Business ethics is a hot issue especially when ethical practices concern the marketing activity of the business. In this situation, achieving the profits and the question of acting ethical in doing business had been the previous studies of most marketing experts and academicians, yet achieving little consensus. The issue here is the question whether what is the right and wrong thing in marketing. As most marketers say, ethical marketing is more of a philosophy of the marketing manager rather than a marketing strategy. Ethical marketing has major elements namely fairness in doing the advertisement of products or services. It involves a high degree of fairness and integrity. For the many marketing managers though, determining whether a marketing activity is right or wrong is hard to determine because it is a question of subjective judgment. Yet, to minimize the issue of subjectivity, companies meanwhile set standards for their advertisement policies and regulations.
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Despite ethical marketing, which companies believe practiced them right, it has some disadvantages and advantages though. For example, a company that practices ethical marketing will often end up having a robust public image, which means incurring big expenses. This action definitely will reduce the company profits as well as weakens the company competitiveness.
Due to the fact that there are no guidelines that govern the unethical marketing, most companies knowingly and unknowingly practice unethical marketing.
Ethics is a rational process founded on agreed-on principles; morals meanwhile are founded on the realm of religion. According to the authors, the choice to do the right thing is based on principle of what is agreed upon and while morals are always founded on the universal law or the commandments of God. Ethical choices are based on what you believe in as your duty and value and to whom do you owe this duty and what value does this duty adheres to. Ethics is not in the choice of what is right and wrong because it falls under morals but ethics starts when there is already that question of morality because it is the value of the individual and the society he serves that should prevail. In this journal, the meaning of ethics applies to the entrepreneurs and how they manage with good practices the idea of entrepreneurship.
In the case of ethical marketing (ethics in marketing), it is described as bringing the product or service to the customers adhering to marketing moral sense and that is taking moral actions that can inspire a positive influence on all the business or company stakeholders that include the community, consumers, employees and shareholders. Simply states, a particular business has the responsibility to communicate the values of its products and services to the customers in manner that would be seen as philanthropic rather than an action that is deceiving. Additionally, ethical marketing in its general sense focuses on fairness, honesty and responsibility.
Examples where marketing is ethical are the following:
1) Truthfulness in communicating the values of the products and services. Simply, the business must tell the prospective clients the real value/s that can be derived from the product or service and not to tell a lie just to encourage the customer to acquire the commodity5.
2) The business must identify the difference between the real advertising and just glamorizing and sensationalizing the product.
3) There are instances where the business just in order for the target customer acquire their product or service overdo or exaggerate the way they communicate the features or characteristics of their product or service which is unfair for their customers6.
4) Endorsement of a certain product or service must be transparent to the prospective clients. In short, bringing the product of service in the awareness of their customers must not be clouded with some unrealistic information in order to deceive the customers.
5) An ethical marketing must consider the privacy of their customers at all times. This would mean that any information from their customer must be considered confidential and should not be part of marketing strategies.
6) Finally, a socially responsible and ethical marketing adheres to the government standards and regulations. There are respective marketing standards that vary from every country. Marketers along this line must act according to their government marketing rules and standards.
Furthermore, marketers must uphold the following ethical values to make sure of socially responsible and ethical marketing activities.
1) Honesty – marketer must be forthright in offering the value of their product and service.
2) This would mean that any business company must possess not only honesty but integrity as well as in communicating their commodities. For instance, what features and benefits are written on the label of the product or service must be realistic and must truly bring the same kinds of features and benefits to the customers.
3) Responsibility – marketer must serve the needs of customers regardless of their segments and the business company must be good stewards of the environment (ex. disposing waste products appropriately).
4) Respect – marketers must consider the differences of people across culture and must not resort to advertising product or service that can insult or embarrass their culture and traditions. For example, in the case of Arab region, marketing of product or service (ex. advertisement) must not insult the culture of Arab people.
5) Transparency – marketing activities must have the spirit of openness in the practice of marketing through constructive criticism, communication, disclosure and any actions.
6) Citizenship – Marketer fulfills legal, philanthropic, economic and social responsibilities to all stakeholders while they give back the benefits to the community as well as protecting the ecological environment.
In summary, ethical marketing is the basic aspect of every business in its desire to operate in the market. Business that practices ethical activities builds strong relationship with its stakeholders and to the community where the business is located. Also, an ethical act that a business demonstrates creates reliable and sustainable relations with its existing customers, thus influencing other more potential and target audience. However, previous literatures suggest that much as businesses would do the ethical act, but with strong competition, most companies are required an exaggeration to sell. Also, other marketers believe that by acting unethically, they attain a competitive advantage, yet this advantage is just short-lived. The drawbacks therefore supersede the benefits that companies derive from its competitiveness.
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