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Clarks Shoes UK

Business Ethics Reflective Learning Log

– Marketing and Selling the “Ethical” Shoes –

 

“Being good is good business”

Anita Roddick. The Body Shop

 

For me, the concept of ethics starts with the understanding of morality. Something is ethical if it is moral and good. Now, morality is about right or wrong but the perception of this concept will vary across a spectrum of cultures and individuals.

I am aware of the syntax “business ethics”. To me, it refers to a firm acting morally correct beyond its main goal of making profits.

From personal observations, it is certain that ethics becomes more and more important in the business world. I am still debating to understand if the increased awareness of companies (particularly multinationals) regarding ethical issues come from their inner desire of doing good or because they are concerned with protecting their brand image and/ or are responding to media and pressure groups that are constantly following and exposing the “bad” companies.

I deeply admire firms that are able to create successful businesses based on moral principles, act ethically and be lucrative at the same time. Unfortunately, there are too many companies compromising on stakeholders (the community, customers, employees) when persistently seeking profits for their shareholders.

While it is true that companies such as “The Body Shop” have their whole business model build on ethical principles, there are companies (i.e. in Retail industry, Tabaco industry) that besides their central focus on consumerism and clear profit orientation or simply negative existence, are trying to compensate, engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility activities. Is, thus, CSR: altruism, trend or a long term investment?

Businesses are run by people and therefore they will merely depend (at least at top-management level) of correctness of the individuals involved. I understand that ethics goes beyond law and norms, and that people are found in situations where they need to take difficult decisions. 

***

Log entry 2 – Ethical theories

“Ethical theories are the rules and principles that determine 

right and wrong for any given situation”

Crane and Matten (2010, p.92)

I believe it would be easier if the business world would be governed by moral absolutism and “universal notions of right or wrong”. However, studying different philosophical theories, I convinced myself once again that “notions of right or wrong depend on the circumstances” and the people involved. For instance, the case study “Producing Toys – Child’s Play” (Crane and Matten, 2007, cited in Long, 2011) puts the western reader into an unfamiliar context and makes her/ him almost immediately jump and condemn the working conditions of the Thai manufacturer. Further, after accepting that in those particular circumstances it is a normal business practice, the reader moves into discussing the morality (or better said immorality) of the western product manager.

To understand and to logically explain the above example I looked through the lenses of consequentialism and non-consequentialism theories. I believe, initially, I was unintentionally blinded by the western perceptions. In my eyes, while I was entirely aware Thailand has its own culture and pace in the development process, I still took it out of its actual context and mentally placed it somewhere in Europe. Therefore, my (ethnocentric) view was non-consequentialist as I was convinced that the underlying motives of accepting the two-year supply contract are wrong and my argument flown directly to “Universal human/ child rights”.  At the same time, analysing the Thai environment, and considering that the family got the desired outcomes, the situation could be seen as being morally right – would argue consequentialist theories. Now, the so-called “universal” rights appear controversial and maybe not applicable.

Conversely, deontological theory argues that “right and wrong are determined by the motive/ action not outcome” and Kant adds that “the essence of morality is found in human reason as the arbiter of truth”. According to this approach, using children in toys manufacturing will go against Kant’s principles of reversibility and universality. It is true that in Thailand children work together with their parents. On the other hand, the product manager cannot imagine a similar situation happening with his family. Therefore, the principle of reversibility – “do unto others as you would have them expected to do unto you” – fails.

Another noble teaching of Kant, but difficult to find in modern societies, is the “categorical imperative”. It regards consistency, human dignity, and universality but one cannot treat all people equally because life is multifaceted.  Moreover, because the environment is competitive, a person’s desire or pursue of self-interest can be seen as morally right according to Adam Smith which “treats self-interest as the foundation of morality”. Here the simple egoism is enlarged and “include others in the group”: the deal will be sealed as it is seen being beneficial to the whole company. It is true that in any case, if this particular firm will renounce to the partnership with the Thai producer, another one, less or more unscrupulous, will take its place. Yet, not only the current western company will have to lose, also those Thai families will be devoid of their stable income. In this situation, agreeing with utilitarianism it can be said that  action is morally right if it results in the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people affected by the action” (Crane and Matten, 2010) and “an ethical decision should maximise benefits to the society and minimise harm” (Trevino and Nelson, 2007, p.96).

In the Business Ethics lecture we were presented two views regarding principles of equal human value or worth, as follow:

“Everybody to count as one, nobody to count as more than one” (Bentham, cited by Long, 2011)

“The good of any one individual is of no more importance…than the good of any other” (Sidgwick, cited by Long, 2011)

The two quotations above, in its pure form, has little appliance in today’s business world as the stakeholders’ spectrum has enlarged and it is difficult to satisfy equally all of them.

Moreover, in the case with the toy manufacturer we have apparently a win-win situation if the manager completes the deal. However, “the good” gained by both parties is not equal (or is it?). The product manager family “counts more than one” as it has the advantage of the developed countries, where Thai families are in the situation of accepting “the best worst” of the third world countries. It is a required stage in the development process for a country such as Thailand. This comes in opposition with Kant’s teaching about universality and reversibility as, most probably, the product manager would not want to be on the other side of the story, nor would Kant accept sacrificing Thai children for the (group) self-interest of the family.  Still, let’s bear in mind that “pain and pleasure” is perceived differently by different people and cultures. Also, I agree with the Rule Utilitarianism, in the long run it “produces more pleasure than pain for society”.

I believe a person moral standards will influence ones choice not only in his/ her personal life but also will transfer into professional life. However, people as individuals can be good, but they might be influenced by the working environment. From a personal experience I can say that there is might be danger of people compromising their moral standards in order to complete the job or satisfy the manager.

***

Log entry 3 – Critical Incident

– marketing and selling the “ethical” shoes –

I worked for Clarks Shoes as a Sales Assistant for two years.  The company is the leading footwear retailer in the United Kingdom with 550 branches. The company has remained family owned throughout its history, establishing a strong reputation for comfortable adults’ and children’s shoes, and accessories. In addition to selling high quality shoes, Clarks claims to provide exceptional customer service.

Many loyal customers have grown with Clarks shoes themselves, and are now bringing their children for a shoe fit. When entering the children section, it can be observed that the servicescape is carefully organised and various colourful posters are present. Daisy Explorer and Jack Nano are popular characters that can be found in Clarks kids YoToy shoe range (i.e. mini toys hidden in the heel of the shoes, imprinted on the shoes, or simply as a sticker sheet) (Figure 1). In addition, the company developed free interactive, engaging and educational online games (Figure 2).

At first, it appears to be a smart method of providing “comfort and fun” as the company states itself (Clarks Shoes Website, 2012). However, is this strategy a way of delivering more to kids or receiving the most out of their innocence?

I remember a particular situation when I helped a 10 years old girl to find a pair of school shoes. She had clear preference for a pair of shoes with a toy. After 20 minutes of trying several pairs (with and without toys) in the search for the right fit, I could see that the girl would refuse to accept any of the shoes but the one with the Daisy Explorer toy. Initially, the mother was not very excited about the toy shoes and their slightly higher price, but she was influenced by her daughter’s pleading (nagging), and was ready to give in and buy the shoes her daughter desired. In the end, I recommended the “second best fit” with a toy as “the best fit” that corresponded with the requirements of the young customer, and because the mother was inclined to buy something that her daughter will be happy to wear.

That was the moment when I started questioning the ethical aspect of such marketing techniques and wonder whether they could be justified or criticised.

Figure 1: Daisy Explorer and Jack Nano – Clarks Kids YoToy shoes

 

Figure 2: Daisy Explorer and Jack Nano Kids website

 

From my personal perspective, I acknowledged the influence marketing had on the child but could not express my revelation with the family since I was there in the employee role. I did not lie but I did not say the whole truth either. No one got hurt, but it felt wrong to me. At this point Kant would argue that my action was wrong as my underlying motives were wrong because I recognised the situation as being marketing to children which is declared to be unethical due to the involvement of a vulnerable target.

From the sales assistant position, it felt I took the right decision in that particular circumstance. I listened carefully to the customer’s request, was obliged to follow the rules of the training received, and favoured all possible ways of sealing the deal and contributing to company profit. As a result, I pleased the family and contributed to the daily sales targets. The utilitarianism would say I acted morally right because the outcome satisfied all parties involved: the family, the company, and myself.  It is possible that I might be rationalising an unethical behaviour in the name of the “job role”, but in this case I believe that marketers should be made responsible for their actions.

Milton Friedman (1970, cited in Bowie and Duska, 1990, p.23) would argue that:

“there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits as long as it stays within the rule of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception and fraud”.

