Marketing in For-profit Social Ventures
Abstract: This paper explores how marketing is conducted in for-profit social ventures. Knowledge regarding the for-profit social context is considered rather limited given that it has been largely marginalized by being associated either to the fully for-profit or solely non-profit extremes. In that respect, much of the existing literature has not to acknowledge the unique challenges that a dual mission, such as profit maximization and social impact can represent. This study employs the lenses of entrepreneurial marketing (EM) in order to facilitate the understanding of marketing from a broader and more holistic perspective. This approach is aligned with the paradigm shift on the role of marketing, as suggested by a number of scholars and by the American Marketing Association (AMA). A qualitative study based on six cases from the Swedish fashion industry indicate that because of the duality of missions (profits and social impact) for-profit social ventures encounter a number of tensions that influence the way marketing is conducted. The findings validate the premise that tensions arise due to the priority given to the social mission, based on whether the entrepreneur favors profits over impact or vice versa. A novel contribution of this study suggests that such phenomenon is not static, but situational. This study also elaborates on the implications on the way marketing is conducted by expanding on the role, relevance and intensity the EM dimensions play when conducting marketing in this specific context. Based on the findings, stakeholder intensity and communication management have been identified as new critical dimensions, in addition to the ones suggested by previous literature. The relevance of such dimensions arise because of factors associated with the need for aligning the mission statement with partners, the role of competition, the creation of intangible value and the need of educating the customer, among others. Lastly, this study offers implications for practitioners, by illustrating an innovative approach to the field, which pushes forward the traditional boundaries associated with marketing.
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