Societal Impacts of Marketing

Len Quill has been a buyer for Artifacts, Ltd., an importer of ethnic art, for four years. He majored in marketing and cultural anthropology in college and is faced with an ethical decision concerning the demand for a basket made by the Puna Native American tribe. The tribe is a major source of artifacts for Len and his interest in the tribe has inspired him to learn their native language, making him the only person from Artifacts who directly works with the Puna.

Bob is an art gallery owner who is interested in placing a large order for the Puna baskets. However, he wants them within a short time frame and only if he can redesign the baskets with his customers in mind. Each basket’s shape, pattern and color represent important historical events and symbols of the tribe and are only made by the women. Len would have to market this design change to the Punas, as well as the idea of men making the baskets too, in order to meet the short deadline. The Punas will receive a good price for their baskets, which could improve their standard of living. Len’s boss, Mary, is very enthusiastic about this opportunity, for Artifacts, Ltd. will prosper from the large order.

Coming from an anthropological viewpoint, Len isn’t sure he wants to persuade the Punas to alter their artwork or encourage the men to make the baskets. He has learned that these kinds of changes have weakened other cultures and is concerned the Punas are not aware of the negative effects such changes could have on their society. Len needs an agreement from the Puna tribal council before a contract can be signed with Bob, but is conflicted over how to handle the deal.


1. What are the ethical issues Len is faced with?

2. Do you think Len has a moral duty to protect the Puna tribe? If so, why?

Author: Judy Cohen, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Rider College

posted by Wende


5 Responses to Societal Impacts of Marketing

  1. greenmba2008 says:

    Len is faced with having to decide whether to ask the Puna to change their cultural traditions so they, and Artifacts, Ltd, can profit from it. He knows that these changes could harm their society, but also knows they could benefit from the income. It doesn’t seem like the decision is really his to make. He should lay out all the info and his concerns, to the Puna council and let them decide.-Mandy

  2. ethics response says:

    This is a hard one. On the first read, the scenario is offensive and obtrusive to the tribe’s culture. The ethical concerns are waged against each other from multiple perspectives including an individual’s (Len) to a historical to a broader cultural pinning of westernization. Len has his immediate reservations which include upsetting tribe structure/roles by including men in basket making, exploiting a rich history and symbolism weaved into each basket by making an “artificial” product, and upsetting the functions of a tribe that make tribes a strong and bountiful group of peoples.

    On the second read, you have to question Len’s company standards and practices as the scenario mentions that Len’s supervisor is excited about the probability of the deal, for the company of course and not the Puna people, and then the art gallery owner is more concerned with marketing the baskets to customer’s taste rather than selling them on the significance and importance of the “authentic” basket(s). And of course, the gross manipulation of the Puna’s tribe peoples by viewing them as factory machinery and insisting that they not only break their tribe norms by involving men in the basket production, but also insisting that “humans” act as “machines” to rapidly produce a product for little gain to the tribe—in terms of appreciation for the essence of their culture through the meaningful creation of the baskets. A monetary compensation does not cancel out ignorance and neglect of a people’s rituals and viable lifestyle.

    On the third read, you wonder what the conflict really is. It seems simple enough. Len’s struggle is a moral one—the very basic of what’s right and what’s wrong. The conflict is not with himself—I believe he knows what he would do if he was able to make the decision. It is the age old problem of a values battle between Len and his supervisor. Does he risk his neck for what he believes is right based on historical precedence and his own experience, or does he fall in line and accept his task knowing it challenges his personal values? Do individuals have a responsibility, or is it even realistic, to align your personal values with and organization’s values? If we as individuals were not blocked by our circumstances (children, car payments, mortgages, loans, gas bills, healthcare bills, etc.), would be stronger in our convictions to do what is right? We have moved away from what is right or wrong in order not to offend people and meet people in the middle—all the while, being guided by false principles. Len does have a moral obligation to protect the Puna people. Some might say let the Puna tribe decide what makes sense for them and there are ethical and responsible ways to do this, but ultimately, the integrity of people, culture, history and the future for them is at stake, not just the bottom line of one fiscal year.

    On the fourth read, I thought I should just be quiet. But, I have to offer one more thought. Len could propose an option to both his company and the owner of the art gallery that include a greater profit yielding and sustainable sales solution across fiscal years which appeals to them, while keeping the integrity of the tribe in tact by selling their rich history and story with each one-of-a-kind basket that highlights the beauty of the tribe and its culture. The proposal would include women continuing to make the baskets, utilize the theory of supply and demand, increasing the amount paid for each basket to improve the standard of living for the Puna tribe, etc. From my point-of-view, all parties can have their needs met in a just and responsible way if Len is willing to do what is right. This scenario really helped encapsulate for me the environmental justice reading. I found the reading hard to swallow, but this helped. Thanks Wende.

    • Vincent Tagarira says:

      thanks a lot,….was given this case study as an assignment and you helped a lot,….. i now have a greater insight of what is happening

  3. Home decoreating ideas include decorating with items that you use on a regular basis, such as recipe books in the kitchen, a decorative wall clock inn the living room,
    or a wine rack in thhe dining area.

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