Ethics And Social Responsibility In Marketing

Ethical Issues in Marketing

Discuss about the Ethics and Social Responsibility in Marketing.

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Marketing ethics is a very contentious issue in the modern business world. It is hard for companies to adhere to ethical marketing techniques and attract customers to buy their products. Ethical marketing involves companies making factual claims and still satisfy the consumers’ needs (Brenkert, 2008). Most companies result to dubious marketing means to convince the consumers to choose their products over others. Unethical marketing approaches include making unverified claims, exaggerating, distorting facts to mislead potential buyers and using sexual contents in advertisements. In making money, businesses have to remember that they have an obligation to society and should not erode the moral values the community has built. High competition and weak marketing system governance are some of the leading causes of the spread and development of unethical marketing practices. The role of this essay is to identify and discuss ethical issues in the marketing field.

Ethical marketing issues take place in the following dimensions; the company foresees a ‘harm’ that either consumer is likely to embrace values that make their lives or even dependents worse (Ferrell & Linda, 2016). It may also involve a situation where users can rightly complain of being pressured or being deceived into purchasing a certain product while the company makes a profit. Ethical marketing cover from market research to advertisement of the product. The issues include; invasion of privacy and stereotyping during market research, targeting the vulnerable i.e. children and unethical advertising i.e. puffery. Companies use a variety of these unethical techniques to boost their sales. The most common issue in marketing is direct marketing by the media especially the television and the radio stations through advertisements.

Direct marketing is the most widely used form of marketing by companies. It presents a lot of controversies particularly in that the approaches are unsolicited for example the television and radio commercials and direct emails (Chung et al., 2012). Through these two media information about a product is disseminated quickly and directly to a customer. Direct marketing puts the information out in the public targeting everyone. Though it may be seen as ethical, it is a marketing issue as it involves disseminating information directly to an individual without their consent. Most of the information is exaggerated and too little for a buyer to have adequate information about the product. The information is little because the companies are charged for using the media if it is television and thus the little time they are offered they want to attract the highest number of customers possible. The companies thus tell the television viewers of only positive facts about the product hiding information about the potential harm the product may cause. 

Direct Marketing

Selective marketing is another common ethical issues in marketing. It is used by companies that only target a given portion of the market, for example, the non-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (Saucier, 2008). Through this marketing practice the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities are discouraged from the marketing process. Ethnic minorities and plus-size groups are also victims of such ethical marketing issues. Through selective marketing, a product is associated with a larger group of people who ‘may be’ of a different opinion to another minority group. This creates a vibe in which the sales of the product thrives in to boost its sales. A consumer who does not like the group excluded in the marketing of a product will apparently feel very comfortable using the product and make it his or her brand.

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Exaggeration and distortion of facts are the leading techniques in deceptive marketing. Deceptive marketing can take various forms for example humor. Some advertisement involves the use of humor to dupe customers into buying their products. Some marketers take advantage that humor provides some escape to various human constraints to deceive people into buying their sub-standard products (Hendrie et al., 2016). Exaggeration is the most commonly used style in deceptive marketing. In the weight loss industry, individuals are cheated that certain products can help achieve weight loss in limited period i.e. two weeks without even going to the gym. Such an industry has a lot of ethical issues in marketing. Of course, people who want to shed weight will go for the product as it guarantees a result but what is the real efficiency of the product. Does it guarantee a weight loss of one kilogram or ten pounds after two weeks? That information will not be given out to the consumer.

Bait and Switch are another ethical issues in marketing. It involves setting baits for customers through an advertisement for low priced products that the customers later find are unavailable in reality. The customers are then switched towards a costlier product that was not advertised. The goods substituting the one’s advertisement often are either more expensive or have inferior quality. In most cases, the consumer will never know that he was duped into buying an inferior product or a costlier product. Using bait and switch is subject to a lawsuit in Australia and many other countries like the United States and England (Pettigrew et al., 2015).

Selective Marketing

Use of sexual content is another critical ethical issue in marketing. In most instances, it involves the use of half-naked women who attract attention to the product and service being advertised. In the advertisement of beauty products and cosmetics it might be intuitive but in the marketing of smartphones and cigarettes amongst other products, it is unethical. The use of sexual content erodes the moral values of the society, and it attracts lawsuits by the government. Since it is a growing trend as the younger generations, embrace it and see it as being modern or fashionable it sets a bad example for the growing kids. Such advertisements are not even hidden, and any person of any gender and age can access them quickly. The use of this unethical marketing technique is quite alarming, and the government and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) should act swiftly in curbing this practice before our younger generation is lost.

Spamming involves sending unsolicited emails to people urging them to consume your product (Jones & Van, 2008). Spamming is very common online, and many companies are embracing it very fast. The moment when you send an email to a company seeking help or even filing a complaint, they capture your email address and put it in their database. What follows is regular emails sent to an individual informing him of product changes, newer developed products, and benefits of using their product. It is easy as these days when you purchase a product you have to register for warranty and thus provide an email address during the process. Most organizations are spammers and use it widely to market their products.

Careers Australia is one of Australia’s biggest private vocational education providers. In 2016, the company faced a lot of legal issues due to its unethical marketing issues. It was alleged to be enrolling vulnerable students into expensive courses over the phone. The organization had settled on ‘cold calling’ as a marketing technique even though the Australian Government had banned cold calling to protect its consumers and stop unethical marketing practices. The organization used job websites to get telephone numbers of vulnerable students and enroll them. The company used laptops as incentives to close deals with students. These laptops are offered as loans to students without knowledge that at the completion they have to be returned.

In another ethical issue in marketing, Careers Australia was charged by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and was ordered to pay back $44 million to Government for signing vulnerable students using false claims and never actually providing the study (Hendrie et al., 2016). The company admitted to ACCC that through its door to door agents, they made misleading representations and engaged in unconscionable conduct. They duped the students that its courses were free and that they would help them to find jobs while offering inducements such as laptops and iPad for free. It was a very unethical marketing practice adopted by the company to market their services widely and attract more students to make more money both from government and the students.

Exaggeration and Distortion of Facts

The Philip Morris (Australia) Limited is a subsidiary of Philip Morris International engaging in tobacco manufacture. The Company came under severe pressure by the government and ACCC for their advertisement of the product. Their commercials seem to target teenagers. Their advertisements encouraged children to smoke. There adverts helped teens to not become a ‘Maybe’. The adverts included one of a young couple kissing and acting in radical, decisive and adventurous ways. The advert includes a caption that “Maybe never fall in love”. Through their advertisement, they are encouraging teenagers to smoke and engage in immoral behavior so as to fit in. The campaign exploited adolescents search for identity by suggesting that in the face of uncertainty they should become tobacco smokers. Through using images with sexual content, Philip Morris engaged in unethical marketing practices and selective marketing. The marketing technique was found to erode moral values, and health care stakeholders filed a suit. According to the law, tobacco manufacturers have to issue a severe health warning to its consumers but not extend their market to teenagers and young adults (Cowie et al., 2014).

The company also faced other charges for violating the tobacco control laws in Australia. It was found to violate its global campaign of litigation and intimidation that was aimed at stopping, watering down and delaying life thus safeguarding the health of the public. The company is challenged to be accountable for its marketing practices and adhere to the laid down rules regarding commercialization of tobacco. The company should not use illegal and unethical tactics to addict people to its dangerous product.


Marketing field has a lot of ethical issues that it faces.  Most shrewd business people will resolve to use unethical and illegal tactics to market their products. The Australian government should enact strict laws and punishment to offenders of such mal-practices. The ACCC should be given adequate powers to regulate the marketing field.


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