms have continuously been warned in making sure that they fully understand the demographics of this audience prior to engaging them in pursuing profit-centric strategies to them (Pita. It is on the basis of this reasoning of vulnerability of consumers. it is not an economically viable opportunity to 8/ 21 . Pita etal (2008) cite that this is an audience base whose income’s consumption resides mostly on spending in basic necessities namely food. 2008 cite examples where luxury products have been consumed by the poor who logically would not have been able to afford these products have been noted. Bottom of the Pyramid is denoted as a consumer base of 4 . give reason to raise the ethical concerns of manipulation of consumers by marketers when selling products to them. contrary argument on why marketers should not pursue such profit-centric strategies of selling into this market has been highlighted by Pita etal (2008). Guesalaga and Marshall. Subrahmanyan and Gomez-Arias. It also in turn raises ethical concerns of the vulnerability of these consumers in acquiring those products even when they are harmed financially.
The population of the country depicted approximately the gender. depicts a 0. Some of the factors contributing to income inequality in South Africa include intellectual ability. is one such country delineating audience profiling of Bottom of the Pyramid consumer base. Whilst the average income. calculated at GDP divided by total population. if anything. and although separate from. 2012). over three quarters of the population being black (79. It is such debates which bring to fore. the widespread of poverty nationally paints a different picture (SASSA. here. 2011). the resultant inequality between races and the widening gap between the rich and the poor has seen at least 40-50% of the South African population living without adequate means of survival (Wilson. one of the the highest in the world.58 measure for South Africa. The majority of the poor are found in rural areas and the Poverty rate for these rural areas is 71%. South Africa. the undeniable existence of an audience that is poor and susceptible to marketing initiatives harming them because of their vulnerable status quo. 2011). access to education and training. the South African population (Statistics SA. has been defined as any form of deprivation. is related to the experience of poverty (SASSA. 2012). This is attributed to the fact that 11% of total income come from the 40% poorest households whilst over 40% of the total income comes from 7% of the population. 18m South Africans live in the poorest 40% of the households resulting in them being classed as poor. confirmed to be of a rich status (Wilson.pursue. A measure of inequality as depicted by the Gini Coefficient. As such. Inequality.5%) with a youthful population of approximately 70% (32m) under the age of 35. places South Africa at the level of an upper middle income country. South Africa is recorded as having some of the highest levels of disparate income. racial as well as age percentage breakdown as half of the population being female (52%). In 2011. McConnell and Brue. 9/ 21 . and unequal distribution of wealth (Rensburg. 2011) was estimated to be between 50 – 59 million people. discrimination. 2011). racial and gender inequalities as a legacy of the apartheid era.
Surujlal. The intent here is in ensuring that. 2009). in their pursuit to profitably market products produced to vulnerable consumers. revealed ethically questionable marketing behaviour towards a vulnerable base of consumers (Surujlal and Dhurup. MARKETING AND VULNERABLE CONSUMERS: In sketching out the impact of marketing activities on the vulnerable consumers within a developing country like South Africa. Firstly. 2007. 4. Richter and Bhana 2006. the paper will zero in on 2 key arguments. Secondly. alcohol as well as fast-food products as one of the tools to penetrate the vulnerable consumers (Surujlal and Dhurup. a portrayal of how businesses in South Africa. 4. the noticeably lacking or questionable ethics in the delivery of these products to these consumers by these businesses in South Africa. 2009). through sports events sponsored by these marketers. 10/ 21 . A closer look at South Africa’s landscape of marketing activities in the absence of Consumer Protection Laws.In spite of persistent arguments regarding the economically viability of pursuing developing markets like South Africa. emotional bonds as well as loyalty are created within their targeted audience (Surujlal (etal 2009)). 2009). To date their strategies within these markets dictated a behaviour intent on taking advantage of a consumer base unable to distinguish right from wrong in consumption of products marketed to them (Panday. this has not stopped marketers from pursuing these markets. Shaw & Shaw. Surujlal etal (2009) argues that creating brand or company awareness as well as reinforcing images as well as brand building have been the key reasons why marketers have pursued sports sponsorships.1 SPORTS EVENTS’ SPONSORSHIPS BY ALCOHOL. have acted in their own interests. FAST-FOOD AND TOBACCO COMPANIES Public health continues to be concerned about how sports sponsorships has been used by tobacco. Surujlal and Dhurup.
this thus speaking to the heart of the use of psychology in the discipline of marketing. Ambler (1996) argues. In fact in research conducted by Markinor. alcohol and fast-food in the consumers’ minds. soft-drink and fast-food companies needs further discussing. these consumers have been noticeably unable to disseminate right from wrong consumption of the brands they were exposed to.1995). confirms that the usage of such sponsorship vehicle to promote messages of “unhealthy products” to these vulnerable consumers has resulted in consumption of brands promoted. Surujlal etal (2009) argues that respondents’ answers were driven by the fear that banning of such events may mean loosing out on certain sport events as well as the fun and entertainment associated with sports events. highlighted that 59% of metropolitan dwellers held the belief that liquor companies who sponsored sports events. In addition. a research agency. The question regarding the morality of the relationship in sporting events and sponsorships by alcohol.It is befitting to surmise that marketers see sponsorship relationships as effective methods to shape consumers’ attitudes . In turn. Ambler (1996). revealed their favouring of these sponsorships. Surujlal etal (2009) firstly confirms the existence of a relationship between sporting events and “unhealthy products” such as tobacco. 11/ 21 . Surujlal etal’s (2009) survey on respondents view of whether alcohol companies make appropriate sponsors for sport events. contribute positively to their respective communities (Editorial.