Accordingly, Clarks – a private company – has the unique aim to seek profits. Now marketer’s role, of developing creative ways of promotion that will encourage sales and rise profits of the company, could be seen as morally justified (Camenisch, 1998). This implies I should have played correctly. Not if I listen to Carr who regards business as a “game” governed by its own rules rather than those of “society” (Ferrell and Fraedric, 1997). Thus, Clarks is entitled to pursue profit making, especially because the mother was the one purchasing the product.

On one hand, the utilitarian argument supporting the company would suggest that promotion of the YoToY range to the kids market might generate utility for the company as well as for its customers: offering quality and comfort of the traditional kids shoes, with the added value of fun. On the other hand, it is possible that the final results do not comply with J. S. Mill’s focus on creating “the greatest good for the greatest number” (cited in Kline, 2005, p. 9), since kids’ cognitive capacities are not fully developed and cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality which makes it easy for marketers to unfairly benefit “of this vulnerability to satisfy their own needs” (Crane and Matten, 2010).

Although it can be claimed that the parents are the ultimate decision makers, I realised that the “advertisers seek to encourage and take advantage of the “pest power” that children have towards their parents” (Crane and Matten, 2010, p. 360). At this instant, agreeing with non-consequentialism theories, it appears that Clarks abuses children’s vulnerability because the underlying motives – exploiting the lack of cognitive skills of a child – are wrong. But how can we make a company responsible if it is not a person and lucks moral traits (The Corporation, 2006)?

Considering that the business and marketing decisions are made by people who possess moral attributes, issues such as fairness and honesty should be brought into discussion.

„Honesty refers to truthfulness, integrity and trustworthiness; fairness in the quality of being just, equitable, and impartial” (Ferrell and Fraedric, 1997, p. 31).

People might be guided by fairness and honesty in their personal life, but does it mean they should renounce on these qualities when crossing into the professional space?  Although Adam Smith and Carr would support those people that in business act in their own self-interest, Ferrell and Fraedric (1997) argue that “ethical business relations should be grounded on fairness, justice and trust”. Besides, it is important not to forget that deontological Kantianism, as well as the theory of Virtues and Justice would not tolerate immoral intentions. Furthermore, DeGeorge (1978, in Chryssides and Kaler, n.d.) teaching demonstrates that business is part of the society and does not support shifting ones moral behaviours.

Ultimately Crane and Matten (2010) argue that the innate duty of a company is to “respect the interest of the customer, as well as” its own interest (p. 360). Advertising and promotion try to persuade people, which agreeing with Mélé (2009) is not wrong, but “under certain circumstances” it can be manipulative “especially when targeting vulnerable audiences” (p.294) – a 10 years old girl, in this case.

If I was to encounter once more a similar situation, I believe my behaviour would be the same, with the exception that I would try not to take into consideration child’s preference for the toy, and explain to the parent the importance of the best fit over fun. From my personal experience, I can say, parents avoid to buy shoes their children do not love as they know the kids will not wear them. In this situation, I tend to agree that:

“If someone chooses to use a product it is because they consider it to be in their own interests. A marketer can no more be held responsible for the aggregate decisions of their actions […]” (Crane and Matten, 2010).

***

Log entry 3 – Reflection

 –

Being a third year Business and Marketing student, and particularly interested in “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR), I demonstrated in my first log that I had a good knowledge of the concept of morality, and was familiar with the syntax “Business Ethics” (BE) from the beginning of this module. Yet, I did not have a well-defined understanding of the differences and overlaps between CSR and BE.

I launched the question – is CSR altruism, trend or a long term investment? The answer depends on circumstances and requires a deep analysis to comprehensively answer this question. Still, I would tend to think it is a mixture of those elements. First, it is visibly a trend as one of the main changes in modern marketing is the appearance of Freeman’s stakeholders approach (mentioned in in Kline, 2005, p.14), which must be a responsible one. Second, it is altruism because companies are run by people who are, deep down, no matter what, human beings. Finally, although there is not a clear way of measuring the return on investment (ROI) on CSR, in the long-term, and with the appropriate PR activities, I believe a company could build a strong positive image as a responsible citizen and therefore attract customers, employees and investors.

As the course progressed, I start realising that both – CSR and BE – search for values, goals, and choices beyond Friedman’s argument of sole profit making/ maximisation. More exactly, it can be said that CSR concerns with company’s accountability for all its stakeholders, not only shareholders, while Ethics is looking at moral principles when determining if an actions is right or wrong. Therefore, while Clarks Company is obviously engaging in CSR actions (Clarks Shoes Website, 2012) such as cause-related “Race for Life”, “Soul of Africa”, social marketing “Unicef”, it does not necessarily mean it acts morally right at all times.

Moreover, I was pondering on the underlying reasons which determine a profit seeking company to act ethically, and even to develop CSR programs. As I learnt through the course and developed in my second log, it can be said that I was inclined towards non-consequentialism views, looking for the motives that would justify or criticise the perceived ethical or unethical actions of (multinational) companies.

Additionally, in my second entry, I looked closely at the ethical theories in order to discover relevant arguments for or against the behaviours encountered in the case study “Producing Toys – Child’s Play”, and also within my personal work experience.

Lastly, in my third log, I considered a real life ethical incident. The dilemma I faced rose from C&J Clark’s marketing decision of targeting a vulnerable customer group – children. In that instance I seriously questioned the morality of such strategies and decided to adopt what I perceived as being a fair behaviour for all parties involved. In other words, I took a utilitarian attitude. However, I concluded later that in the eventuality of a similar incident even thought I would follow the pattern, I would improve the information offered to the parent.

Analysing the Clarks ethical dilemma, I discovered my actions could be easily described following the Ethical Decision-Making Process framework offered by Rost (1986, cited in Crane and Matten, 2010) presented in the Figure 3 below:

Figure 3: Ethical Decision-Making Process. Source: Rost, 1986, cited in Crane and Matten, 2010p. 143.

 

1.      First, I presented a real work-related situation in which I found myself while working for Clarks as a sale assistant. I identified the moral issue – marketing to children.

2.      Next, I questioned the morality of using powerful marketing tools on young targets and offered arguments for and against company’s decision.

3.      Following, I found the most reasonable decision – J. S. Mill’s utilitarianism.

4.      Finally, I demonstrated a utilitarian moral behaviour. Also, agreeing with Mélé (2009) I could say it is true that as a sales assistant I felt a tension between the loyalty to my employer and the family I was serving when engaged in the moral behaviour. 

Furthermore, I am wondering if I could use the same framework to identify and examine Clarks ethical decision-making process used in creating marketing strategies.  I tend to ask once again how can we make a company responsible if it is not a person and lucks moral traits, and the most plausible argument would mention (Kline, 2005, p.14) “actors that possess a capability to act”, in other words – company’s employees/ marketers who engaged (or trapped?) the young customers into a fun and learning process aiming to create preferences.

Moreover, I would entirely support Ferrell and Fraedric’ view (1997) that while personal ethics is imperative, it is not enough for a good understanding of organizational situations, because it is also important to recognize the relationship between legal and ethical decisions in business.

Then again, I would like to believe that more and more companies would acknowledge the importance of embedding ethics in the company’s culture starting with the board of directors until the front-line employees (or brand ambassadors).  However, it is naive to expect that the business world could be governed by the moral absolutism and the “universal notions of right or wrong”, due to the extremely diverse social and cultural contexts. Also, I demonstrated (in my second log) that a person’ personal background, perceptions about the world, and ethnocentrism could influence the judgments he/ she makes regarding a specific situation.

At the end of this learning journey, I would like to emphasise that throughout the module of Business Ethics I learnt to identify ethical issues and recognize the approaches available to interpret them. I find these philosophical schemas useful in juggling real world ethical difficulties, as well as an interesting way of comprehending our multifaceted lifes (personal, familial, work, etc). 

***

 

 

References

Achbarm, M., and Abbott, J. (Directors) (2003). The Corporation. [Film] Canada: Big Picture Media Corporation.

Bowie, N. E. and Duska, R. F. (1990). Business Ethics. 2nd ed. USA: Prentice Hall.

Camenisch, P. F. (1998). Marketing Ethics: Some Dimensions of the Challenge. In: Pincus Hartman, L. editor. Perspectives in Business Ethics. Singapore: McGraw-Hill International Editions, pp. 492-496.

Carr, A (1968) „Is Business Bluffing Ethical?”, in An introduction to business ethics Chryssides, G. and Kaler, J., editor (n.d.), pp.50-118. Available from: Blackboard. N.d.:Chapman.

Chryssides, G. and Kaler, J., (n.d). An introduction to business ethics. s.l.:Chapman.

Clarks Shoes Website (2012). [Online] Available at: www.clarks.co.uk [Accessed 5th April 2012].

Crane A. and Matten D. (2007). “Producing Toys – Child’s Play”, Business Ethics, 2nd ed., p92. New York: Oxford University Press Inc. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 5th January 2012].

