A belief in karma and its influences on marketing decisions: Perceptions of marketing managers in a Western context
“What you put out comes back all the time, no matter what.” (Oprah Winfrey) This thesis explores the constitution of karmic beliefs that drive marketers’ ethical perceptions and behaviours. It hypothesises that a belief in karma might influence ethical decisions, and thus might help to inform the Hunt-Vitell theory of marketing ethics (henceforth the H-V model/theory). A better understanding of the influence of karmic beliefs on marketing decisions is important because it helps to increase the knowledge of how ethical dilemmas are navigated. This, in turn, contributes to making more ethical marketing decisions, which can bring both resource advantage for organisations and desirable outcomes for society. Since a belief in karma has been proven to influence the ethical behaviours of consumers and salespeople positively, it is assumed to influence the ethical decisions of marketing managers. This study is exploratory and interpretative in nature. Thirteen in-depth interviews were conducted with marketing managers in New Zealand. The study reports the meaning of karma as perceived by marketing managers. It presents marketing managers’ perceptions of the differences in decisions made between karmic orientated and non-karmic oriented managers. Lastly, it examines how a belief in karma could inform the “belief system” construct of the H-V theory. This study has been one of the first attempts to explore the influence of karmic beliefs on marketing managers’ decision-making. Previous studies have sought to explore the role of karma in influencing behaviours of consumers and salespeople, mainly from an Eastern religious perspective. This study contributes to the literature on ethical decision-making in marketing with evidence that a belief in karma is perceived to influence marketing managers’ decisions, at least in a Western context. It has shown that karmic oriented marketing managers potentially make decisions that are more ethical, customer focused, long-term oriented, and sustainable. Compared to non-karmic orientated marketers, karmic orientated managers tend to focus more on non-materialistic factors, such as relationships, social and cultural gains, and well-being. They are more likely to consider the benefits of wider stakeholders, including customers, society, and the planet. From a theoretical perspective, this study postulates that the inclusion of karma as a belief system in the H-V model will help to extend understanding of ethical decision-making. Previous studies on the constitution of the belief system of the H-V model have incorporated beliefs such as machiavellianism; love of money; locus of control; and a just world belief. The present study has found that the way marketing managers perceive karma to operate affects their perceptions of various aspects of decision-making. These aspects can fit into the framework of the H-V theory, which helps understand how a karmic belief influences the decision-making process. From a practitioner perspective, with evidence that karmic beliefs can contribute to more ethical and more sustainable marketing decisions, this study suggests organisations to consider designing and facilitating marketing management practices in line with karmic principles. This includes incorporating karmic principles into codes of conduct, vision and mission statements, and the recruitment and selection processes. This study also suggests companies to consider integrating karmic principles into their marketing campaigns to create sustainable outcomes for society, such as reducing materialism, correcting environmental infractions. This is hoped to contribute to the Responsible Consumption and Production Goal, one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals that have been signed up to by many organisations.
Advisor: Robertson, Kirsten; Thyne, Maree
Degree Name: Master of Commerce
Degree Discipline: Marketing
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: karma; marketing ethics; marketing managers; New Zealand
Research Type: Thesis