Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business


New Colombia study examines marketing’s role in facilitating peace

New Colombia study examines marketing’s role in facilitating peace

Colombian coffee plantation. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

By Whitney Critten |  Student reporter

Macromarketing—marketing activities and systems used for social good—can help achieve peace and repair damaged countries, says Quinlan marketing professor Clifford Shultz.

Shultz has studied macromarketing for more than 25 years, researching how macromarketing initiatives can be used as a peacemaking tool in war-torn countries including, but not limited to, Cambodia, Lebanon, Thailand, and Vietnam. He also serves as president of the Macromarketing Society, an international group of scholars examining the interactions among markets, marketing, and society.

Recently, Shultz co-authored Marketing as a Means to Transformative Social Conflict Resolution, which was published in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Public Policy & Marketing in Fall 2016. The study examines how the growing fair-trade coffee network in Colombia has played a key role in helping to transition the country’s war economy.

Here, he discusses the role and importance of macromarketing research, as well as the Colombia study and its findings.

What does macromarketing research examine?

Macromarketing examines marketing systems to determine what policies and business practices are—or can be—effective and efficient, which goods and services help to improve quality of life, and what in the marketing system needs to be eliminated or improved to enable a more just and sustainable society. Essentially, macromarketing research is focused on improving the quality of life and social justice for as many stakeholders as possible.

Macromarketing researchers explore issues such as how to ensure that:

  • An economy or marketing system not only provides goods and services, but also is inclusive
  • Competition and pricing are fair
  • Workers throughout value-chains are treated well
  • Products are safe
  • Peace, prosperity and societal well-being are enhanced and sustained by marketing activities

The overarching concern is wellness for society and people—rather than simply “selling” products to consumers—and the marketing processes to make a community, country, region, or the entire planet a better, fairer, safer, and more sustainable place.

Why study Colombia?

Colombia was a good place to conduct a study using concepts and methods that have emerged from macromarketing. The country was then involved in 50-year civil war that has caused the deaths of more than 200,000 people and displaced many more Colombian citizens. The economy was under-performing, fueled by drugs—mainly cocaine—and violence. War had fractured society, eroded faith in government and other institutions, and generally made life very difficult, if not impossible, for most Colombians.  

Despite these challenges, our research team thought agribusiness presented some unique opportunities, particularly high-quality fair-trade coffee. The process of developing this sector, while trying to eradicate or at least reduce the activities of cocaine producers and traffickers, was difficult. It required inclusive negotiations and a systemic analysis, along with a plan to involve key stakeholders who ranged from local producers to global consumers. It also required equitable sharing in the fruits of labor, literally.

Fortunately, since the completion of the initial study, the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have reached a peace agreement, which presents even more opportunities in Colombia, a remarkably promising and dynamic country.

What were your findings?

My co-authors and I identified three markets in the Colombian war economy—combat markets, shadow markets, and coping markets. The combat and shadow markets were directly related to illegal activities of the war such as kidnapping, extortion, and drug trafficking, while the coping markets consisted of those in society engaged in legal activities such as farming and education.

Marketing systems can promote peace through communication and empowerment, working to build stronger communities where wealth is distributed fairly, and committing to better regulatory practices, higher wages for workers, and good and safe products for consumers.

Moving forward, we’re hopeful some of our ideas might provide a model for future initiatives in Colombia and elsewhere.

Why is macromarketing needed?

Marketing is a provisioning technology that should be used to make people’s lives better. Think about the fact that we have about a billion people on this plant who live in abject poverty. There are approximately 40 countries currently engaged in war, and there are many other countries supplying materials and capital needed to execute these wars to the cost of trillions annually.

As a macromarketer, I believe it’s our responsibility to do all that we can to apply tools and ideas of marketing in ways to improve the lives of people around the world who are suffering from poverty, disenfranchisement, war, and despair.

Good marketing research can be used as a transformative peacemaking tool for local and global governments, multilateral organizations, NGOs, universities and businesses to create actionable plans that inspire and empower people to do good while they do well.

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