Center for Fair & Alternative Trade

Colorado State University

“A Business Approach to Marketing & Potential Openings for Consumer-Based Social Movements”

Presented by Dr. Tuba Ustüner, Assistant Professor of Marketing, College of Business, CSU

On November 10, 2010, Dr. Tuba Ustüner, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the College of Business, CSU, presented “A Business Approach to Marketing and Potential Openings for Consumer-Based Social Movements” to CFAT faculty, students, and associates.

Dr. Ustüner’s research examines consumption practices, consumer acculturation, and status in the developing world. Dr. Ustüner’s seminar (1) provided an outline of the concepts and approaches marketers and businesses use to think about markets and consumers and (2) opened a discussion of how these tools could be extended to consumer-based social movements.

Dr. Ustüner reviewed major marketing concepts taught in business education.  Market researchers employ both quantitative and qualitative research methods (including fieldwork, focus group, and interview methods used by social scientists) in developing business strategies. These studies help marketers plan store layouts, develop advertising campaigns, and price the product. At the end of the day, marketers’ job is to leave nothing to chance; every aspect of selling the product is carefully considered and planned.

Dr. Ustüner argued that it cannot be assumed that effective social movements will happen through consumers. Marketing research shows that consumers are incredibly diverse and it takes skill and investment to make consumers value a product (or movement) more than any other in the array of competing alternatives. The underlying problem is that consumers have little time to consider and interrogate the value of products, services and movements due to numerous demands on their time. Consumer-based social movements must develop a strategy to compete for consumer’s attention with corporations, others social movements, and political organizations. A movements’ marketing strategy cannot be static since the competition to get consumers’ attention is dynamic and ever-changing.

Dr. Ustüner opened the discussion of how to extend insights from business education to consumer-based social movements to address whether or not consumer-based social movements can make a difference. She argued that consumer-based movements are important but that government regulations must also be part of the long-term strategy. Corporations are apt to co-opt consumer movements to fit their own needs. Government regulations, on the other hand, can shape a common playing field for corporations and consumer movements and small and large NGOs. Seminar participants discussed how consumer-based movements could generate a political discourse about alternative business-society relations that would help make such government regulations more politically feasible. Dr. Ustüner concluded that consumer movements can play an important part in transforming the rhetoric about business-society relationships.