Happy 90th Birthday Modern Marketing!

Growing Importance of Happiness

Addressing the Asian Marketing Federation on his 90th Birthday, the “Father of Modern Marketing – Professor Philip Kotler” mentioned the fact that he’s not happy with what the United States of America has achieved over the last century. As per his explanation, USA stands tall among all the other nations by occupying the No. 01 position in GDP (Gross Domestic Production) or GNP (Gross National Production). However, Kotler highlights the fact that GDP shouldn’t be the only measure or the ultimate measure of development as income disparity can hinder the majority getting access to the wealth created by a nation. He further stressed on the fact that USA has more than 2000 billionaires still there are people who live below the poverty line which takes away happiness of the people of the USA.  As per Kotler, USA youth are in debt by the time they complete their higher education and as a result they end up working hard paying debts incurred in obtaining educational qualifications. Moreover, they are compelled to work harder as they need to pay for their housing too as they leave their parents’ home at the age of 20. Cutting a long story short, he is disappointed of the social standards of the USA in comparison to countries such as Canada and Nordic countries such as Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark which provide quality free education and quality health services to all their citizens irrespective of their income levels. Kotler further states that an average family in the USA spends about US$ 170, 000 by the time a kid reaches the age of 17 from the day they are born.

As opposed to this, he appreciates countries such as Bhutan which has been pioneering the task of measuring GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness) and GDW (Gross Domestic Well-Being). However, in the overall ranking for 2020 in GDH Sri Lanka stands at 130th place while Bangladesh occupies 107th place. USA is at 19th and Finland occupies NO 01. India and China are occupying 134th and 94th places respectively. However, the country which pioneered the happiness index (Bhutan) was not to be found on the list. The classification is arrived at after considering several factors such as: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and perceptions of corruption. Sri Lanka is also one of the Asian countries which provides free education of high quality up to graduation from university and also health services free of charge again of high quality. Talking further, Philip Kotler mentioned the fact that, there is something that has taken the happiness away from us and it’s high time that we find what true happiness is instead of being materialistic which was growing in certain communities in the world who used to seek pleasure in ownership of assets. He further stresses on the fact that GDP is miserably failing as the ultimate measure of growth as GDP can include; weapons, poisons, drugs, alcohol or tobacco which are truly harmful to the survival of mankind on planet earth. It’s interesting to see how Kotler has changed his point of view as he reaches the 90th milepost of his life as he was committed to promote consumerism throughout his life with his world famous book “Principals of Marketing” which he co-authored with Armstrong in educating the world on the basic concepts of marketing. In recent history, Kotler has made shifts in his paradigm of thinking through Marketing 4.0 which talks of the importance of being empathetic with consumers through digital media.

What has taken Happiness away? Under the assumption of economic rationale man; consumers/ people are assumed to make decisions based on the objective of maximising their utility or satisfaction. However, this is not applicable universally as shown in contemporary research. At times people take emotional decisions which are based on anger, frustration, pleasure, ambiguity, etc. Marketing is explained as a mechanism that provides satisfaction as opposed to happiness. Therefore, at the inception of marketing itself, there has been something wrong with the way it’s been formulated. Marketing can be better used to create happiness than satisfaction as research has found the fact that; there is a clear difference between happiness and satisfaction and satisfaction doesn’t assure happiness. Even when consumers/ people can consume better than others, they still cannot be happy as they end up comparing with the consumption of other people in the same class/ society. Another school of thought highlights the fact that, happiness is embedded in the notion of ownership of assets which again leads consumers to acquire resources as possession of assets is another way of forming identities in individuals. The liberalization of consumption has created many issues in the world as consumption doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. On the other hand, when people get used to certain consumption patterns, deprivation from the same can create frustration and anger and it in return can take happiness away. Therefore, it’s evident that consumption-based happiness is keeping mankind away from achieving sustainability. (This will further be discussed in my next article). Therefore, there is no doubt that marketing as a discipline or philosophy is loosely comprehended or formed and there is room to improve in creating a better world. Let us wish Professor Kotler many more happy returns as he celebrates his 90th birthday!