Crane, A. and Matten, D. (2010). Business Ethics. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

DeGeorge, R. T. (1978). „Moral Issues in Business”, in An introduction to business ethics Chryssides, G. and Kaler, J., editor (n.d.), pp.37-49. Available from: Blackboard. N.d.:Chapman.

Ferrell, O. and Fraedric, J. (1997). Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making and Cases. 3rd ed. USA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Klebe Treviño, L. and Nelson, K. A. (2007). Managing business ethics : straight talk about how to do it right. New Jersey: Wiley.

Klebe Treviño, L., and Nelson, K. A. (2007). Managing business ethics: straight talk about how to do it right. New Jersey: Wiley.

Kline, J. M. (2005). Ethics for International Business: Decision Making in a Global Political Economy. Great Britain: Routledge.

Long, D. (2011). Business Ethics: Consequentialist Theories: Utilitarianism and Egoism, BU04BUSETHICS. Canterbury Christ Church University, 17th October 2012. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 5th January 2012].

Mélé, D. (2009). Business Ethics Action: Seeking Human Excellence in Organizations. Great Britain: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

Selective Bibliography

Graham, G. (2004). Eight Theories of Ethics. Great Britain: Routledge.

Long, D. (2011). Business Ethics: Consequentialist Theories: Utilitarianism and Egoism, BU04BUSETHICS. Canterbury Christ Church University, 17th October 2012. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 5th January 2012].

Long, D. (2011). Business Ethics: Deontology, the Ethics of Duty, BU04BUSETHICS. Canterbury Christ Church University, 10th October 2011. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 5th January 2012].

Long, D. (2011). Business Ethics: Virtues and Justice, BU04BUSETHICS. Canterbury Christ Church University, 28th November 2011. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 5th January 2012].

Long, D. (2011). Defining Business Ethics: Identifying and Analysing Ethical Arguments, BU04BUSETHICS. Canterbury Christ Church University, 3rd October 2011. Available from: Blackboard [Accessed 6th January 2012].

Michalos, A. C. (1995). A pragmatic Approach to Business ethics. USA: Sage Publications.

Pincus Hartman, L. editor. (1998). Perspectives in Business Ethics. Singapore: McGraw-Hill International Editions.

Discovering Morocco

The Cultural Influences on Communication,

Particularly on Recruitment Process

Part one: THE JOB                                                  

Job advert

 

Scenario

As a Romanian “Business and Marketing” graduate in Great Britain, passionate about marketing, branding, and corporate identity, I decided to apply for a job in Morocco to further explore my fascination for cultural diversity and nation branding. I have lived in 3 different countries and I believe I have developed cultural sensitivity which is an important ingredient for this particular job application. Having successfully accomplished the assessment group in Bucharest, I am preparing for the final interview in Rabat, Morocco.

The Aesthetics Elucidated

  • Advertising space: To call native Romanian speakers, it was decided to place the job advert into the local Romanian marketing and communication magazines (i.e. Campaign, Marketing Week, The Marketer, etc.).
  • Language: The advert was written in off-shore English language to confer a universal business perspective for all parties involved, especially to attract fluent English speakers.
  • Colour: It was observed that, as well as at home, in all its international markets and collaborations, SIVECO Romania prefers to keep and standardize its brand identity elements. Therefore, the colour used for the advert is green, similar to the one used in company’s logo.
  • Graphics: Simplicity and minimalistic style of the graphics are probably the main key words describing SIVECO’s online presence. Since there was no evidence of company’s print materials, it was assumed that the online layout can translate very well into the offline one. As a consequence, the framed advert will be minimalistic to represent company’s style, but attractive enough to engage the reader.
  • Symbols: Green colour was found to represent the symbol of Islam and is also used in Moroccan flag. Consequently, it is believed to convey implicit cultural meaning for candidates and positive perceptions for Moroccan partner. On the other hand, in Romania green symbolises hope, force, youth, and sincerity. 

Both the employer and its partner’s logos are included in the print advert with the intention to highlight the strong cobranded partnership, which shows the high status and prestige of the job offered.

***

Part two: SIVECO Romania and its Approach to Employment

 However objective and uniform we try to make organisations, they will not have

 the same meaning for individuals from different cultures.

(Frons Trompeanaars, cited in Neuliep, 2006)

 

Company Profile

SIVECO is the leading Romanian software house and one of the most successful software integrators in Central and Eastern Europe. For the near future, the company aims at growing to the status of regional leader and to continue its international expansion. It has already proven expertise in developing and exporting software products and consultancy projects to countries within the European Community, The Middle East, North of Africa, and CIS area. The company was founded in 1992 and in 2011 recorded a 67 million euro turnover (SIVECO website, 2012).

The attention of this paper is SIVECO’s partnership with the National Ministry of Education of the Kingdom of Morocco. It started in 2009 when SIVECO won the biggest IT project in the field of education in Morocco, for providing and implementing integrated IT solution (eLearning) to the entire Moroccan educational system.

National Ministry of Education of Morocco (Ministère de l’Education Nationale du Maroc) is a public institution which has gone lately through a large reform of its educational system in the framework of its “Emergency Program” (National Ministry of Education of Morocco, 2012).

Approach to employment

The candidate for the “Marketing and Communication Assistant” position is employed by SIVECO Romania in order to support its local partnership with Moroccan Ministry of Education. Therefore, the advert was created by SIVECO Romania’s HR department. However, due to the private-public nature of the partnership, adding the French bureaucratic style of the Moroccan institution, the advert was reviewed and approved by the Moroccan HR department. For instance, the requirement to provide copies of the relevant documents in the initial stage of the recruitment process is a Moroccan classic requirement (especially for a public institution). For the current position, the potential candidate will follow the four stages of the recruitment process, as presented below in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The recruitment Process

SIVECO adopted the Western style and dedicates to Careers an entire section of its websitewww.seveco.ro (Figure 2) – where it clearly states the type of people it wants to employ (“who want to evolve, that are creative, and willing to change things for the better”), it also stresses on “team work”, and proudly states that it “offers a motivating working environment through proper training, ensuring the conditions for professional and career development, recognition of each member’s contribution to the success of the company” (SIVECO, 2012). 

Figure 2: SIVECO Romania Careers page (screen-dump)

The lines above express Romanians’ faith in an ultimate positive result if working hard. In addition, Strǎuţ (p.213) mentions that ”Most Romanians believe in God and the supremacy of good over evil, even if their history of hardship has made them very patient and enduring while expecting a final positive outcome”.

On the other hand, National Ministry of Education of Morocco (Ministère de l’Education Nationale du Maroc), does not provide any information regarding job/ career opportunities within the institution. The website – www.men.gov.ma (Figure 3) – is translated in English, French and Arabic, and looks formal, over simplistic, with an old fashioned interface. It give an impression of a slow changing bureaucratic institution.

Figure 3: National Ministry of Education of Morocco home page (screen-dump)

The partnership SIVECO Romania – Ministry of Education Morocco is a reality of today’s globalised world, where organisations and their employees interact more often with people and companies in other countries, and Carte and Fox (2010, p.1) argue that “the more national borders their companies cross, the greater the scoop for misunderstanding and conflict”. Thus, the awareness and respect for cultural differences while projecting our own culture in an appropriate manner is tremendously necessary.

Furthermore, according to Neuliep (2006) a company is similar to a culture: it possesses its own values, internal formal and informal norms, operate in a particular environment, develop its own perception views, engage in verbal and nonverbal communication, and build socio-relations. In other words, it develops a personal organisational culture. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that when interacting with other organisational cultures its business customs will be understood in exactly the same way. Figure 4 (one page 7) highlights six key areas that influence organisational cultures across globe (Neuliep, 2006, p.379).

Figure 4: Organisational Culture. Sourse: Neuliep, 2006, p.379

Discovering Morocco: a Cross-Cultural Analysis

In comparing Morocco with Romania, the Organisational Culture Framework will be used, with particular focus on the Cultural Context and the Verbal and Nonverbal Codes (discussed in part three). This comparison will take an etic approach (“what is general in cultures”, Mooij, 2010, p. 61), and does not pretend to be exhaustive or completely free of ethnocentrism.

Cultural Context

Cultural Context refers to “an accumulated pattern of values, beliefs, and behaviours held by an identifiable group of people with a common verbal and nonverbal symbol system” (Neuliep, 2006, p. 411). Morocco is considered to be part of the Arabic cluster (Kabasakal and Bodur, 2002) and its dominant religion is Islam. Therefore, its main Arabic cultural traits and Islamic religion impact on countries’ social values and practices. More, French and Spanish influences can be observed. On the other hand, Romania is part of the Latin cluster and its population practice Orthodox and Catholic Christianism.

It is common that a company’s culture will emulate after its country’s culture. Many studies (Bass and Burger; Alder, Campbll, and Laurent, cited in Neuliep, 2006) reveal that managers’ leadership style and business strategies are influenced by the cultural context and its values. 