argues Surujlal etal (2009). health fitness and fun. cigarette smoking girls of a school-going age were 16 times (7 times more likely for boys) more likely to use stronger drugs and six times (5 times more likely for boys) more likely to use alcohol than their non-smoking school peers (Editorial. 1995). The strategy used by fast-food outlets is similar to the one used by tobacco since both are targeting young people whilst denying the harmful effects of their products to this vulnerable consumer Surujlal etal (2009). in spite of the knowledgeable detrimental effects of smoking. as promoted through sport. The tactic of sponsoring grass root and community events by these companies has also been seen as a tactic of exploiting the popularity of sport to target children and young people whilst bypassing advertising regulations Surujlal etal (2009) disputed. The impact of such sponsorships being viewed by (or exposed to) vulnerable consumers who are in fact underage is also negatively impacting on the future consumption habits of these consumers (Editorial. myopically conclude that through sporting events’ sponsorships they drive the positioning of positive associations between say for example drinking alcohol and traits associated with athletes and teams such as success. 1995). it is in fact physical activity as well as a healthy dietary routine that will result in obesity avoidance (Surujlal etal (2009)) 12/ 21 . Yet. According to the research. international studies conducted have documented strong relationship between smoking of cigarettes by school-going children and the likely incremental usage of alcohol as well as that of strong drugs by these kids. Again. on the other hand.There is also serious hypocrisy of linking health benefits. drinking and consuming “unhealthy fast foods. Marketers. Marketers of sports sponsorships of fast-food also argued that there are positive associations through such marketing between physical activity as a desirable intent to avoiding obesity.
2008). yet with a specific focus on the “vulnerable consumers” (Wright. there is another ethical question mandating addressing by tobacco companies’ usage of below-the-line advertising (Panday. 2008). however. which became effective on 31 March 2011. has not stopped the tobacco companies from targeting this vulnerable consumers through indirect advertising. these are private parties strictly attended only through invitations as sent through social networks. Richter and Bhana 2006). 13/ 21 . still. This. Whilst the law will close this loophole. Panday etal (2006) argues that the public health advocates need to continue to be wary of tobacco companies promises of “we’ve changed. and predictions that obesity will become more damaging to the economy than smoking (Surujlal. The global rise of obesity among the children. The debate around the banning of alcohol advertising and desirable intents to reduce operating hours of outlets selling the category are initiatives displaying the growing public health concern towards this category. The promulgation of the Tobacco Products Amendment Act of 1999’s banning of advertising and promotion of tobacco with the intent of protecting young people from the harms of tobacco use is commendable.” 5. CONSUMER PROTECTION LEGISLATION IN SOUTH AFRICA The Introduction of the Consumer Protection Act (herein referred to as the CPA). bars as well as social networks to invite affluent young adults promoting “trendy lifestyles” has become the companies way of advertising. the ethical question with respects to sponsorships by alcohol as well as fast-food companies remains. The argument by the companies is that. a key loophole not addressed in the law (Panday. Shaw & Shaw. 2007) mandates strong legislature.Whilst legislative approach is currently in place with respects to tobacco advertising (inclusive of sponsorships curtailing). was thus intended to provide a legislation aimed at protection all consumers. Lastly. Richter and Bhana 2006). The use of nightclubs. This need is also emphasised strongly by the likely impact of life expectancy on children of today if the current obesity trends continue (ABC News.
Section 67 thereof . to legislate consumer credit law whilst creating a single system to regulate credit. negative option marketing. herein referred to as POPI Bill. driving promotional competitions as well as customer loyalty programmes has never been more urgent (Buys. It is in the pursuit of such responsible marketing and accountability that the CPA duly rests. bait marketing. In turn. The need for companies to review their conduct around marketing initiatives such as implementation of direct marketing. addresses and contact details of individuals. is another piece 14/ 21 . 2011). 2011). The Protection of Personal Information Bill of 2009 . In essence the POPI Bill. 2008: #427). The introduction of the National Credit Act (2005) and Regulations (2006). fair and responsible marketing. argues Buys (2011). catalogue marketing. is another piece of legislation which will regulate the right to privacy even further of the South Africa consumers.it is clear that the intent is to provide a fair marketplace for vulnerable consumers so that the disadvantages they have experienced to date are reduced.Deemed the first legislation of its kind in South Africa. is intended to regulate marketing when it comes to unsolicited electronic communications. it is also to ensure that there is responsible consumer behaviour by suppliers ensuring dutiful empowerment by consumers and a platform for correcting unlawful unfair trade practices towards these consumers (Wright. 2008). will govern the legislative use of directories such as name. Chapter 2 of the Act outlines clearly 9 consumer sights enforced upon suppliers. In surmising the Act’s purpose . Pitta and Franzak. repeals the spamming provisions contained in Section 45of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act of 2002 (Buys. Responsible marketing is defined as the “socially conscious marketing where focus is on reviewing the negative effects of marketing activities of a company on its society to date with the intent of mitigating those effects” (Wood. the Act is truly a comprehensive framework which outlines the rights of consumes whilst visibly enforcing the legislation around the accountable conduct of suppliers. The Bill which is currently in front of parliament.
