Mars chocolate is one of the worlds leading chocolate manufacturers and employs more than 13,000 people across 110 sites worldwide. As market leaders in their industry, Mars is constantly in the spotlight. Being responsible in the way they conduct business is part of the reason they are in the highly regarded position that they are in today. The sourcing of cocoa however is currently one the greatest ethical dilemma’s facing not only Mars, but all chocolate companies all over the world.
The importance of international marketing ethics across cultures has been noted by a number of authors (Fletcher & Crawford, 2011; Armstrong & Sweeney, 1994; Singhapakdi, Rawwas, Marta & Ismail, 1999). For the leading chocolate company, Mars, effectively managing issues of marketing ethics is detrimental to the brand as it looks to internationalise into the Japanese market. This issue stems from recent investigations into the sourcing of cocoa from the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer, revealing many unethical practices at play. As the international marketing manager for Mars, one must identify and consider the ethical issues surrounding the development of the new chocolate range aimed at the Japanese market, in order to make the greatest impact on the market as possible.
The first and main ethical issue identified in the case is the sourcing of cocoa from sources which have involved the use of child slave labor, children who are not only unpaid and forced to work 10 hours a day but are taken from their homes and trafficked to, in most cases, neighboring countries (Paul Kenyon, BBC Video). Brown and Dacin's (1997) research argues that a company’s CSR record creates a general context for consumer’s evaluation of a company. If consumers are to think that the cocoa Mars uses in their chocolate products are from such sources, then the Mars brand would be seen as a brand that is not socially responsible in their practices, tarnishing the brand name completely.
Secondly, Mars must be extremely cautious as to how they approach the Japanese market, not only because “Japanese consumers are socialized in a cultural environment which is both homogenous and unique” (Erffmeyer, et al., 1999), but also because they do not want to be seen as displaying negative corporate social responsibility (CSR). Research suggests, “negative CSR associations can have a detrimental effect on overall product evaluations, whereas positive CSR associations can enhance product evaluations” (Brown and Dacin 1997, p. 80). Understanding the Japanese consumer in it-self is of upmost importance here to achieve a positive evaluation of the new product.
This also links to the issue of consumer trends within the Japanese market. As a global growing body of work that debates the socially aware and socially conscious consumer continues, marketers must be weary that there is a global consumer trend towards ethical consumerism. The importance of consumer ethical decision-making has been explained by a number of authors (i.e., Fullerton, Kerch and Dodge, 1996; Muncy and Vitell, 1992; Vitell, Lumpkin and Rawwas, 1991; Wilkes, 1978). If businesses, like Mars, are to be effective globally, an understanding of ethical perspectives across cultures is necessary (Becker and Fritche, 1987). It is also important to note that for consumer product manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, consumer (un) ethical decision-making has managerial implications in terms of profitability, marketing strategy control systems and other policies (Fullerton et al., 1996). A final important issue that Mars is to encounter is already established competition within the Japanese market, as such; certain tactics will be needed to gain a competitive advantage over rival chocolate companies.
2. Formulation of Alternatives or Possible Solutions
Recently, global issues of child trafficking and some of the worst forms of child labour, such...