Further, the following areas will be examined:

    • Individualism/ Collectivism
    • High/ Low Power Distance
    • Uncertainty Avoidance
    • Value Orientations (discussed in par three of this portfolio)
    • High/ Low Context (discussed in par three of this portfolio)

In addition (but with caution) Geert Hofstede’s research (Figure 2) will be used to explore Moroccan culture in contrast with the Romanian one, through the 5-Dimensions Model. The researcher argues that it can provide us with “a good overview of the deep drivers of Moroccan culture relative to other world cultures” (Geert Hofstede, 2012).

Figure 5: Hofstede, 5-D Model. Source: Geert Hofstede, 2012, [online]

Individualism/ Collectivism

Analysing the nature of the relationship between an individual and its society or group would place Morocco and Romania under the collectivistic wing.

Collectivism’s most relevant characteristics for this paper refer to (Triandis, 1995, in Dainton and Zelley, 2005):

1. group needs, views, and goals prevail over the individual ones;

2. the self is defined in relation to the group: “Knowing a person’s connections enables a stranger to place that person into particular group; knowing where the person comes from is the same as knowing who that person is”( p.77).

Additionally, Hofstede’s findings (Figure 5, on page 8) show that both countries score relatively low on individuality (IDV).

Underlying motives:

  • Morocco: family and in-group relationships are at the heart of the society.
  • Romania: shaped by a collectivistic communist past.

 

High/ Low Power Distance

The Kingdom of Morocco is run by constitutional monarchy, and it is also a hierarchical society where people from lower status perceive inequalities as normal and acceptable. More, according to Carte and Fox (2010) in Arabic cultures “power in companies is held by a few people at the top” that give directives.

Hofstede and GLOBE 61 study (in Kabasakal et al, 2002) come to support Morocco’s high ranking on this dimension. Similarly, but with lower score in Hofstede’s research, is placed Romania. For instance, in both countries, people address to each other relative to their social and professional status usually with Mr. and Mrs., and the polite form of “you” are used (Dumneavoastra in Romania and Vous in Morocco). However, superior might address with a more direct form. Between friends and family personal approaches are common (Centre for Intercultural Learning Website (2012).

It can be said that high power distance cultures tend to be collectivistic (Schmidt et al, 2007).

Uncertainty Avoidance

Belief in absolute truth, strict code of behaviour, structure, rules, precision and punctuality are some characteristics of the high uncertainty avoidance (UAI) cultures (Dainton and Zelley, 2005). According to Hofstede (Figure 2), Morocco score high and Romania extremely high at this dimension.

Masculinity/ Femininity

 Morocco, although less preeminent comparing to other Muslim countries, is defined by the “roles men and women fulfil and create a masculine society”, where men are prevailing in many aspects of life (Kabasakal et al, 2002, p.48). Besides the clear separations of the male – female roles within the household, in the workplace, female started to gain space and head to equality once the new democratic King arrived in 1999.

Somehow less rigid, but still remaining a relative strong masculine society is Romania.

Hofstede findings (Figure 5) demonstrate a medium high masculinity (MAS) for both countries which goes against sex role stereotype at least for Morocco which is remaining a strong masculine society where men are preferred over women in all spheres of life (GLOBE in Kabasakal et al, 2002).

Ultimately, according to Edwards’ study (2007) in its intent to transfer similar employment practices abroad, SIVECO Romania, will face cultural barriers which could influence or even alter the process. The same author adds: “culturalism argues that MNCs bear the legacy of the values and attitudes characteristic of the home country; transfer is shaped by this and by host country cultures” (p.202). This is also very well encompassed by the quotation bellow:

 “There is no culture-free theory of management. Managing other people is the responsibility of people who, like everyone else, have been encculturated and socialized into a cultural set of values and beliefs that governs their thinking, emotions, and behaviours. Like communication, management is culture bond. Moreover, managerial perceptions regarding the factors that lead to organizational success vary across cultures” (Neuliep, 2006, p.377)

***

Part three: THE ‘DO’S’ AND ‘DONT’S’ OF AN INTERVIEW IN MOROCCO

Every road has two directions.

               Moroccan proverb

 Value Orientations in Morocco

  • Religion: a vast majority (98%) of Moroccans are Sunni Muslims and Islam has an enormous impact on social values and practices (Kabasakal and Bodur, 2002).
  • Family and Personal Relationships: According to Kabasakal and Bodur (2002, p.47) “Islam promotes and maintains family and kinship relationships, creating a highly collectivistic society”. Therefore, family and long-term in-group relationships are extremely important in Moroccan social and business culture.
  • Respect: Dignity and self-worth are especially importance so Moroccan’s take notice of how others perceive them. Shame is to be avoided at all costs, so Moroccans will often do as much as possible to win the respect of others and to avoid arguments and confrontation. Moroccans are conscious of their reputation and will do whatever it takes to ensure it is not damaged and to avoid shaming their family.

 

The Interview

Board

The interview will take place in Rabat, Morocco, at the premises of the Ministry of Education Marketing Department meeting room. The board of the interviewers will be mixed and will include:

  • Maria Minulescu: the Romanian HR Manager, SIVECO Romania, Romania.
  • Andrei Lazarescu: the Romanian Marketing Manager, SIVECO Romania, Morocco. He was relocated 2 years ago especially for this partnership.
  • Touria Al Hassani: the Moroccan Marketing Director, Ministry of Education, Morocco.
  • Saleh Bouchtat: the Moroccan HR Manager, Ministry of Education, Morocco.

 

Language

The French language is primarily spoken in the business world in Morocco, yet it is a secondary criterion for the current job due to the fact that the two parties maintain their relationship using English (i.e. at the “eduVision 2020”, Bucharest, September 2011; and at the “The African Education Summit”, Rabat, Morocco, July 2011). Furthermore, “the demand for English is growing as Moroccans realise that while French will enable them to study in France, English will present them with increased opportunities” (British Council, 2007). Thus, the interview will be held in English.

As a pre-requisite, the candidate must be a native Romanian speaker as the job role requests an impeccable understanding and communication with the Romanian team.

Room Settings

It can be observed that the Moroccan representatives prefer closeness and are sitting next to each other. They are known to be oral people and therefore are not noticed to take many notes during the interview. On the other hand, the two Romanian delegates are very carefully taking notes, not only to equally evaluate each candidate, but also to prepare reports for their superior as Romania is far more hierarchical than Morocco. Everyone is served tea or coffee as an expression of friendship or esteem.

Figure 6: Room settings

  • DO: try to use the right hand only, as the left hand is considered unclean.
  • DON’T: decline the offer of drink, as it is considered discourteous.

Conduct and Etiquette

Dress Code

Although as a woman in an Arab country it is important to cover up, the business fashion of men and women in Moroccan urban areas are extremely influenced by western style of dressing (Kabasakal and Bodur, 2002; Carte and Fox, 2010). However, if visiting rural areas it is recommended to comply with more reserved traditional style and cover “from the knee (shorts or skirt) to the elbow (short-sleeved T-shirts)” (Morocco Explored, 2012).

  • DO: dress appropriate business style to establish your status. Yet, a more sober style would be appreciated.
  • DON’T: use to many accessories (Morocco Explored, 2012).

Time

In the Arab world the relationships prevail over time and agendas (Carte and Fox, 2010; Usunier and Lee, 2009; and Schmidt et al., 2007), and Al-Omari adds that “it is timing rather than the time that is important”, in other words, “you follow the mood rather than the schedule” (in Carte and Fox, 2010, p.15).

In Morocco the time is polychronic and it is seen as flexible and cyclical, and often people “attempt to perform multiple task simultaneously” (Liu et al., p.110). It appears that the religion impacted on the perception of time as Moroccans are not worried about delays using habitually the phrase: “if God wills it” (Schmidt et al., 2007, p.251) or inshallah.

  • DO: be prepared to be kept waiting. Use the time to small talk to anyone you meet as you could discover important or interesting things.
  • DO: take time to know the people in the interview board before starting the serious matters.
  • DO: take time to prepare your audience, find the right moment, and soften a bad news or answer.
  • DON’T: rush! It will undermine your position as “anyone in a hurry is viewed with suspicious and with distrust” (Schmidt et al., 2007, p.251).
  • DON’T: panic if Moroccans will often repeat inshallah.
  • DON’T: look at a watch or clock during the meeting.
  • Romania’s relationship with time is somewhere in the middle.

Relationships

 

According to Carte and Fox (2010, p. 177) Morocco is a “relative truth culture” which indicates that “the circumstances indicates the way you behave”. The authors continue “your loyalty is more to your group (eg family, clan, friends and company) than to a set of abstract rules”

Schwartz’s values approach describes on one hand the Eastern European nations are “high in harmony, conservatism, and intermediate in hierarchy/egalitarianism” and other hand, Islamic countries are “high in hierarchy, conservatism, intermediate in mastery/harmony” (Guirdham, 2005, pp. 57-58).

