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Fait Accompli?

The American Marketing Association recently co-sponsored a symposium on Emerging Markets. Several scholars, including yours truly, were invited to share their perspectives. Ideas and research, from trends to methods to outcomes, were discussed. In addition to introducing a few of my own projects in emerging markets, I also was asked to synthesize the day’s discourse. That brief synthesis follows.

Two groups of thought surfaced over the course of the day. What I will call the “Can’t Miss” camp argued emerging markets are destined to develop – to “emerge” — on fairly predictable paths and time-lines leading to consumer societies with access to goods and services and standards of living seen in developed markets. Globalization, urbanization, technology, innovation and more open markets will be driving forces. The “Painful but Probable” camp argued that market emergence the world over likely was inevitable, but that the process may be very painful for some countries and their citizens, and is contingent upon a number of important factors. Corruption, xenophobia, war, natural catastrophes, disenfranchisement, and resource shortages all could delay or derail emergence and subsequent wealth and prosperity.

Though an optimist, I must admit I was in the second camp — I’ve spent too much time in willfully devastated markets and economies to think otherwise. Without good policies and practices and a keen eye toward social justice, emerging markets are not a fait accompli.

Both Camps however agreed that (1) markets, marketing and consumer empowerment are vital to emergence; (2) marketing institutions can help to prevent, soften or change forces that impede the emergence of a consumer society and social justice.

In summary, the consensus was that marketers and marketing institutions are uniquely qualified and well positioned to be positive change agents. Indeed, empirical evidence supports this shared belief, and marketers moreover must be drivers of sustainable societal wellness via investment plans, development procedures and marketing tools, if emergence is to be benevolent.

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