The Ethics of marketing

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					                                           The Ethics of marketing.

Here we are in the middle of a TOK lesson!

“Marketing ethics is the area of applied ethics which deals with the moral principles
behind the operation and regulation of marketing.” Source: Wikipadia.

The are lots of issues concerned with the morality of marketing. There are those who
oppose any kind of marketing as it must commit at least one kind of evil.
        It reduces an individuals personal freedom
        It harms competition, and stops markets functioning properly
        It changes societal norms.                For example it encourages consumerism or
         environmental damage.

The marketing spend (Some) Companies spend a fortune on their marketing. Is this
really a good use of the planets scarce resources. Couldn‟t that money be better spent?
                             Or, is it artistic expression. For example, De Vinci, and
                             Michelangelo didn‟t just paint/sculpt whatever they liked.
                             They were paid by the Medici‟s and Popes to produce
                             specific works that would send a specific message to
                             specific people. How is that any different to advertising
                                       Sony Bravia balls
                                       Sony Paint
                                       Sony Bunnies
                                       Making of Sony Paint
                                       Making of Sony balls
                                       Guinness tipping point
                                       Making of tipping point

Figure 1Michelangelo's The Last
Judgment. Saint Bartholomew is
shown holding the knife of his
martyrdom and his flayed skin.
The face of the skin is recognizable
as Michelangelo.

Affluenza It has been claimed that marketing has lead to the rise in conditions such
as affluenza. This is the idea that the desire to constantly „keep up with the Jonses‟
leads to unhappiness and possibly even mental illnesses.

                                             IB Business & Management
                                               The ethics of marketing
Stereotyping        It is common to group people into segments with certain
charecteristics when marketing. Either your customers or those you portray in your
marketing. This could have the effect of reinforcong stereotypes
Targeting the vulnerable Marketing is often criticised for focusing on vulnerable
members of society. These are the people who are least able to resist the power of the
advertising because they maybe uneducated or more desperate than others. A
commonly used example of this is Nestle baby milk 1 . Nestle are accused of
encouraging mothers in poor parts of the world to use their expensive baby formula
rather than breast milk which is, of course, free. It is further argued2 that breast milk is
actually better for the babies too. They are accused of dressing up employees as
health workers to convince mothers that formula is the best and most healthy option.
One of my pet hates is McDonalds, and how they use their vast ($2 billion) worldwide
marketing campaign (Source to lure young children into eating
expensive, nutritionally worthless, fattening food3. However, do they break any laws?
(probably not!). Especially if you live in a democracy then you can stand for election to
change laws you don‟t like. We could all take action by not buying the products, or
standing up to our children when they start pestering us.
Another organisation that I usually don‟t have a good word to say about is Manchester
United FC. A few years back they faced heavy critisism for the cost, and the variety of
versions of their replica footabll kit, and the fact that the club would bring a new
version out very quickly. The critisim focused upon the number of children who wanted
the kits, but their parents couldn‟t afford them. However, is anyone forcing you to buy
them? Or, alternatively, are Man Utd using their vast influence to target the vulnerable,
in this case children who don‟t comprehend the cost of things?
Exclusion Marketing leads to the exclusion from society those who cannot aford to
buy. Or those who are not seen as being profitable enough to bother with. A chatge
often levelled at supermarkets. They need vast space to make their economies of scale
business model work, so they base themselves on the edge of towns where rent is
cheap. This is fine if you have a car. If you can‟t afford a car, then you are forced to
shop at the more expensive alternatives, thus making you less well off.
Price wars This is a crtisim also often levelled at supermarkets. They are, it is argued,
guilty of charging too little! “How can this be?” I hear you ask “Surely, the cheaoer
the better?”. Artificially low prices will drive out smaller local competition thereby
leaving people with no choice but to use the supermarket even if you didn‟t want to.
They are then free, of course, to jack those prices up a bit. They are also accused of
giving the illusion of artificaially low prices, by focusing on a tiny number of goods in
their range, and heavily promoting those, while the others are not really all that cheap.
Next critism is that they force huge discounts out of their suppliers to finance these
special offers, using an unfair threat of delisting if they don‟t agree. There are also

    I hasten to add that Nestle would strongly deny any wrong doing of any sort.
    Can‟t find the facts to back it up one way or the other
    Again, they would strongly deny doing anything wrong at all.
                                             IB Business & Management
                                               The ethics of marketing
environmental concerns about this, that it is not possible to produce healthy food at
such low prices.
Taste It may be considered to be in bad taste to market certain products such as
condoms because some (who?) would argue that it promotes promiscuity. So, by
marketing some products we are encouraging undesirable behaviour. Also see a BBC
article on how Tesco‟s is accused of encouraging binge drinking.
Planned obsolesence        Many companies are accused of planning second rate
products as an intital product launch, and then an upgrade a short while latter. Or,
they know that the product will fall aprt after a certain length of time and therefore
need replacing. Thus providing them with another opportunity to sell you something.
Spyware      When using (an often „free‟) piece of software, it may be sending valuable
information on the websites that you are browsing. Firms can then sell that information
as secondary market research. Are these companies invading your privacy or is there
no such thing as a „free lunch‟?

Nobody is forcing people to buy this stuff. Although the argument against marketing is
that they are forcing you to buy it.



                                       IB Business & Management
                                         The ethics of marketing

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