according to Jacobs etal (2010) have been looking for opportunities. which holds marketers accountable in their dealings with consumers. Greater vigilance and activism is still needed though in ensuring legislation adherence by companies when it comes to labelling of products though. particularly in low-income markets where the aspiration to consume has shown rapid growth and the rise in consumption is indicative of businesses taking advantage of such opportunities. Jacobs and Smit’s (2010) portrayal of growing levels of indebtedness by 44% between 1994 and 2008 against declines in household savings affirm the need for implementation of such a legislation. 2007). Roestoff and Haupt. 6. Responsible lending is then duly implemented by creating a balance between providing access to credit whilst simultaneously preventing reckless lending of credit to consumers not financially fit (Hawthorne. IMPLICATIONS FOR MARKETERS Brenkert (1998) outlined the need for a policy. To date companies continue deploy marketing strategies that are misleading the consumers with false claims with respects to what their products contain. was noted by Jacobs etal (2010) as incurred by low-income earners. 2007: #19). the rise in this debt. South African Food Labelling Regulations has also continued to be amended accordingly to account for the need of regulations in the ease of labelling of products for consumers’ benefit (de Villiers. reckless credit granting as well as the regulation of credit information are being addressed whilst ensuring that debt re-organisation in cases of over-indebtness is also managed (Renke etal 2007). Businesses. With the introduction of the Act. as highlighted on the labels of the products. a code of conduct. 15/ 21 . herein defined as the vulnerable consumers in South Africa who make up 75% of the South African population (IFC.of legislation in the interests of vulnerable consumers (Renke. 2007). In fact. 2008).
while the CPA’s plan is to serve the consumers interests. government entities and alike around the controversial associations of companies whose products messaging do not send authentic messages with well-meaning intentions mandates this. However. it is imperative that loopholes pertaining to other forms of advertising are closed speedily. Lastly. the legislation’s framework is a sure protection for the vulnerable consumers. The ethically questionable sports’ events sponsoring of Alcohol and Fast-food companies in line with Chapter 2 Part E of the CPA’s “Right to fair and responsible marketing” beckons the need for vigilant activism. Smith and Hiss. Lambert. is a first step towards such as it is beginning to dictate a change in the dynamics of the marketing place. In addition. 2011). Continued growth by public advocates. sports events need to ethically review their association with companies who desire to sponsor sports events. whilst the legislations are in place for the banning of tobacco advertising. Failure to do so. Whilst there is no denying the fact that sponsoring of sporting events continues to be a well-needed contribution to the sporting fraternity. its plan to do so will only become real when court challenges are lodged through intensified and vigilant activism (Gabriels. increased drug-usage in later years as well as alcohol-related trauma morbidity and mortality activities (Editorial: 1995).The consequent legislating of the marketing activities in South Africa. From the restriction by marketers to actively promote their products to children (herein referred to as kids under 12) to the inability by marketers to entice consumers with products they do not need nor want nor able to afford. how ethical is such a promotion when in fact the consequent traits are negative in encouraging obscenity (Surujlal etal (2009). will mean that the legislations in place have yet to truly deliver on the 16/ 21 . Key ethical question here is how ethical is promotion of behaviour to a vulnerable audience which is unable to distinguish right from wrong in consumption of products promoted to them within a framework of “positive traits” sporting events.
However. CONCLUSION Brenkert’s (1998) definition of a vulnerable consumer as a consumer who is likely to be harmed because what they want. This was profiled through the case study offering of sports’ sponsorships of product categories of alcohol. The taking advantage of marketers to date in selfishly pursuing profit-centric strategies to these consumers was also highlighted. from the ethically questionable activities of tobacco companies. It is invariable through promoted marketing messages during sports events that the taking advantage of an audience that is unable to distinguish right from wrong consumption has occurred. 17/ 21 . into the future it is in the interests of these consumers that legislative laws will only become real when court challenges are lodged through intensified and vigilant activism. It is in fact. tobacco as well as “unhealthy food”. unfairly harms them was duly unpacked in this paper. that the said vulnerable consumer has been able to now be allowed to operate within a fair marketplace. in the presence of Consumer Protection Laws. herein the youth.mandate of protecting the vulnerable consumers. 7.
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