  • DO: pay attention on creating and developing relationships and trust.
  • DO: accept or offer small or symbolic gifts
  • DON’T: criticise as it might not be taken light.

 

 Business Cards Etiquette

  • DO: prepare to exchange business cards.
  • DO: make sure one of the sides is translated in Arabic or French it shows respect.

 

A few last thoughts…

This portfolio tried to collect useful insights about the cultures in question. However, it has to be mentioned that it is impossible not to generalise or assign stereotypes as each individual, group and society is very divers. In addition, it is important not to forget that today’s corporates leaders have accomplished their studies in many western countries and are very likely to bring back home certain views and values, which consequently will affect the manner in which they interact with other people or companies.

After enriching my cultural knowledge and awareness, I have decided to apply the SOPHOP approach proposed by Carte and Fox (2010). The approach acronym stands for “be soft on people, hard on points” which means that a person should “be able to nurture the relationship, while still ensuring that you give no ground on the commercial issues” (Carte and Fox, 2010, p.131). This strategy moulds very well into the Moroccan context as for them the personal and business areas are interrelated (relationship-oriented will take attacks personally). Therefore, as suggested by Carte and Fox (2010) I should try to control the way I express myself. Considering the fact that I lived in the UK for the last 3.5 years, I believe I have internalised the specific diplomatic British way of communication.
 

***

 

REFERENCES

British Council Website (2007) “Morocco Market Introduction”. [Online] Available at: http://www.britishcouncil.org/eumd-information-background-morocco.htm (Last accessed on: 15th March 2012).

Carte, P. and Fox, C. (2008) “Bridging the Cultural Gap: A practical Guide to International Business Communication”, 2nd edition. Great Britain: Kogan Page Limited.

Centre for Intercultural Learning Website (2012). “Cultural Information – Morocco” . [Online] Available at: http://www.intercultures.ca/cil-cai/ci-ic-eng.asp?iso=ma (Last accessed 10 March 2012).

Centre for Intercultural Learning Website (2012). “Cultural Information – Morocco” . [Online] Available at: http://www.intercultures.ca/cil-cai/ci-ic-eng.asp?iso=ro (Last accessed 10 March 2012).

Ciolacu, F. (2011). “National Case Study: Maroc. New perspectives for the Moroccan Education System”, Bucharest eduVision 2020.  [Online video] Available at: http://eduvision.ro/2011/media.html (Last accessed 12 March 2012).

Dainton, M. and Zelley, E. D. (2005) “Applying communication Theory for Professional Life: A practical Introduction” UK: Sage Publications.

Edwards, T., Colling, T. and Ferner, A. (2007), “Conceptual approaches to the transfer of employment practices in multinational companies: an integrated approach”. Human Resource Management Journal, 17: 201–217. [Online] Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1748-8583.2007.00042.x/pdf (Last accessed on: 18th March 2012).

Guirdham, M. (1999) “Communicating across Cultures”, London: Palgrave.

Kabasakal, H. and Bodur, M. (2002) “Arabic Cluster: a bridge between East and West”, Journal of World Business, 31, pp. 40-54. Turkey: Elsevier Science Inc. [Online] Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090951601000736 (Last accessed on: 10th March 2012).

Liu, S., Volcic, Z. and Gallois, C. (2011) “Introducing Intercultural Communication: Global Cultures and Contexts”. Great Britain: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Manea, I. (2011). “New e-Learning concepts for Knowledgebase Society. Development within education” SIVECO Romania at The African Education Summit. Rabat. [Online video] Available at: http://africanbrains.net/our-events/mr-iulian-manea-%E2%80%93-deputy-vice-president-siveco-romania/ (Last accessed 20 March 2012).

Ministère de l’Education Nationale du Maroc Website (2012). Home. [Online] Available at: http://www.men.gov.ma/sites/fr/English/default.aspx (Last accessed 20 March 12).

Mooji, M. (2010) “Global Marketing and Advertising: Understanding Cultural Paradoxes”, 3rd edition. USA: Sage Publications.

Morocco Explored Website (2012) “Clothing” [Online] Available at:  http://www.moroccoexplored.com/4-about2.html  (Last accessed 12 March 2012).

Neuliep, J. W. (2006) “Intercultural Communication: A contextual approach”, 3rd edition. USA: Sage Publications.

Schmidt, W. V., Conaway, R. N., Easton, S. S. and Wardrope, W. J. (2007) “Communicating Globally: Intercultural Communication and International Business”, USA: Sage Publications.

SIVECO Romania Website (2012). The largest project of introducing IT into the education system in Morocco will be developed by Romanians. [Online] Available at: http://www.siveco.ro/content.jsp?page=3691&language=2 (Last accessed 10 March 2012).

Usunier, J-C. & J.A. Lee (2009) “Marketing across Cultures”, 5th edition, Pearson Education Ltd.

 

Bibliography

Communicaid Group Ltd. Website (2010) “Doing Business in Morocco, Moroccan Social and Business Culture” [Online] Available at: http://www.communicaid.com/access/pdf/library/culture/doing-business-in/Doing%20Business%20in%20Morocco.pdf  (Last accessed 15 March 2012).

Correia Jesuino, J (2002) “Latin europe cluster: from South to North” Journal of World Business, Volume 37, Issue 1, Spring 2002, Pages 81–89, Leadership and Cultures Around the World: Findings from GLOBE. Instituto Superior de Sciencias do, Trabalho e da Empresa, Portugal. [Online] Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090951601000761 (Last accessed 8 March 2012).

Moroccan American Trade and Investment Council Website (2012) [Online] Available at: http://www.moroccanamericantrade.com (Last accessed 20 March 2012).

Morocco.com – Morocco Channel Website (2102). [Online] Available at: http://www.morocco.com/ (Last accessed 10 March 2012).

Shaules, J. (2007). “Deep Culture: The Hidden Challenges of Global Living” England: Multilingual Matters.

Trimbitas, O., Lin, Y. and Clark, K. D. (2005) “Arta de a Cere Scuze in Cultura Romaneasca: Use of Apology in Ethnic Romanian Culture” Human Communication. Pacific and Asian Communication Association.  Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 401 – 420. [Online] Available at: http://www.uab.edu/Communicationstudies/humancommunication/ADCSCRUAERC,2007,401-422.pdf (Last accessed 12 March 2012).

UK Census 2011

Marketing Communications Campaign for Census 2011

Targeted at the Fifty Plus Audience

The key points:

  • Target audience: first cohort of the Baby Boomers (teenagers of the sixties).
  • Background/ Research
  • Strategy: situate Census socially and gain social meaning by association (the 60s) in order to create favourable predispositions and associations.
  • Positioning: We want the “teenagers of the sixties” to see completion of the Census 2011 as the opportunity to change something that will improve their life, and will allow creating future memories as great as the ones they lived in the past.
  • The IDEA: Yesterday is to be remembered/ Tomorrow is to be invented Communication tools and media.
  • Execution

 

1. BACKGROUND, PURPOSE AND FOCUS

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the executive office of the UK Statistics Authority, a non-ministerial department which reports directly to Parliament (ONS website, 2011). It is therefore a public service body, and the current marketing communication campaign will be approached from a social marketing perspective.

Social marketing is a revised form of the commercial marketing “designed to define the voluntary behaviour of target audience to improve their personal welfare and that of the society of which they are part” (Andreasen, 1994, p. 110 cited in Parson & Maclaran, 2009, p.164). In this case, “marketing use has extended beyond commercial sphere and has radically changed the nature of our participation as citizens in the solution of social problem.” (Parson & Maclaran, 2009, p.161).

Proctor (2008, p.2) defines marketing in the public sector as “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying stakeholders requirements and in so doing serve to facilitate the achievement of the organisation‟s objectives”.

Census is a count of all people and households in the country (ONS is in charge for England and Wales). It provides population statistics from a national to neighbourhood level for government, local authorities, business and communities. It happens every decade, and the next one will take place on 27 March 2011, involving around 25 million households. (Source: ONS website, 2011).

Customer-centred approach

If the marketing communication campaign for Census 2011 is approached as a social campaign, then the consumer will be at the heart of it. The term “consumer” has a commercial connotation and therefore, “target adopter” is suggested as being more suitable phrase for use in social marketing (Parson & Maclaran, 2009, p.164).

Adopting the “consumer orientation” approach implies that “the perceptions, needs and wants of the target adopters are central throughout all stages of marketing planning” (Parson and Maclaran, 2009, p.164). Therefore, at this stage, emphasise was put on research, segmentation, targeting, and positioning.

