Are marketers the bad guys?

Marketing is often criticized for promoting unnecessary consumption, stimulating debt and substantiating power differentials between producers and consumers. The most recent volume of Marketing Theory ( is a special issue that offers an alternative view. It considers the role that marketing might play in alleviating poverty and in engaging the poor in economic activity. The editors suggest:

The importance of markets and how they are performed is thought to be central to making better and more inclusive societies and to improving the lives of those at the bottom of pyramid (BoP). Indeed, those adopting a market studies approach would argue that ‘building markets is one of the most ordinary ways to produce society’ (Geiger et al., 2014: 1) – putting markets at the centre of the everyday practices of the poor. In concerning ourselves with BoP markets, we assert a very specific aim – to understand how market configurations that take into account the various concerns associated with unfolding economic transactions come about (Chakrabarti and Mason, 2014). Specifically, we start from the premise that (1) consumers cannot consume unless they are able to produce – an activity that generates the means for market engagement and consumption (Karnani, 2007; Viswanathan et al., 2010), (2) market practices are always situated in the particularities of time and place (Kjellberg and Helgesson, 2007) and as such cannot be divorced from histories and associations and (3) the globalisation of trade and markets entangles multiple and complex social–political–economic worlds in chains of practices that stretch across the globe (cf. London and Hart, 2011; Maurer, 2012). This approach calls into question extant conceptualisations of BoP markets as purely economic constructs.

The articles in the issue include:

Markets and marketing at the bottom of the pyramid: Katy Mason, Ronika Chakrabarti, Ramendra Singh

First Published May 15, 2017; pp. 261–270

Rethinking the bottom of the pyramid: A critical perspective from an emerging economy

Alex Faria, Marcus Hemais

First Published May 25, 2017; pp. 271–287

Markets and marketing research on poverty and its alleviation: Summarizing an evolving logic toward human capabilities, well-being goals and transformation

Srinivas Sridharan, Dani J. Barrington, Stephen G. Saunders

First Published May 15, 2017; pp. 323–340

The subsistence marketplaces approach to poverty: Implications for marketing theory

Srinivas Venugopal, Madhubalan Viswanathan

First Published May 1, 2017; pp. 341–356

Market resource gaps: Identifying resources to cocreate solutions that facilitate consumption

Lisa J. Abendroth, Jaqueline Pels

First Published April 13, 2017; pp. 357–371


Business models to serve low-income consumers in emerging markets

Jaqueline Pels, Jagdish N. Sheth


By Dr. Philippa Ward

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