This is a quote from the new series, Mad Men.
If you didn’t catch the new AMC show Mad Men, which started last week, it’s worth a catch up over the weekend. The show is about the early days of television advertising and its Madison Avenue creators. In this drama set in the 1960s, the FCC has just ruled that advertisers can’t claim health effects for smoking. So what do they do? Create the Lucky Strike tough guy image that smokes the brand because “It’s Toasted.” The amount of smoking in the show would give anyone cancer! (I wonder if Big Tobacco has paid for product placements on the show.)
Socially Responsible Marketing
Philip Kotler, professor of International Marketing at one of the country’s preeminent business schools, the Kellogg School of Management, examines ethics in marketing, as well as cigarette marketing in particular, in his article on marketing ethics. While the central axioms of marketing are proffered, “steady profits come from holding onto customers, satisfying them, and selling them more goods and services,” Kotler goes on to question this mindset. He basically asks: What should a marketer do if the customer wants something that isn’t good for him, or for others in society or the world?
What about the Government?
Kotler discusses the ethics of public interest groups and government’s rights in interfering with the free choice of an individual. Should we impose sin taxes on such goods as tobacco and alcohol? Would public information campaigns be successful substitutes for government mandates? Should companies be encouraged to make products safer?
Two companies that have chosen to take the high road by making their products safer are Frito-Lay and Kraft. Both have chosen to voluntarily make their products safer by eliminating trans fats from their food products, and are spending tens of millions of dollars modifying recipes and production lines in doing so. Procter & Gamble developed the partially hydrogenated, revolutionary cooking product in 1911. Until the 40’s it was considered safe. When an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1990 drew a clear link between trans fats and bad cholesterol, the food industry responded with corrective actions (read more about trans fats here).
These companies have proven to embody the spirit of a socially responsible company as Kotler defines it:
• Living out a deep set of company values that drive company purpose, goals, strategies, and tactics
• Treating customers with fairness, openness, and quick response to inquiries and complaints
• Treating employees, suppliers, and distributors fairly
• Caring about the environmental impact of its activities and supply chain
• Behaving in a consistently ethical fashion
Instead of spending money trying to bury the scientific data with more studies (think global warming, or for that matter, the tobacco industry), the food industry rose to the occasion. And just in time. New York City, Philadelphia and Montgomery County, MD, are among the municipalities that have taken it upon themselves to ban trans fats in restaurants. More will surely follow in the short term.
We all need to eat. It’s good that some parts of corporate America are ahead of the curve when it comes to the health of the American people. And when you tune in to Mad Men, just remember, its TV, not real life. People don’t have three martini lunches anymore, nor do they smoke in elevators, in the office, or even in restaurants, at least in DC. And to me, that’s happiness.