Product demarketing and deselection: How to ban products without the use of regulations
Part 1: Product demarketing
Kotler and Levy (1971) define the concept of demarketing as “that aspect of marketing that deals with discouraging customers in general or a certain class of customer in particular on either a temporary or permanent basis” (p. 75). Used within its original context, demarketing was mainly a tool used by for profit companies to change demand in very specialized circumstances. However, Kotler and Levy (1971) did provide an example where demarketing was utilized in the realm of ecotourism and sustainability. Demarketing has evolved more into being associated as a tool within the context of social marketing. Kotler (1972) noted this change in a paper published after his seminal work. Wall (2005) now defines demarketing mean changing consumer behaviors and habits with the aspirations of lessening their environmental impact.
Product demarketing has evolved from a concept that companies utilize to control demand of a product into a tool that various governmental entities have utilized to control the demand of products and services (Armstrong & Kern, 2011; Beeton & Benfield, 2002; Beeton & Pinge, 2003; Groff, 1998; Medway, Warnaby, & Dharni, 2010; Shiu, Hassan, & Walsh, 2009; Sodhi, 2011; Wall, 2005). With the change in context, the users of demarketing has also changed. Governmental entities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have used this tool to change product/service demands or attitudes such as smoking, gun control, alcohol and changing behaviors and attitudes to be more accepting of sustainable environmental attitudes (Gundlach, Bradford, & Wilkie, 2010; Wall, 2005).
In examples from the Great Lakes Coal Tar PAH Reduction Project, product demarketing utilized biased messages in order to purposely damage the product coal tar based pavement sealer. Al Innis from Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) stated that “they” have found that product bans are often difficult to get passed at any level of government (Innes, 2013).
Examples from Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project
University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center (UW SHWEC)
UW SHWEC many examples of demarketing coal tar based pavement sealer. What make this demarketing even more severe is that SHWEC was selectively utilizing the studies that gave the largest negative impact. Since these were produced in an academic setting, this would be an example of citation and selection biases (Liebl, 2012; University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center, 2012a, 2012b, 2012c). In no way was SHWEC utilizing the body of literature that shows that disproves theories advanced by USGS, MPCA and others.
UW SHWEC contacted over three hundred sealer applicators in December 2012 and relayed the following points to customers:
●”toxic chemicals” in the sealer;
●”contains chemicals that can cause cancer”;
●”We encourage you to stop using coal tar containing products immediately”;
●”The Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center is dedicated to enhancing Wisconsin’s economy and environment though education to business and communities”(University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center, 2013).
In the examples given, UW SHWEC clearly utilized product demarketing in order to promote their biased agenda.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency-MPCA
Between the MPCA and Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project, there is no question that MPCA is engaging in demarketing activity. Examples include:
● “Phase-out and replacement of coal tar-based sealcoats with safer alternatives and practices will reduce loading of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to surface waters and sediments in Great Lakes states and provinces, and reduce hazards to children and vulnerable adults playing, living or working near coal tar-sealed surfaces like drives, parking lots, and playgrounds”(Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2013b);
●” To aid in the transition to safer alternatives, project partners asked sealcoating suppliers and contractors to pledge that they will not sell or apply sealcoats containing coal tar. The companies on this map have all made this pledge, reducing the release of potentially-harmful chemicals into our environment”(Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2013a) and;
●”The safer alternatives typically work best in a narrower range of surface condition, temperature, and humidity than is needed for coal tar, so the experience of these early-adopting companies could produce better results for pavement owners. However, the final decision on choice of safer alternative and provider rests with the owner, so be sure to ask the questions suggested in the Choosing alternatives to coal tar-based pavement sealcoats guidance and research thoroughly before making your decisions”(Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2013a). The odd thing about this statement is MPCA wants the consumer to make a “choice” when purchasing sealer, however, MPCA will give you a biased story so the consumer cannot make an informed decision. In addition, Minnesota took the right of consumer choice away from its citizens when they banned coal tar based sealer earlier in 2014.
In part 2, we will examine a second tool know as product deselection or substitution principle which the purpose is to take away a citizen’s right to choose.
Beeton, S., & Benfield, R. (2002). Demand Control: The Case for Demarketing as a Visitor and Environmental Management Tool. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 10(6), 497-513. doi: 10.1080/09669580208667184
Innes, A. (2013, November 20,). Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project Webinar 2: State/Provincial Programs. from https://sites.google.com/site/greatlakespahreduction/home/fall-2013-webinar-materials
Liebl, D. (2012). Toxic Driveway Sealants=Public Health Hazard. from http://fyi.uwex.edu/shwec/2012/07/09/toxic-driveway-sealants-public-health-hazard/
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. (2013b). Great Lakes Coal Tar Sealcoat PAH Reduction Project. from http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/water/water-types-and-programs/stormwater/stormwater-management/great-lakes-coal-tar-sealcoat-pah-reduction-project/index.html
Shiu, E., Hassan, L. M., & Walsh, G. (2009). Demarketing tobacco through governmental policies – The 4Ps revisited. Journal of Business Research, 62(2), 269-278. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2008.01.034
University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center. (2012a). Beware of toxic driveway sealants. from https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxncmVhdGxha2VzcGFocmVkdWN0aW9ufGd4OjVhZWMyNjIzMDdmMzNjYTg
University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center. (2012b). Coal Tar-Based Asphalt Sealcoats-A Health and Environmental Hazard. from https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxncmVhdGxha2VzcGFocmVkdWN0aW9ufGd4Ojc1MzEwNDE5ZjRmMDRkY2U
University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center. (2012c). Identifying Coal Tar Based Asphalt Sealcoats-A Guide for Applicators. from https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxncmVhdGxha2VzcGFocmVkdWN0aW9ufGd4OjFjMmJlMWJkZDk5MTlhNGY
University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center. (2013). Applicator’s Contact Letter. from https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxncmVhdGxha2VzcGFocmVkdWN0aW9ufGd4OjMwNTY1NTYwZmNjMjMwOWU