Monday, November 16, 2009


There is no quarrel with the market strategists that their task is to lure customers for the products churned out by their company. But the means they employ to better the bottom line of the financial health of their masters may often conflict with the principles of ethics. The latest is the attempt to rope in house wives for product promotion by many food industry giants through blogs published by them. Of course there cannot be any bar on any blogger promoting a product as long as the opinion is not for financial gain and at least in the US guidelines are being framed for advertising on the blogs to prevent such ethical questions being raised.

"But recently, these bloggers say, food companies have upped the ante, bombarding them with free trips to corporate kitchens and mountains of edible swag. Starbucks, eager to get working parents drinking its Via instant coffee, sent limousines to shuttle bloggers in New York City for a private lunch with executives. They left with bags stuffed with coffee and offers of bottomless future refills. Fast-food purveyor Taco Bell flew a group of bloggers from Maryland, Michigan and Missouri to California for a retreat this spring, paid for their lodging and let them spend the day creating new taco and burrito concoctions. Kraft Foods curried favor with mommy bloggers by bringing some to Los Angeles for the Grilled Cheese Invitational, in an effort to get online parents hungry for cheese. The rationale is pure economics. The food industry -- from restaurants to supermarkets and manufacturers -- has seen sales slide during the recession and is looking for new ways to reach customers. And the people online they want are parents".

If what is being done by the industry is not crass corruption of the consumer, what else it is? After all blogs are meant to share the views and experiences of people in different walks of life and it can be a powerful tool for education if properly harnessed. As far as India is concerned, this may not be an issue because blogging is relatively a minor activity with a small audience but with computer usage and broadband access gaining popularity it may still become a powerful medium for communication.


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