MM3104-The Dark Side of Marketing

Module Provider: Marketing and Reputation
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Pre-requisites: MM255 Marketing Management
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2022/3

Module Convenor: Dr Irute Karanicholas

Type of module:

Summary module description:

The module considers exactly what it says – the dark side of marketing. Marketing is often presented as a solution to business problems. But marketing can itself cause problems for consumers. This module focuses on exploring the conflicting, controversial and moral challenges facing marketing in specific contexts. We will be discussing the non-traditional and unspoken yet critical topics of marketing practice. Our focus areas are those having a global impact and that touch upon pretty much every individual on the planet.?It is an integrative module that combines marketing with other science subjects (eg., nutrition, law and others). This module will explore marketing and its effects on consumers’ physical and mental well-being and alleged exploitation of vulnerable consumers. This module is critical, applied and contemporary. It looks at current issues and asks how you can use your marketing skills to help resolve some practical consumer and societal problems, and how marketing should be transparent, honest and true. We will explore ways to make consumer lives truly better, easier and happier. 


This is NOT a traditional or foundational marketing module but one that will challenge the very way you view and think about marketing. In this module we will explore marketing that you perhaps didn’t know existed.  


The key underlying principle of the module is to consider the dark side of marketing, including conflicting and controversial marketing, and to question or challenge whether certain marketing practices are moral by asking whether companies are truly considering the best interest of consumers and making their lives better. And how can you, as a future marketer, make marketing a more respected profession, for the benefit of those who work in marketing roles, and, ultimately, for consumers and society as a whole? 


The aim is to give students a much deeper and highly critical view of marketing and its impact on consumers and wider society and find ways how to do more marketing that is true and honest and that would enrich consumer lives in this fast-moving world. In other words, making marketing less of a perceived cause of some of consumer’s problems, but rather a solution to them. 

Assessable learning outcomes:

The module is designed to more than simply improve your employability skills in marketing, it is designed to provide a really critical view to marketing, challenge the status quo in terms of business and marketing practice, and encourage you to never stop looking for more honest and true ways to conduct marketing, all to make consumer lives better, easier and happier.    


By the end of the Module students should be able to:? 

  • Identify and discuss the dark side of marketing, and how can marketing harm the world.  

  • Challenge and critique the status quo, including challenging marketing practices towards some most loved and used products on planet, and how they are being used. 

  • Integrate different subjects and look beyond marketing (eg., bringing science to marketing). 

  • To widen your world view on the non-traditional andimpactful topics and aspects of marketing.  

  • Evaluate marketing impact to the wider society including the impact on most important aspects of consumer lives such as health and overall well-being. 

  • To understand moral aspects surrounding marketing practice and how this is not the same as ethics.  

  • Understand ways of reconciling the sometimes conflicting needs of business with the needs of consumers. 

  • Tobe able to find better ways to conduct marketing that is true and honest and support consumers lives, making them happier.   

  • Develop ability to critique sources of information as well as platforms for searching for information in search of truth.  

Additional outcomes:

  • Question marketing practices inconsistent with consumer values or those that may harm consumers. 

  • Develop ability to conduct marketing that has best interests for consumers, even if it may be less profitable.  

  • Be open minded to explore a very different side of marketing. 

  • Stay vulnerable in search of truth. 

Outline content:

Provisional topics may include but not limited to (subject to change): 

  • The dark side of marketing and how can marketing harm our lives 

  • Marketing as a cause or answer to consumer challenges  

  • Morality in marketing  

  • Conflicting marketing and marketing paradox 

  • Manipulation in marketing 

  • Selling, mis-selling, exaggerating, overstating and misleading  

  • “Fake news” and marketing – how do consumers trust sources of product information and even search platforms 

  • “The surveillance society”: Consumers’ need for privacy vs. firms’ desire to know more about their customers surveillance and privacy – how to resolve this apparent dilemma 

  • Marketing to vulnerable people, including children, elderly and others   

  • How do marketers decide what is really in the best interests of consumers? 

  • And/or any other topics deemed “dark” in marketing. 



We will explore various sectors as diverse as food, farming, home, beauty, pharmaceuticals, banking, technology (including EMFs), and others.   

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The teaching on this module is heavily practice driven and reliant on various cases. This is not a book-based module. 

Please note that 5 of the hours listed under practical classes/workshops are for 5 hours of drop in sessions.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Practicals classes and workshops 10
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 30
    Wider reading (directed) 30
    Advance preparation for classes 30
    Preparation for performance 40
    Preparation of practical report 40
Total hours by term 0 200 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Project output other than dissertation 70
Set exercise 30

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Set exercise (team): the exercise will be set during the term, the focus will be on exploring the dark side of marketing through analysing case study(ies) via publicly available information sources (eg., cases published by various authorities, local or international) on the topic which is performed in reasonable size teams. Week 6-7. 


Project (individual): project where you will demonstrate your highly critical thinking on a topic or a combination of topics covered in the module. The individual project will also feature your own critical reflection on the matter observed. Week 10-11. 

Formative assessment methods:

Students will receive formative feedback in classes, including lectures and practical classes.  

Students will be given sufficient opportunities to support preparation of their set exercise in team as well as individual assessment. ? 



Penalties for late submission:

The Support Centres will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:

A weighted average mark of all assignments of 40%. 

Reassessment arrangements:

By set exercise.? 

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 22 September 2022


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