Thursday, November 5, 2015

Manipulating Consumers is not Marketing: a Commentary on Cass R. Sunstein’s “Fifty Shades of Manipulation”

GATIGNON Hubert, Le NAGARD Emmanuelle
Read the working paper
INSEAD Working Paper 2015/87/MKT

Sunstein’s essay is particularly welcome because marketing as a science and as a field of management practice is facing an increased level of criticism at the same time as the general population becomes aware of the role it plays in business, beyond the traditional sales and distribution functions. We feel it is critical for the field of marketing to clarify its position with regard to some practices. However, Sunstein argues that manipulation is rather generalized in society (and in particular in marketing), although with many “shades.” Instead, we take the position that it is imperative to define more clearly the concept of manipulation so that it cannot be confounded with the more neutral concept of social influence. Therefore, we propose to use a different definition that eliminates a number of shades of manipulation. We also propose to amend somewhat the definition of the marketing concept and of marketing management to prevent practices that society would not consider appropriate.