Our Readers' Opinions
June 10, 2005
It is in our best interest to be moral

Editor: I recently read an article in the Jamaica Gleaner, May 4, “Dancehall Blues – Red Stripe withholds sponsorship money from promoter – Cites Violence and profanity as main reasons for action”.

It states that “the crude behaviour of one of the main acts at a stage show in Savanna-la-Mar at a recent show has forced corporate giant Red Stripe to withhold sponsorship money from the promoter. Head of Communications at Red Stripe Maxine Whittingham said “We signed a contract through our product Guinness with promoter Worrell King and in it we included a clause that spoke to issues such as the successful completion of the show and the conduct of the artistes. That agreement was breached hence the action we have taken”{{more}}

The article went on further to say, “this unprecedented move comes sharply on the heels of last week’s decision by the Coalition of Corporate Sponsors, a group of local companies to disassociate themselves from events featuring top DJs Bounty Killer and Beenie Man”.

The unprecedented stance taken by Corporate Jamaica reminds me of The Chartered Institute of Marketing New Year’s resolution: Morality in Marketing – which stresses that organizations need to focus on moral values. It also, points out that the issue is not for marketers to take the moral high ground, but to recognize that there is a high ground that needs to be worked towards. Marketers, if they are willing, can take the initiatives to work to achieve a fair, decent society – and help turn the moral maze into a virtuous circle.

How about us? Are we embracing the concept of morality in our every day business practices?

St.Vincent Brewery Ltd. for years has been sponsoring events through its products – Hairoun, Guinness and Heineken (e.g. most recently Champion Bubbler, The Guinness “Rush Hour” programme hosted by Splectron and Tony Matterhorn Show) that bring out violence, profanity, vulgarity and other immoral acts. How about their “shut-mouth” stance on the subject – the consuming of their alcoholic beverages by minors?

St.Vincent Distillers Ltd., Corea’s Hazells Inc, Gonsalves Liquors and Bottlers St.Vincent Ltd. have also been expressing a “dumb” stance on the issue of the abusing of alcohol or the consuming of alcohol by minors.

The National Lottery – under its slogan supporting “Sports and Culture in St.Vincent and Grenadines”, has been bombarding radio, TV, and Press with ads preying on vulnerable people – the elderly, the unemployed, the young and ignorant.

KFC, which for years has practiced market segmentation, primarily targeting children with its “kids meals”. Children are encouraged to buy a meal just for a “toy”.

Our local radio stations have been guilty of sponsoring events and playing music deemed as immoral.

These are examples of dubious practices that could easily be legislated against. They’re not illegal because they are no legal standards to conform to. The marketers of those companies concerned would say that people are not obliged to buy their products or listen to their adverts or associate themselves with their sponsored events.

Does any of this matter? For companies to take a prominent moral stand when everyone knows that business is cut throat – without being smart, a company cannot gain a competitive edge. Without this, there would be no economy – which would not be good for anyone. Is there room for morality to interfere in this climate?

For those skeptics who cannot be convinced by appealing to their good nature, be convinced by the legal need to behave morally. If marketers do not self-regulate, pretty soon, we will be legislated against. The Government of St.Vincent and Grenadines is drafting a Consumer Protection Bill; it is almost on our backs. What will we do?

Advertising, for example, is much more heavily regulated industry than it was decade ago in North America and Europe. No longer can banks put up acres of small print on TV adverts without giving the viewer time to read it. McDonald’s a few years ago was forced to withdraw an advert that claimed that after selecting its potatoes “we peel them, slice them, fry them, and that’s it”. They omitted other parts of the process – “par-frying chips, freezing them, adding salt and a dextrose solution”. Since then, McDonald’s has been under constant fire from pressure groups, health officials, lawyers and many unhappy customers.

This focus on tighter regulation will only increase over the coming years, especially in the areas of marketing to children, healthy living and data protection just to name a few. Does that say, we in St.Vincent and Grenadines will be unaffected? Certainly Not! It’s in our interest to be moral (which is not the same as saying that we are only being moral because we will be legislated against).

With the coming of CSME and the increasing effects of globalization, we in St.Vincent and Grenadines will be in the spotlight more than we are presently. Thus, it is our responsibility as decision-makers to look at the bigger picture. We cannot continue to make decisions that only damage the integrity of our companies and devalue our brands.

So, let’s walk the path of our brothers and sisters in Jamaica.