Ethical Reflections on Political Marketing

For modern conditions it becomes extremely important how a product is packaged, what its appearance is, what place it occupies on the shelf in the store. It is no longer sellers competing with each other to attract the producer, but rather producers ingratiating themselves with sellers and competing with each other to see how their goods are presented by the retailer.

Photo by Aditya Joshi on Unsplash

I do think that now it is no longer possible to say that marketing is just a market research, it is more its organization. American researcher J. Naisbitt in his book “Megatrends” notes the change of “producer — seller — buyer” relation in modern society. If in industrial society the named relation was represented exactly in the above-mentioned sequence, in modern society it has changed to the sequence “seller — producer — buyer”.

Photo by Aditya Joshi 
Photo by Aditya Joshi 

Particularly in the case of convenience goods, they compete on how close to the entrance to the store the goods will be located, how much attention the consultant will draw to them, etc. For example, if a TV presenter appears on the screen with a Sony computer on her desk, this is an extremely effective form of advertising; the same applies to giving out all kinds of souvenirs with her brand to the participants of sports competitions without being their official sponsor.

According to Alexander Razin, MSU Professor, marketing is not a method of market research, but a form of market organization. This implies that not only the study of supply and demand is carried out, but also the active promotion of goods on the market, maintaining an ongoing relationship with the buyer, who may be offered product service, conditions for additional guarantees, offers to exchange for more advanced models, etc. This type of relationship can in many ways also be attributed to political marketing.

The traditional, basic understanding of the political market is that it presents the political commodity in the form of candidates, political parties, programs, on the one hand, and the buyer in the form of the voter, on the other. There is, of course, a difference from the commercial market.

The voter cannot raise the price because he has only one vote. He cannot be completely sure that the properties of the commodity, i.e. a politician, will not keep his pre-election promises, he may change some points of his program. Therefore, the political market is associated with risks. On the part of the voter, these are risks related to the question of how and to what extent the person elected really expresses his interests.

On the side of a politician, it is the risk of not being elected, including if he always tells the truth without distorting it, without hiding the real state of affairs in the country’s economy, foreign policy, etc. This, of course, raises many ethical problems. But the main thing, is not even that. In the end, society comes to moral restraints in the field of political activity, campaigning, condemning the methods of black PR, but it cannot do without involving experts in public relations in general.

And here the problem always arises from the fact that a specialist, in particular a PR-activities specialist, has such technologies which are inaccessible to ordinary citizens. Consequently, he or even a whole group of such specialists have special opportunities to influence the minds of people, despite all possible moral restrictions. Then the question arises: why use such technology at all? Isn’t it better for everyone to talk about themselves, to really and truthfully show what they can do?

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But it turns out that we cannot do this if only by virtue of the fact that one person who claims to have some kind of political position cannot reach a mass audience representing contemporary society. As a matter of fact, he could not do this before, which is proven by the practice of philosophers and publicists who have helped to write election speeches and speeches in support of party candidates in U.S. presidential elections. In particular, the 19th-century philosopher and orator R. G. Ingersoll’s 1876 speech before the Republican National Convention in Cincinnati as a representative of James Blaine is widely known.

American economist Ronald Coase proposed a theory that allowed for the redistribution of ownership of intangible goods. It formed the basis of the Kyoto Protocol.

In short, the Kyoto Protocol operationalizes the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by committing industrialized countries and economies in transition to limit and reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets. The Convention itself only asks those countries to adopt policies and measures on mitigation and to report periodically.

Coase’s basic idea: regardless of who originally had the right to use a certain object that poses a danger to the environment and pollutes it, as a result of acts of sale and purchase, eventually it will end up with the one who can use this right (this object) most effectively. That is, the right to pollute the environment will go to the one who can buy more quotas, and thus efficiently produce and profitably sell the product that society really needs.

The same can be applied to politics. Power is also an intangible object, and it should go to those who can use it most effectively in the interests of society, despite the fact that obtaining a political position implies some benefits for an individual. Political marketing makes it possible to carry out such a selection. If any party refuses political marketing, PR, it will simply give an advantage to its competitors, which may not be the best in the sense of striving to protect public interests, to express a common interest aimed at harmonizing social life and increasing the production of physical and “spiritual” goods.

Image Source | Wring, D. (1997) Reconciling Marketing with Political Science: Theories of Political Marketing. Proceedings of the 1997 Academy of Marketing Conference, Manchester, 1131–1144.

Modern society cannot live without elites. First of all, intellectual, but not only, also independent in the economic sense, otherwise the representatives of the elites would be subject to the influence of the layers of the population with excessive wealth.

In modern political marketing elites are the leadership and assets of political parties, senior civil servants, intellectuals actively involved in political life. The elite is seen as the basis for the nomination of “political goods”. The leadership of the parties can seek among the elite a suitable candidate for nomination for political office.

Here again the analogy with the economic market arises. The modern politician is supplied to the market as a candidate. He is served during the election campaign and after it in the sense that he is supplied with ideas by support groups, special research centers engaged in the development of ideology (by ideology I mean a set of ideas that somehow binds society), institutions that carry out sociological research. Others may, of course, be independent (they also play an important role in society), but may also be specially organized and work on behalf of parties.

Finally, just like an ordinary commodity, a politician, paradoxically enough, is recycled.

This means that when he leaves one of the leading political positions (president, prime minister, chairman of one of the chambers of parliament), he usually gets another position, which does not require as much effort as the previous one, and sometimes even a kind of honorable resignation.

The House of Lords in Britain is indicative in this respect. After it was no longer formed solely on the hereditary principle, many politicians who ended their real political career, such as the well-known Margaret Thatcher, began to go there. The House of Lords does not pass laws, but can only veto a law. In this sense, its role in the political system is rather limited. Members of the House of Lords are not obliged to attend meetings, which means that life for them is quite free and unencumbered by actual duties.

There are, of course, other fairly positive examples. For example, the Institute of Public Policy, organized by John Major, is an interesting organization that performs important public functions. The Institute is funded by the government, but has no legislative initiative. However, it can send reports to the current Prime Minister with proposals for improving people’s interaction in the public sphere. Thus, the institute is an important organization exercising control in the public sphere and is one of the tools to improve it.

This is a very positive example of the continuation of the political fate of a person who has left the highest public office. But there are many other examples that are quite consistent with the idea of recycling, such as the inclusion of former politicians in the boards of various charitable foundations or the special establishment of foundations of which they become chairmen.

Thus, our main conclusion is that the concept of political marketing is ethically legitimate. Political marketing is essential for modern society and represents a way of organizing the system of political relations in the broadest sense of the conditions of their reproduction.

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