 2. TARGET ADOPTERS ANALISIS

Segmentation

The first idea for segmentation was to create a campaign for an affluent and challenging, yet less explored market – the “grey market”. Researching on the group of the over fifties and trying to decide on a segment, several variables were analysed. For instance, dividing a homogeneous group purely on age or decades (50-59 years old, 60-69 years old, etc) felt simplistic. There was an imminent need of a stronger element that would embed common motivations, attitudes and behaviours. The solution was found in another demographic variable – generation.

Generation as a target

According to Kelley (2008, p.64) “generations are brief periods of time that are connected with popular culture. Consumers of the same generation are connected not only by age but by the various milestones they have reached together. Some unifying characteristics include music, fads, inventions, politics, and social movements”.

Baby boom era is defined by a great growth in the birth rate, which happened in the UK between 1946 and 1964. The babies born in that period are named “Baby Boomers”. The first baby boom generation are called simply “Boomers” (1946-1954) and represent approximately 18% of the current UK population; the second baby boom generation, named “Generation Jones” (1956-1964) – respectively 23% (generationjones.org.uk).

Yet, it is important to highlight that the two cohorts were born into and rose in distinctive economic, technological and social environments (ONS, 2000, p.28), and therefore these two segments of the population developed notable different attitudes and values.

Census 2011 aims to everyone (all people, households and overnight visitors), and it is assumed that (in practice, for the actual Census 2011 campaign) the overall targeting strategy consists of full market coverage, and uses differentiated marketing (each requiring a particular market positioning and message). However, for the purpose of this paper, a single segment strategy was chosen – the Boomers.

Boomers Life – Facts

It was decided to use the Boomers generation as a common ground for targeting.

The first baby boomers (1946-1954), born in the period of post-WWII severity, went through rationing and selective education. Yet, “when they entered the labour market the economy was entering a period of relative prosperity. Not only was the job market optimistic, but the rapid expansion of higher education in the 1960s also meant new opportunities in education and work” (ONS, 2000, p.28).

Moreover and more important, the entire culture of revolution and freedom that was planted in the personality of the teenagers in the 60s.

Positioning

An analysis of the target group was carried out by following discussion on social networks (Twitter and Facebook), forums (sagazone), and direct, one-to-one interview (informal discussion) with 4 representative member of the target group. The objectives were to establish what characterise them as a generation, and perceptions they have about the (2011) Census.

As a result, it was discovered that the first cohort of the baby boomers (1946-1954), the teenagers of the 1960s are nostalgic about the great time they had; the time passed by and they still feel young (this was an interesting finding opposed to my initial beliefs). Moreover, according to Mintel report (2010) the 55+ represents an affluent segment of the UK population, and was less affected by the recession. The research found also that the key memories refer to: Freedom, Beatles, Hippies (flower power), Woodstock festival, Mini skirt, Motorbike, Peace, Sex, drugs & rock and roll, Revolution/ change.

Investigating attitudes towards Census, was found that the boomers are familiar with the “product” and “process” of completion, as the 2011 census will be the 4th or 5th they would have to participate in. Some target group representatives‟ said it is “a waste of money” as they think the government has all the information about people by other methods; others though it is boring but showed compliance; and others believe it will not only help the local councils distributing the resources for the community, but also is a good way of tracking the family genealogy. Yet, majority of opinions demonstrate a feeling of their civic duty in taking part (sagazone forum and 3 interviewees).

3. COMMUNICATIONS OBJECTIVES

The marketing communication objectives intend to:

O1: raise awareness among 90% of target audience (56-65, teenagers of the 60s);

O2: create positive feelings related to the wonderful era of the sixties and obtain engagement of 70% of the target audience;

O3: obtain 60% participation in the completion of the questionnaire of the target audience.

Strategy: to provide relevant information and create favourable predispositions towards the Census 2011.

“Several studies show that people in a positive mood make decisions more quickly, use less information, avoid systematic processing, evaluate everything more positively, accept a persuasive message more easily and pay less attention to details” (Pelsmaker, 2005:39).

3.1 THE MESSAGE

Strategy: to situate Census socially and to gain social meaning by association (the 60s) in order to create favourable predispositions and associations.

Positioning: We want the “teenagers of the sixties” to see completion of the Census 2011 as the opportunity to change something that will improve their life, and will allow creating future memories as great as the ones they lived in the past.

Messenger strategy: In order to resonate as much as possible with the target adopters, a variety of elements from that era are used, and in addition is used the endorsement of the icon of the 60s – British band “The Beatles”.

 

 

4. THE CREATIVE STRATEGY

Creative objective: The main goal is to develop communication that will capture the attention of the target audience, engage with a resonating message and use the associated good feelings as a motivator for participation.

Tone of voice: Nostalgic but Optimistic

Visuals: Make use of representative, self-speaking images.

Audio: 2 Beatles‟ songs: Yesterday (recall of great memories) and Revolution (call to change).

BILLBOARD AND BUSSBOARD




 

5. MEDIA STRATEGY

For successful outcomes, marketing communication campaign for 2011 Census intends to reach the boomers (target adopters/ target audience) and will integrate Advertising (Print, Radio, Outdoor), Public Relations, Special Events, and Promotional pack into one holistic and cohesive program.

The decision for media mix was preponderantly based on qualitative criteria (emotional impact, medium involvement, attention devoted to the medium, and added value to the message), but also on quantitative criteria (reach, and selectivity).

Communication with the target audience will be divided in 3 stages:

  • pre-campaign: 21th -27th February (educative/ informative)
  • actual campaign: 28th February – 27th March
  • post-campaign: 28th March – 6th April (mostly PR)

The aim is to use integrated marketing communication to achieve consistency in the use of slogan, images, colours, font types, key messages.

5.1 ADVERTISING

It was decided to invest in this form of communication in order to reach the desired audience.

Advertising is a paid service, but its main advantage is that it guaranties control over the content and manner in which communication will take place. On the other hand, as a public sector organisation, there are opportunities for unpaid advertising (or greatly discounted), called Public Service Announcements (PSAs). However, the level of control is lower: “it is not known where the add will actually appear in newspaper or magazine or during what time of day it will air on [.. ] radio” (Kotler ant Lee, 2008, p.299).

The main media used are: print, outdoor and radio.

Consulting the Mintel Report (2010) “Media Consumption amongst over-55s – UK – August 2010” was decided on the following (Source: NRS April 2009-March 2010):

MAGAZINES

  • M&S and Waitrose (mostly affluent older female);
  • Saga Magazine (97%) and Yours (95%), followed by People‟ Friend (93%), Woman & Home (77%), The National Trust Magazine (76%), Reader‟ Digest and BBC Gardeners‟World (both 75%), Heritage Today (72%) and Woman‟ Weekly (71%). All of these titles have a clear female bias and the data refers to readers 45+);
  • The National Trust Magazine, with a total readership of 3.5 million, four in five of whom are ABC1, has a significantly large volume of affluent older readers. (Source: NRS April 2009-March 2010).

Advantages:

  • Creates the possibility for selective approach;
  • Can induce high involvement level, and are perceived as credible (Pelsmacker, 2005);
  • The message life is relatively long.

Disadvantages:

  • It is a slow medium, which may delay the reach;
  • There is no certainty of when it will be read.

NEWSPAPERS

  • The Daily Telegraph, Sunday Express, Daily Express, Daily Star, Sunday Express, Financial Times, Daily Mail.
  • The 55+ consumer remains loyal to the print, with 51% newspaper reach among 55-64 (Mintel, 2010);
  • Are targeted toward a specific target group;

Advantages:

  • A large number of people can be reached in a short period of time;
  • It is a flexible medium and allows last-minute changes/ adjustments;
  • “The readers are high involved in their newspaper, and the objective, informational context makes it a credible medium with high impact, not only for ads, but also PR messages” (Pelsmaker, 2005, p.141).

Disadvantages:

  • Limited selectivity of the medium and low quality of reproduction;
  • The message has a very short life.

What do Over-55s Read in Newspapers and Magazines?

“Over-55s have above-average consumption of news/current affairs, TV guides, social/human interest stories, competitions/crosswords and games, business and finance, personal finance, weekend supplements, humour, travel, columnists and cookery/gardening features.” (Mintel, 2010). The advertising space/ place in the newspapers and magazines will be decided and adjusted according to the target adaptors’ reading habits.

RADIO

  • A radio advert of 30 seconds will be included.

Advantages:

  • A large number of people can be reached – “Regular radio listening is higher among over-45s than in younger groups, six in ten of whom tune in seven days a week, at a percentage of 53 (Mintel, 2010).
  • The over 55s are regularly listeners & for them it is more than just background noise (Mintel, 2010)
  • Low production cost & a dynamic medium;
  • It is a selective medium to target the specific group.

Disadvantages:

  • The lifetime of the message is short.

What do Over-55s listen to on the Radio?

