A Decades-Long Journey of Marketing and Public Policy Research to Support the Greater Good

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(Image: Rizkyharis/CC BY-SA 4.0,/Wikimedia Commons)

Impactful scholarly business research can support positive social, economic, policy, and scientific goals. Now more than ever, as business professors, we must generate and disseminate knowledge that can help inform and promote business, as well as society’s greater good. Although marketing is sometimes characterized as encouraging over-consumption, poor health, and indebtedness by persuading people to buy and consume things they do not want or need, marketing’s scholarly tradition has an active segment of researchers rigorously advancing topics that promote society’s greater good. This research has been impactful in uncovering consumers’ journeys toward well-being, such as better health and financial stability, by collaborating with firms, agencies, and nonprofits, and informing policy (e.g., Scott, Hassler, and Martin 2022). This approach can be applied to other research communities as well.

This is the third of seven posts excerpting and adapting the SAGE Business white paper “Measuring Societal Impact in Business & Management Research: From Challenges to Change.” The white paper includes a core section, written by Usha Haley and Andrew Jack, and complementary essays penned by Ben McLeish and Mike Taylor of Altmetric / Digital Science, Sir Cary L. Cooper at the Alliance Manchester Business School, Renate E. Meyer, WU Vienna / Copenhagen Business School, and Maura L. Scott, Florida State University.

There are several initiatives in the marketing and public policy community that use scholarship to support the greater good. One such movement, Transformative Consumer Research, or TCR, is aligned with the  United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It supports research that benefits the welfare of those affected by consumption and marketing activities. The TCR community brings together scholars, practitioners, and consumer advocates to address social problems. A TCR guiding principle is that organizations working toward the best interests of society can build stronger long-term relationships with customers; that is, consumers will be more loyal to firms acting in consumers’ (and society’s) best interests.

TCR projects address specific social problems and strive for field-based data collection, and concrete, actionable policy and managerial implications. A recent TCR conference resulted in several high-impact articles in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing (JPP&M). For example, Madhubalan Viswanathan and his co-authors (2021) developed a novel model to address climate change and sustainability education among Tanzanian youth. Their hybrid academic-social initiative focused on a region in which local farming and access to water was hindered due to climate change. The team trained influencers on sustainability-related decision-making, and how to disseminate their knowledge in their community.

Marketing journals are similarly engaged in seeking impact by approaching societal challenges. For example, JPP&M emphasizes new frontiers at the intersection of business and marketing, public policy, as well as consumer and societal well-being. Over the decades, theories and methods in JPP&M have evolved, though the topics have often been closely aligned with the UN SDGs (Mende and Scott 2021). For instance, a collaboration between marketing scholars and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition led to a series of field studies with banks that uncovered biased treatment toward Black (versus white) customers seeking loans. Insights from this ongoing body of work help to inform Consumer Financial Protection Bureau policies, such as Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act (Bone et al. 2019), and ultimately help to reduce inequalities. Over the years, JPP&M has devoted issues to impactful research on pressing topics such as sustainable consumption, marketplace diversity and inclusion, and consumer privacy, among others (for a complete listing of JPP&M special issue topics, see Mende and Scott 2021).

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, JPP&M was one of the first business journals to publish a series of commentaries that reflected the implications of COVID-19 through the lens of public policy and marketing (published online in May 2020). The series provided implications for managers and policy makers, as well as a future research agenda on topics such as coping with supply chain challenges, the impact of the pandemic on communities of color, and the psychological underpinnings of marketplace scarcity. This type of research, which involves academics working with governmental agencies or nonprofits can be scaled wide and deep in its application to new settings.

The Journal of Public Policy & Marketing and the marketing discipline have made positive advances toward increasing impact by addressing real-world problems that can help to improve society. As we look to the future, there still is much more work to do.

Posted and Upcoming Articles in This Series

A Quick Examination of Existing Academic Impact Metrics and Concerns in Business Education” | Usha Haley and Andrew Jack

How Might Societal Impact be Recognized within an FT Top 50 Journal? | Renate E. Meyer

“Why Don’t Business Schools Publish More Impactful Research?” | Ben McLeish and Mike Taylor

“Some Opportunities for Future Business & Management Research: Employee Health and Well-Being” | Sir Cary L. Cooper

“Efforts to Turn the Tide” | Usha Haley and Andrew Jack

“Medium And Short-term Recommendations to Move Forward” | Usha Haley and Andrew Jack

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Maura L. Scott

Maura L. Scott is Persis E. Rockwood Professor of Marketing at the College of Business at Florida State University, and joint editor-in-chief of the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing.

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