Consumer behaviour in marketing ethics

Topics: Consumer protection, Ethics, Business ethics Pages: 6 (1883 words) Published: January 22, 2006
Marketing can undoubtedly bring benefits to society, although some aspects of marketing may be questionable on ethical grounds. The aim of this assignment is to raise criticism of marketing and show that consumer behaviour is affected by ethical issues. Do consumers really care about marketing ethics?

Ethics is a complex concept to define, and there is an attempt made by contemporary theorists to highlight ethical behaviour in a marketing context. Issues surrounding marketing ethics and social responsibility are inherently controversial. An area that causes particular dispute is the question of the effect of ethical and unethical marketing activity in regards to the purchasing behaviour of consumers. According to the contemporary theory of ethics one would like to think that being a ``good company'' would attract consumers to your products, whilst unethical behaviour would see customers boycotting the products of the offending organisations.

In order to judge both sides of marketing ethics, we must understand why the consumers believed that purchasing a product was in fact in their best interest or whether or not the marketing concepts behind the product used elements of deception. Marketers used deceptive techniques to influence the 'weak spot' within consumer's minds, in order to play into their weaknesses. The evolution of marketing has progressed from the point of necessity to an indulgent of excess. Times have changed with consumers better informed, more educated and an increased awareness of greater consumer rights and product requirements especially in the developed countries. This awareness does not necessarily mean that consumers actually participate in ethical buying practices, simply because the issues raised do not affect the majority of people's concerns.

Most organisations want the consumers to hold a positive view of the company, as reputation is built on an image. The Co Op banking group hold a very ethical and clean cut image represented by its policies to fund environmental causes, where as other leading banks are more concerned about return on capital.

We are at an age where information is available from a click of a button, with the accessibility of the internet and various other media sources, to inform us of any corporate wrong doings. This has led to a rise in consumer activism, for example the boycott against petrol retailers in the UK due to high prices. We also had a highly publicised boycott of French imports during the BSE crises, as well as the ongoing global Nestle boycott over infant formula marketing practices. There is evidence that companies do suffer commercially from boycotts; Shell were estimated to have lost between 20 per cent and 50 per cent of their sales during the Brent Spar boycott (Klein, 2000), and the Nestle boycott is said to have cost the firm $40 million (Nelson-Horchler, 1984). Global availability of the internet has led to protests by consumer advocacy groups against Nike and McDonalds.

The Nike swoosh and McDonalds golden arches are amongst the worlds well known corporate trademarks.

Numerous sponsorship deals with major athletes from Michael Jordan (basketball) to Lindsay Davenport (tennis) to Tiger Woods (golf) have helped make Nike a leading brand of sports footwear and apparel worldwide. Nike is seen by many consumers as brand leaders due to the high prices of goods and high profile sponsorship of events and teams. So why was Nike publicly criticized on ethical grounds?

Nike started outsourcing from Japan, as the Japanese market matured a decade after Nike began contracting there for shoe production. Nike shifted its operations to cheaper Taiwanese and Korean suppliers, followed by China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Nikes control over and awareness of the factory conditions decreased with each successive production level outsourced to subcontractors. In June 1996, the conditions of Nike's factories became a nationwide media topic due to...

References: Principles of Marketing F.Brassington S.Pettitt 2nd Edition 2000
International Marketing, International addition, 4th Edition, M.R.Czinkota I.A.Ronkaiaen
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