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The ISBF Blog

Marketing Ethics : A Conceptual Study

Posted on December 13, 2016 by Admin  | Academics | Blog

When we try to define ethics, it is a difficult task. It is a vague term. Ethics defines the morality of deeds i.e. it defines what is right and what is wrong. But nobody has ever known that what is the definition of Right and what is the definition of Wrong. It depends upon situation to situation. It is generally said that a lie, which does not hurt anybody is not a lie. Thus it is a relative concept, which has certain black (committing suicide, murder, stealing etc.) and certain white areas (donating organs after death, charity etc.) but a lot of grey areas too such as Euthanasia, where one is often in dilemma of defining right and Wrong. The word ethics has been derived from Greek word Ethos which means “character” that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. When we read this term along with marketing-it refers to all those guiding principles which help in moral conduct of all marketing practices. It includes all areas of marketing from marketing research to product development to distribution and promotion. The reason as to why ethics is necessary in marketing is that there is lot of scope in this area of immoral conduct on part of marketer which may or may not hurt the form of law but may hurt the spirit of law; which may result in loss to largest section of the society i.e. consumer. Consumer is the most sensitive and vulnerable section of the society, because sometimes they are burdened with fulfilling their very basic needs (basic necessities), sometimes they desperately seek the satisfaction of their burning desires (smoking, drinking) and sometimes they are at the mercy of other person for example when a person visits a doctor, he simply rely on every suggestion of him whether it is right or wrong. Thus in all these cases where consumer is helpless, it is the duty of the marketer to help him make the right choice. This is what we call as marketing ethics. But what are the reasons that marketers go unethical.

Today the economies are opening to international trade giving a way to heightened competition in which only that firm will survive having a large consumer base and pile of profits. This is leading to increased pressures on marketers to sell or produce what they can sell. This leads to unethical practices such as dumping, predatory pricing, puffery in advertising etc. In target marketing, a certain segment of the consumer is chosen for selling the product. Although it is an important marketing strategy in the light of the statement that “All consumers are not alike”. But sometimes marketers choose soft targets such as children, women (all fairness products) and other sections such as obese people who can easily be manipulated to buy the product. This leads to unethical marketing practices.

In case of products such as insurance plans, encyclopedia which does not sell on their own, salesmanship becomes very important. But sometimes in the race of selling what marketers have, it results in pressure selling and interferes with the privacy of consumers. For example-when insurance companies sets sales target for their interns, it generally lead to unethical practices as described above. Secondly, with the emergence of marketing as concept consumer have emerged as king of the market. With this concept marketers blindly follow what consumer is demanding without even caring that it may prove to be harmful for the society at large. For example- smoking and drinking are harmful to individual well-being, their advertisement is banned still they are promoted in indirect ways by marketers (Bagpiper soda).

There is one more practice prevalent in market especially in news and media which I think can be called as abusive marketing. Abusive marketing is a case in which, marketers’ sees human suffering as an opportunity to sell and earn profits such as story selling in media, organ selling in medical practices. The reason behind these unethical practices is greed for money. All these unethical practices can earn business profits only in the short run but in the long run business have to face legal damages, loss of goodwill or boycotting.

Thus marketing ethics states that a marketer should develop a moral product which means production and sale of a product which is safe to consumer posing no threat to human life, along with being environmentally sustainable. Secondly, pricing it ethically which means product should be priced rightly such that it is within the reach of masses. Producer should not engage itself in unethical pricing tactics such as discriminatory pricing, or predatory pricing to kill competition. Thirdly, Distributing it fairly i. e. producer should not create artificial scarcity of a product knowingly that demand is very high (black marketing). Along with this it should maintain cordial relationships with its partner in supply. Sometimes producer force retailers in exclusive dealing agreements on the basis of which retailers cannot keep and sell the product of competitors. This is an unethical practice and lastly Promoting it morally-This is the most important of all. Promotion means providing consumer with the right information, so as to avoid market failures. This purpose should be kept in mind, while promoting the product. Most talked about area in promotion is advertising ethics. Sometimes in order to promote a product marketers promote advertising bad in taste (showing sex videos), discriminatory in nature (fairness products), claim exaggeration (puffery), give false and misleading advertisements. All this constitutes unethical practices. Thus ethics is a broader term. There are only few ethical practices which have been legally enforced. But this does not give license to businesses to exploit unethical area. Well-being and sustainability of mankind is above all, this should be taken into account.

For business and management student who have studied concept of corporate social responsibility, this blog will help them in understanding the concept even more because marketing is the area where CSR issues come into the picture at broadest level. Business and management student who have studied concept of corporate social responsibility, this blog will help them in understanding the concept even more because marketing is the area where CSR issues come into the picture at broadest level.

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