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Marketing by Controlling Social Discourse: The Fairtrade Case


  • Peter Griffiths


A non-conventional marketing strategy is used by the owners of a not-for-profit code of practice, Fairtrade. People buy Fairtrade-branded goods because of the social discourse around it – what friends, newspapers, teachers and others tell them about what it guarantees, what it achieves and what is its social acceptability – rather than because of the advertising. The social discourse is favourable to Fairtrade but bears little relation to observable fact. Methods used by the brand owners and others to control and manipulate the social discourse are identified.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Griffiths, 2015. "Marketing by Controlling Social Discourse: The Fairtrade Case," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(2), pages 256-271, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecaffa:v:35:y:2015:i:2:p:256-271

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Valkila, Joni, 2009. "Fair Trade organic coffee production in Nicaragua -- Sustainable development or a poverty trap?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(12), pages 3018-3025, October.
    2. Raynolds, Laura T., 2009. "Mainstreaming Fair Trade Coffee: From Partnership to Traceability," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 1083-1093, June.
    3. Alice Malpass & Paul Cloke & Clive Barnett & Nick Clarke, 2007. "Fairtrade Urbanism? The Politics of Place Beyond Place in the Bristol Fairtrade City Campaign," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(3), pages 633-645, September.
    4. Kilian, Bernard & Jones, Connie & Pratt, Lawrence & Villalobos, Andres, 2006. "Is sustainable agriculture a viable strategy to improve farm income in Central America? A case study on coffee," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 322-330, March.
    5. Jérôme Ballet & Aurélie Carimentrand, 2010. "Fair Trade and the Depersonalization of Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 92(2), pages 317-330, April.
    6. Weber, Jeremy G., 2011. "How much more do growers receive for Fair Trade-organic coffee?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 677-684, October.
    7. Jeremy Weber, 2007. "Fair Trade Coffee Enthusiasts Should Confront Reality," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 27(1), pages 109-117, Winter.
    8. Joni Valkila & Pertti Haaparanta & Niina Niemi, 2010. "Empowering Coffee Traders? The Coffee Value Chain from Nicaraguan Fair Trade Farmers to Finnish Consumers," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 97(2), pages 257-270, December.
    9. Paul Winters & Alessandro Maffioli & Lina Salazar, 2011. "Introduction to the Special Feature: Evaluating the Impact of Agricultural Projects in Developing Countries," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(2), pages 393-402, June.
    10. Peter Griffiths, 2010. "Lack Of Rigour In Defending Fairtrade: A Reply To Alastair Smith," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 30(2), pages 45-49, June.
    11. Peter Griffiths, 2012. "Ethical Objections to Fairtrade," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 105(3), pages 357-373, February.
    12. Darryl Reed, 2009. "What do Corporations have to do with Fair Trade? Positive and Normative Analysis from a Value Chain Perspective," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 86(1), pages 3-26, April.
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