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Compassion, Inc    by Mara Einstein Amazon.com order for
Compassion, Inc
by Mara Einstein
Order:  USA  Can
University of California, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

The idea is to tug at the consumers' heartstrings through cause related marketing, corporate social responsibility, and ethical branding. It may sound like an admirable approach, but these tactics also increase sales, which suggests that once again the public is being taken advantage of.

Mara Einstein in Compassion, Inc.: How Corporate America Blurs the Line Between What We Buy, Who We Are and Those We Help not only discusses this situation in depth but explains why she believes that linking charity to consumerism is not a good thing.

The author outlines how cause related marketing desensitizes the public by making complex problems seem simple to solve, as she investigates the various and unseen ways in which large sums of consumer dollars go into corporate coffers rather than to helping the less fortunate.

She also contrasts companies that do make the world a better place with those that only claim to do so. In the first chapter Einstein discusses why we often expect that charities and various good works will be associated with a specific brand. For example, owning a Subaru reflects not only one's taste but also the individual's values and concern for the environment.

In the following chapters there is a discussion on why corporations have embraced charity as a means to sell more goods and how cause marketing has grown through hypercharities.

The consequences of co-opting compassion and its downside for individuals and society are then addressed, as are the ultimate consequences of merging profits and purpose which leads to desensitization to those less fortunate; thus, there is little being done to engage individuals in meaningful altruism.

It is not all doom and gloom, though. Einstein also takes a look at firms like Newsman's Own, a food company that donates all profits after taxes to charitable concerns, and other examples of corporate social responsibility that are not just about enhancing the bottom line.

Finally, in her concluding chapter, the author provides ten ideas or suggestions about how to make the world a better place both within and outside of the marketplace.

'Real change will come with new structures. Those structures need to serve business and the people who work for it; that's the only real sustainability,' writes Einstein. 'Thankfully, an increasing number of people both inside and outside of corporations want companies that not only say they are ethical, but actually walk the walk ... I have real hope that this will happen. But we're not there yet.'

Plenty of issues about product marketing and social responsibility are raised by this book. As you read it, you'll find it both enlightening and also troubling. Whether you are a consumer or part of the corporate world, there's a lot here to mull over.

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