  • The most popular radio programmes regularly listened to by over-55s are news, weather and music.
  • Over half of over-55s tune into radio music programmes on a regular basis.
  • Over-55s are more regular fans of radio comedy than under-55s.
  • “Lifestyle content” is listened to regularly by less than one in ten over-55s. (Mintel, 2010)

OUTDOOR

  • Billboards, Buss boards and Ambient Media

Advantages:

  • Has the potential of reaching large numbers of people and the effective reach can be very high;
  • The life time of the message is long and offers the opportunity to repeated exposures; (Pelsmaker, p.140)

Disadvantages:

  • Only a limited amount of information can be conveyed (Pelsmaker, 2005, p.140). However, the current campaign is using the outdoor media to (mostly) visually and emotionally engage with the target audience.
  • Theoretically, targeting or selective reach is not possible. However, if placed in areas known to be visited by the target adopters (i.e. Shopping Malls or local areas) could solve (at least partially) the problem.

 

5.2 PROMOTIONAL PACK – “CENSUSMANIA”

The promotional pack has an informative purpose. It tries to capture the attention of the target adopters with the name of the “compilation” – CenususMania (associated with the Beatles mania phenomenon of the 60s). As a result, an engaged target adopter is more likely to read the content of the pack and to positively answer to the communication objectives.
The form: Mini vinyl pack (from paper), includes a 2D code which asks to be scanned to receive a free Beatles song; also contains ample (printed) information regarding the Census 2011.
The boomers have the time for reading, and therefore the main advantage consists in longevity of the message, as sometimes “target audiences hold on to these materials, ideally even share them with others” (Kotler ant Lee, 2008, p.301).

  • The distribution of the sets will be trough (inside) the targeted magazines, and also offered at the special events.

5.3 PUBLIC RELATIONS

  • Stories on radio and television;
  • Articles in newspaper and magazines;
  • Campaign and Post-campaign press conferences;

 

5.4 SPECIAL EVENTS

  • Exhibition “Yesterday is to be remembered/ Tomorrow is to be invented” (60s era & Census history);
  • Census Vintage Market.

REFERENCES

Belch G. E. & Belch M. A., (2009) “Advertising and promotion: an integrated marketing communications perspective”, 8th edition. New York: McGraw Hill Irwin. 

Census 2011 official website www.census.gov.uk

De Pelsmacker, P., Geuens M., & van den Bergh J. (2004) “Marketing communications: A European perspective”, 2nd edition. Harlow Essex: Prentice Hall.

Fill C. (2009) “Marketing Communications: engagements, strategies and practice”, 5th edition. Harlow: Prentice Hall, Financial Times.

Getty images pictures www.gettyimages.com

Kelley, D. L. and Jugenheimer, W.D. (2008) “Advertising Media Planning: a brand management approach”, 2nd edition. USA: M.E. Sharpe.

Kotler, P. and Lee, R. N. (2008) “Social Marketing: Influence Behaviours for Good”, 3rd edition. USA: Sage Publications.

Mintel Report (2010) “Media Consumption Amongst Over-55s – UK – August 2010”. [online] vailible at: http://oxygen.mintel.com/sinatra/oxygen/display/id=543428

Proctor, T. (2008) “Public sector marketing”. Harlow, England; New York: FT Prentice Hall.

Office of National Statisctics (2010) www.statistics.gov.uk

Raftopoulou, E. (2009) “Social Marketing and Consumer Citizenship”, edited by Parson, E. and Maclaran,

P. (2009) Marketing in the contemporary Organisation. Oxford: Elseveir.

ECCO Shoes UK

 Marketing Contributions to the Development

of Sustainable Competitive Advantage

 

The aim of this paper is to present and evaluate the role of marketing in creating sustainable competitive advantage. For the practical aspect of the present work, ECCO Shoes Company will be examined and pertinent examples provided. It has to be specified that it was observed that, within the literature as well as the commercial use, the terms sustainable, sustainability and sustained are used interchangeable. For the purpose of this paper it will be considered, if not otherwise specified, that sustainable imply sustained/ long-term/ persistent, and sustainability (Porter and Kramer, 2006) emphasises the responsibility towards people, environment and community (p. 81).

Marketing strategy contributes to the achievement of “persistent success in the marketplace over the competitors” using firm’s resources and capabilities to satisfy the changing needs of the consumers (Wensley, 2000).

As early as 1991, was found that in order to discover the foundation of a firm sustained competitive advantage its strategic capabilities have to be identified and examined (Barney et al. 2011). Barney’s resource-based approach implies that the foundation of competitive advantage comes from company’s superior resources and specific practices “designed to utilise such resources efficiently” (Proctor, 2000, p. 171). In other words, the competitive advantage and superior performance are elucidated “by the distinctiveness of its capabilities” (Johnson, Whittington, and Scholes, 2011, p.83). More precisely, Resource Based View (RBV) (Brennan et al. 2008) is a theoretical framework which believes that a firm’s competitive advantage originate from internal resources advantages. RBV is in contrast with Market-Based View (MBV) which focuses on “the market, direct rivals, and on the extended competitive environment” representing firm’s competitive positioning advantages (Brennan et al. 2008, p 69). 

Therefore, in order to identify ECCO’s durability and competitive advantage it is suggested (Johnson, Whittington, and Scholes, 2011) to carefully consider its strategic capabilities – resources and competences – which add value to the customers (Johnson, Whittington, and Scholes, 2011, p. 84).

First, according to Pearce and Robinson (2011) resources are agency’s assets used to conceive and implement strategies. On one hand, they can be tangible – representing “the physical and financial means a company used to provide value to its customers” (Pearce and Robinson, 2011, p.154). For instance, ECCO is where its customers are – it currently owns branches in over 90 countries across the globe; it prides with its loyal customers and positive results on balance sheet (ECCO, 2012; Fenn, 2010; ECCO’s Annual Report 2011). The company is also one of the world largest producers of quality leather, owning tanneries in the Netherlands, Thailand, Indonesia and China, and production sites in Slovakia, Portugal, Indonesia, Thailand and China. On the other hand, company’s resources can also take an intangible aspect (Pearce and Robinson, 2011). For example, ECCO is a Danish shoe manufacturer and retailer founded in 1963 with a well-established brand name and reputation for its Scandinavian design, innovative and high-quality products, direct injection technology, and deep CSR philosophy.

As presented above, resources can be represented by a large spectrum of internal elements of an organisation. Thus, there is a need to identify those that build sustainable (long-term) competitive advantage and higher economic performance using a filter of four criteria – VRIN – Value, Rarity, Inimitability, and Non-substitutability (Barney, 1991, cited in (Johnson, Whittington, and Scholes, 2011).

Secondly, competences refer to the manner in which the resources of the company are exploited. In other words, they are “the skills – the ability and ways of combining assets, people, and processes – that a company uses to transform inputs into outputs” (Pearce and Robinson, 2011, p.154).

In addition, a firm should identify a resource or a competence that will be highlighted the most – the core competence, which represent:

“the linked set of skills, activities and resources that, together, deliver customer value, differentiate a business from its competitors and, potentially can be extended and developed” (Hamel and Prahalad, cited in Johnson, Whittington, and Scholes, 2011, p. 89).

From marketing perspective, to build competitive advantages, a company has to be customer-oriented and (Porter, 1998) capable of generating value for its buyers trough cost leadership (lower price for the same benefits as its competitors) or differentiation (exclusive benefits that justify a higher price) (p. xxii). Although a market-led vision and (Mathur, 1992, mentioned in Proctor, 2000) understanding of the importance of the firm’s positioning within its external environment is important, Mathur (1992) argues that “customers are not sensitive to inputs such as costs, resources, culture and skills, but are sensitive to the benefits and drawbacks of product/service offerings”. If considering current economic climate, the Mathur statement appears to be unrealistic, because (Johnson, Whittington, and Scholes, 2011) “customers do not value product features at any price”. Accordingly, the implementation of cost efficiency strategies could lead to competitive advantage (Johnson, Whittington, and Scholes, 2011).

ECCO’s mission statement promises to deliver the consumers “the most comfortable place on earth” (ECCOShoesUK, 2012):

“No matter where you are in the world, or in your life, we want to deliver you to the most comfortable place on earth”.

To accomplish its mission and bring added value to the customers, ECCO chose to manage the entire shoe manufacturing process which is achieved through the following 5 Steps (ECCO-360-Challenge, 2010): Step 1: The Foot – According to ECCO’s philosophy – the “shoes must follow the foot”. Thus, the company claims vast researches prior to producing a shoe; Step 2: The Best Materials – ECCO manufactures its own leather and holds and operates its own tanneries; Step 3: Technology and Craftsmanship – The company uses a mixture between technology and handmade craftsmanship. The technological and managerial capabilities represent ECCO’s core competence; Step 4: Design – “the combination of how a pair of ECCO looks and feels on your feet is the most compelling advantage we have” (ECCO-360-Challenge, 2010); Step 5: Quality & Ethics – ECCO promises to deliver “quality without compromises”.

