Being ethical as a marketer has its advantages as well as its disadvantages. The ‘negative’ advantages are obvious, all of which point to personal and business gain. However, to say that one must act unlawfully to be unethical would be false. The provided statement is completely factual and is particularly relevant to marketing and, more accurately, business, in the fact that “ethics are not, by definition, counterproductive to profit, but may be beneficial to profit.”
Hypothetically, a marketer would need to accept the above statement as ‘bible’ in reference to the marketing mix, or rather simply, ‘the four P’s (price, product, promotion and placement).
The simplistic fundamentals of marketing and business, the marketing mix is essential to the success of a business and their respective products, so it is appropriate that it also be applied to another quintessential factor of business in ethics.
The first and arguably most important aspect of the marketing mix, price can pose quite a few ethical dilemmas and has done so in the past.
One example of this is price collusion or price-fixing. This is where a product or service is set at an unreasonable price with knowledge that the consumer can’t afford not to purchase the product or service. One such instance of this occurred in America when leading toy chain Toys ‘R’ Us “violated federal trade laws by colluding with manufacturers to keep prices for Barbie, Mr. Potato Head and other popular toys artificially high.” While it was unlawful, it was also an unethical act as well as a form of extortion.
The second factor of the marketing mix, product, is also subjected to ethical dilemmas. Planned product obsolescence is a prime example of an unethical act in relation to product. This is where there is a planned life-span of a good, producing a product so that it will wear out inside a period of time, most often beyond it’s warrantee. To say such an act is unethical is to question how much disclosure of information is truly enough. In my personal opinion, it is a wrongful act and one that I consider unethical. On the other end of the spectrum, acting ethically and creating a reliable product would be just as beneficial to a company and it’s reputation, if not more so.
Promotion can also be unethical. Attempts to persuade someone that a product is ‘needed’ by them when it quite obviously is not is wrong, especially when there are so many influential consumers in the market. Intrusive marketing is unethical as well. Alternately, promoting a product responsibly and ethically can be quite beneficial to a business, particularly when the “highest standard of moral conduct” has been reached, which makes a business appear conscious of unethical behaviour. One example of this is the Body Shop which is the benchmark in ethical business practices in Australia.
Product placement is often quite deceptive. Some may consider the issue of placing products on certain ‘eye-levels’ on a shelf as well as promoting impulse buying via product placement as unethical. Such acts are generally taken for granted in today’s consumer-driven society and are not seen as a disadvantage to the consumer, though some people, particularly parents, may be more vulnerable to this unethical practice.
If I were faced with an unethical dilemma in my workplace I would have to consider a variety of matters. Having done so, there is a set variety of steps that would need to be looked at taking before resolving the issue or issues.
The external factors of price deception, product deception, fairness and honesty may come up as being ethical dilemmas. These issues would make consumers view my place of work in a negative way and would need to be dealt with quite thoroughly. The reputation of the workplace and that of myself amongst my peers, family and the industry would need to be taken into account when acting upon such issues. I would probably have to mention it to someone of a higher authority though and help them to decide whether it would be beneficial to act upon these matters.
The external issues of bribery and, confidentiality, are two other matters one may come across in the workplace. These are both very real and very sensitive matters that can destroy a company from the inside. I would consider taking the matter to the police if it were seriously affecting me personally or the company quite badly. I would also consider confronting the offender/s, though this is a very unlikely option.
In all of the above cases, the options are quite clear though the steps that can be performed or should be vary. It depends on the situation as to whether one should keep the issues secretive and internal or the consumers should know about the company’s ethical wrong-doings. To ask this is to ask whether society would be better off if information is disclosed. On a personal level, one must consider his or her own reputation and financial and social well-being. It is a very complicated matter and one with no set procedure.
The first issue I chose from the advertisements scrutinized by the Advertisement Standards Bureau was that of the Just Jeans advertisement. The ASB’s decision to uphold the complaint is one which I agree with in some respects. The violence and Health and Safety factors are quite disturbing and are justifiably held up. There is an aura of horror in the description of the advertisement which can be distressing to fragile people influenced negatively by that sort of thing. It is also quite dangerous and gratuitous.
The complaint regarding portrayal of sex, sexuality and nudity is quite silly I believe. Though it might seem a bit risqué to the untrained eye, society should have learned to gradually accept the aspect of ‘sex sells’ by now. Soap operas, billboards and even teenage reading publications use sex, nudity and sexuality to market their various products and services, it’s become a way of life and to argue against it would be to be taking on something much too dominant and widely accepted to be warranted.
The Advertiser Code of Ethics is ridiculous in this sense, not taking into account the changes in our culture and the acceptance of sex, sexuality and nudity by the wider population. Having said that, I believe that industry self regulation is weak in this aspect. The wider social acceptance of the level of gratuity an advertiser can use should be taken into account and as long as there are so few people setting so many rules, I doubt this will ever occur.