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Marketing and society

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Are you interested in exploring the application of marketing concepts beyond commercial marketing and considering the issues of ethics and responsible practice in marketing? In this module you’ll explore the role and responsibility of marketing in relation to society. Your study will be based around three key themes: social marketing – how marketing can have a positive influence on health and social behaviour; ethics and marketing – how decision making and marketing activities can be affected by taking an ethical perspective; and responsible business marketing – how organisations might adopt responsible marketing behaviour in the context of corporate social responsibility.

What you will study

The module consists of three blocks of study.

In Social Marketing you’ll examine the nature of social marketing and how the adoption of marketing concepts, frameworks and techniques developed for commercial marketers can be applied to the solution of social problems. You’ll discover how social marketing aims to achieve its primary objective of effecting behavioural change in the pursuit of social goals, as opposed to any financial or other objective.

Ethics and Marketing considers why ethical conflict occurs in marketing and you’ll explore a range of ethical issues that can occur when applying the theory and practice of marketing. You’ll learn about a variety of ethical decision-making frameworks for analysing ethical dilemmas, issues and ideas for marketing practice. Finally you’ll look at confronting these ethical dilemmas by examining moral behaviour, influencing factors and ways of responding.

In Responsible Business Marketing you’ll be introduced to the idea that commercial marketing practices can take into account business responsibilities towards society and the environment. The concept of responsible marketing is outlined in relation to the wider concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The key aspects of responsible marketing are highlighted, with green marketing and fair trade marketing being considered in more detail.

You will learn

Knowledge and understanding

  • Concepts, theories and debates about the roles and responsibilities of marketing in society
  • Application of marketing thinking to health and social behaviour
  • An understanding of ethics and marketing
  • An understanding of green and environmental marketing, sustainability, fair trade and ethical consumption.

Cognitive skills 

  • Application and evaluation of the relevance of module concepts to a variety of other contexts
  • Ability to synthesise, and critically evaluate arguments and assumptions from a variety of sources and competing perspectives
  • Ability to recognise the limitations of knowledge in the area.

Key skills

  • Identification and critical analysis of relevant issues involved in responsible social and business marketing
  • Effective communication of ideas and arguments to relevant audiences
  • Appropriate integration and use of information and/or data in complex contexts
  • Management of learning and ability to reflect on development as an independent learner.

Practical and/or professional skills

  • Application of responsible marketing to own professional context
  • Sensitivity to the problems and challenges in both business and social marketing.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably at the OU.

Although there are no formal entry requirements and the module is open entry, we strongly recommend that you are suitably prepared for study at this level and have some familiarity with basic business and marketing concepts. Shaping business opportunities (B207) would be ideal preparation. 

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

Module guides, resource texts, case studies, journal article prints and website.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either an up-to-date version of Windows or macOS.

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you'll likely need a headset with a microphone.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying B324 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Marketing and society starts once a year – in April. This page describes the module that will start in April 2021 when we expect it to start for the last time. A replacement module, Marketing in action (B328), is planned for October 2021.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

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