As suggested by the study of Morgan and Piercy (1996), such “quality-based” competitive strategy is used as marketing differentiation technique in obtaining “non-price competitive advantage”.

Furthermore, ECCO is family held and “has no need to make short-term decisions, save on material or compromise on quality” (ECCO, 2012). In order to deliver perfect quality and comfort to its customers, ECCO decided to own and manage its entire value chain “from cow to consumer” (figure 1 below), and claims to be the only major shoe company who does that:

“ECCO designers develop our collections, ECCO owned tanneries produce the leather and ECCO owned factories make the shoes sold in ECCO shops across the world and at the world’s leading retailers” (ECCO, 2012).

Figure 1: ECCO’s Value Chain

According to Pearson and Proctor (1994) ECCO focuses on inside-out strategy, represented by the company’s “resources, skills and capabilities” rather than on “market opportunities or competitive gaps” (Pearson and Proctor, 1994, p. 22). Nevertheless, it appears that ECCO’s operations strategy is its main competitive advantage. The fully integrated vertical value chain sets ECCO apart from its competitors (i.e. producing its own supply) who are doing the exact opposite (i.e. outsourcing). This inside-out strategy, based on company’s resources and capabilities within its operations, allows ECCO to deliver innovative and high-quality products to its customers.

According to Porter and Kramer (2006, p. 85): “Value chain social impacts are those that are significantly affected by the company’s activities in the ordinary course of business”. Having great control over the shoemaking process permits ECCO to carefully monitor and control the impacts of all its operations, giving ECCO the “opportunity and obligation to make a difference” (ECCO, 2012). ECCO’s pursuit for competitive advantage emerges to overcome the pure profit orientation view.

Examining ECCO’s corporate website, it can be observed that the company projects a Social Corporate Responsibility philosophy throughout. This could be easily described following Blowfield and Murray’ perceptive on CSR (Blowfield and Murray, 2008; ECCO, 2012) and comprises:

•    firm’s philosophy which guides the relationship with the members of a community: “Our commitment to being a responsible company is incorporated in the ECCO Code of Conduct”;

•    firm’s role in wider community and the nature of the relationship between the firm and the community: “The ECCO Code of Conduct provides information to guide employees and partners around the globe so that they conduct business in accordance with the company’s ethical standards”; and

•    firm’s groups of interest (stakeholders) are discussed: “Corporate responsibility includes how we behave towards our employees, communities, the environment and our business partners”.

It can be said that both – CSR and Ethics – search for values, goals, and choices beyond Friedman’s argument of sole profit making/ maximisation. Yet, it has to be specified that CSR is concerned with company’s accountability for all its stakeholders, not only shareholders, while ethics is looking at moral principles when determining if an actions is right or wrong. Hence, As a result, ECCO is visibly engaging in CSR actions (Walk for Life charitable programmes: Walkathon, Walk in Style). It also decided to act morally right integrating ethics and responsibility into the heart of its social and environmental goals, claiming that “we want to be good corporate citizens, wherever we work” which demonstrates company’s ethical intent regarding its role and responsibilities towards society and environment. The company also states that “as a large employer, ECCO understands its responsibility and accepts it” (ECCO, 2012).

ECCO’s CSR efforts regarding its employees seem to have an enormous impact on company’s internal marketing strategy: “continuous learning ensures that all employees are familiar with the core values and high ethical standards of ECCO formulated in our Code of Conduct and also helps teach our employees how to prevent and minimise the risk of accidents” (ECCO, 2012). CSR is seen as an indispensable element for internal marketing strategies, “fulfilling employee needs and drawing them to identify strongly with the company” (Bhattacharya, Sen, & Korschun, 2007). In addition, company’s behaviour and actions taken regarding the community and the environment in which it operates dictates the manner in which the company will be perceived by the local communities and other pressure groups.

 This different approach to competitiveness adopted by ECCO could be described (Hollensen 2010, p. 326) as responsible competitiveness. Moreover, Porter and Kramer (2006, p. 89) state: “When value chain practices and investments in competitive context are fully integrated, CSR becomes hard to distinguish from the day-to-day business of the company”.

As a result, ECCO is trying to achieve what Obermiller, Burke, and Atwood (2008) describe as: competitive advantage by use of sustainable (responsible) business practice as marketing strategy. To succeed (Hansted Blomqvist & Posner, 2004) CSR and marketing departments must be in alignment and decide collectively upon the brand communication approach, which “can range from fully integrated to invisibly linked and should be determined based on an assessment of purchase drivers and the business strategy” (Hansted Blomqvist & Posner, 2004) (figure 2 below).

Figure 2: The three approaches to aligning brand and CSR. Source: Hansted Blomqvist and Posner, 2004, p. 34

It is interesting that Scott Otte (Otte, 2011), ECCO EMEA’s Marketing Director, explained at GRASP conference[1] (where I met him personally) ECCO’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategy and mentioned that the company do not have a separate department for CSR and that it is handled with the marketing department, yet it takes care to issue CSR reports and create CSR strategies and plans. Moreover, at a further workshop it was discussed the manner in which ECCO chooses the get involved into CSR. From the workshop observations, but also analysing company’s CSR activities and media appearances, it can be said that ECCO adopts an invisible approach. In other words, ECCO is a brand that has an impeccable CSR record, but keeps its CSR activities behind closed doors. Why ECCO does not use its core competences and differentiation as a bold manner of communication? ECCO has embedded CSR in its business strategy and philosophy, but opts not to maximise it in the external communications and initiatives.

ECCO’s Corporate Social Responsibility efforts are not used as a USP (or point of differentiation) within the marketing communication strategy.  Initially, this strategy might appear to be wasteful and missing the opportunity to leverage CSR in building competitive advantage. Particularly because it is suggested that firms are using reputation to “justify CSR initiatives on the ground that they will improve a company’s image, strengthen its brand, enliven morale, and even raise the value of its stock” (Porter & Kramer, 2006, p. 82). For instance, opposite to ECCO, its direct competitor Clarks is proudly expressing its CSR activities and tries to achieve competitive advantage through the ethical products (i.e. Clarks shoes for life, Soul of Africa), online and in store promotional materials and personal selling (“bye our shoes to support our noble causes”), and employees and customers engagement (Race for life – in support for Cancer Research).

On the other hand, Van de Ven (2008) argues that similar to other types of communication, and adopting an ethical position, branding “can be manipulative” and questions the use of branding of CSR and as a result “it is not hypocritical for a company to be careful not to stress the business case for CSR in their marketing of CSR” (Van de Ven, 2008) p. 349), because it could “have a negative influence on the perceived sincerity of the firm and its CSR endeavours” (p. 350). ECCO is using CSR to build a solid base of trust in the brand and company and, in Hansted Blomqvist and Posner’ words, its “messages regarding corporate responsibility initiatives never really become part of the company’s mainstream communications” (2004, p. 35).

As argued thus far, strategic marketing is concerned with developing sustainable competitive advantage by exploiting the capabilities of the company in order to satisfy the volatile needs of the customers, in long-run and in a better way than the competitors.

RBV state that company’s specific resources (VRIN) are the foundation of value, but it was argued that they have to be enhanced through value chain and marketing activities. ECCO appears to understand its customers’ wants, the importance of differentiated positioning, and make use of its strategic capabilities to build and maintain competitive advantage. ECCO’s is chosen by its customers due to renowned shoes quality (ECCO-Consumer-Profile, 2008), and as justified by the founder of the company – Karl Toosbuy: “It has always been our philosophy that quality is the only thing that endures” (ECCO, 2012). Due to the fact that ECCO’s customers are mostly searching for quality and comfort, but are ready to pay the price, the company is challenged to offer an appropriate level of value in order to build and maintain competitive advantage.  In consequence, ECCO’s pursuit for competitive advantage emerges to overcome the pure profit orientation view. Although ECCO already has consistent commitments across environmental, community, employee welfare, financial performance and corporate governance, and could easily adopt and benefit from an integrated approach it chooses not to, probably, because although the business strategy and philosophy is directly and clearly connected to CSR, its brand image is not. ECCO’s marketing strategy resulting from its sustainable (as in responsible) approach to business is contributing to the company sustainable (as in long-term) competitive advantage. Thus, ECCO’s decision to keep CSR messages out of its marketing communications is clearly strategic.

It has to be mentioned that while marketing contributes to the development of sustainable competitive advantage in an organisation, it cannot do so in isolation and requested the contribution of other disciplines and departments (i.e. management, CSR, operations, etc.).

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[1] GRASP – Global Romanian Society of Young Professionals (www.mygrasp.org). The conference discussed the role of civic engagement in Romania’s development.