Ethical Issues in Marketing

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Ethical Issues in Marketing: The Context of Developing Countries Introduction: Marketing, in contemporary times, has seen a tumultuous change in the way it's conducted in developing countries. The oft cited dictum that only change is constant in the marketing genre is an apposite one. Just as the media of social communication themselves have enormous influence everywhere, so advertising and marketing, using media as their vehicles, are pervasive, powerful forces shaping attitudes and behavior in today's world. Four reasons are attributed to the fugacious nature of the way marketing practices are being carried out in developing countries 1. The role of Information and Communication technologies: As ICTs evolve so do marketing practices. If yesterday it was television that revolutionized the way advertisements could create a lasting impact on the consumer, then today the internet and phone text messages are doing just that. 2. The world today is an increasingly global village: Social and ethnic boundaries are fast falling in the wake of cable television and the like. 3. Rapid economic expansions in countries like China and India have meant that marketers have to quickly respond to the changing socio-economic scenarios. Millions of people have entered the middle class and millions more are poised to do so. For marketers, the consequences can be mind boggling-as incomes and spending powers rise, marketers have to respond to increasing demands from consumers. 4. Better and improved marketing research has meant that the entire populace is not seen in totality but rather as a congeries of different types of consumers. The Upshot: But the outcome of such developments is that a number of ethical issues have arisen. While the globe is indeed becoming a smaller place, marketers have to bear in mind national, local and cultural sensitivities. Very often, in the hope of tapping a larger consumer base, marketers jump headlong in new markets without keeping in mind ethnic and social issues typical to certain areas. While marketers do have to act with celerity in gaining footholds in emerging markets such as China and India, care has to be taken in ensuring that the mores, etiquettes of the land are not encroached upon. The incorporation of newer technologies has meant that a number of issues such as invasion of privacy and credibility have arisen. Ergo, in these rapidly changing circumstances, marketers and consumers alike face a nimiety of ethical issues that have to be addressed. This paper looks at some of the ethical issues in the developing countries context. Exploiting Social Paradigms In the hopes of making a fast buck, marketers often resort to exploiting social paradigms typical to certain areas. In India, for example, a large multinational corporation ran an ad campaign that depicted a young woman who because of her dark facial complexion was unable to find jobs. But as the ad showed, as soon as the woman started using the facial whiteness cream manufactured by the corporation, she got the job of her choice. Needless to say, there was a big backlash against it and the ad campaign had to be scrapped. On an ethical standpoint, marketers have to exercise restraint in exploiting such social paradigms to their commercial advantage. Surrogate Advertisements In India alcohol and cigarette advertisements were banned outright some years back. However, alcohol and cigarette companies alike are using the avenue of surrogate advertisements to press forward their case. For the viewer though, the 'subtle' pointer towards the real deal is enough as the surrogate advertisements leave no ambiguity in their minds. Subliminal Advertisements One of the most controversial and ethical issues in advertising is regarding subliminal advertisements. Inserting subliminal messages in an advertisement is an inherently misleading action. It is an attempt to manipulate a person's thinking without the person realizing that any such manipulation is occurring....
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