The question of whether or not marketing is completely unethical is the
question most critics of marketing seem to be focusing their attention on.
Ethics provide the basis for deciding whether a particular action is morally
good or morally bad (Britt 553). But, each individual develops different
opinions, moral standards, and values. So, marketers will deal with similar
issues differently because there is no “correct” way to handle any given issue.
Marketers face various types of ethical issues in their everyday marketing
activities. Such marketing activities that require marketing managers to
utilize their moral values ethically are advertising, packaging and labeling,
and global marketing.
“Advertising is the most criticized of all micro-marketing activities
(McCarthy 643).” What is considered as unfair or deceptive advertising is very
difficult to pinpoint, because times have changed and continue to change on a
day to day basis. What one person may consider unfair or deceptive may not be
unfair or deceptive to another person. There are no clear cut guidelines for
marketing manager’s to go by, so they must utilize their own judgement based on
their own moral standards. But, in the United States their is an administrative
agency that has the power to control unfair or deceptive business practices.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was created in 1914 to prevent “unfair
methods of competition in commerce (commercial trade) and unfair or deceptive
acts or practices in commerce (Miller 590)”. The FTC issues guidelines that
define unfair practices and in some instances the FTC will investigate
widespread complaints to seek settlement of the complaint. The FTC has also set
forth specific rules to govern certain advertising practices such as bait-and-
switch advertising. Bait-and-switch advertising occurs when a seller
advertises a product at a very low price to lure in consumers, but when
customers come in to purchase the product; the seller either doesn’t have the
product available or the product is of very low quality and the seller then
encourages the customer to purchase a more expensive substitute. The Federal
Trade Commission also enforces laws that govern packaging and labeling.
In the past, there had been much criticism concerning packaging and
labeling, so much that in 1966 the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act was
passed. The Act requires that labels must be accurate and easily understood by
consumers. The Act also governs packaging descriptions and savings information
that is disclosed on labels (Miller 529). Marketers face some morally difficult
situation in which they must make ethical decisions. Such a situation could be:
The marketer’s Research and Development department has
modernized one of the companies products. The product isn’t really “new and
improved”, but the marketer knows that putting that slogan on the
package and advertising it would increase sale. What should the marketer
do? This is one type of situation that many marketers may face in their careers.
If the marketer should decide in favor of such a decision his or her behavior
would be considered immoral. But, if he or she doesn’t decide in favor of the
act then he she may be considered an inefficient manager.
Marketing managers also face ethical dilemmas about whether their
products help or hurt consumers in less developed nations. The marketer must
evaluate the benefit and the risks of serving such nations, then he or she must
weigh those benefits against the risks by using his or her on judgement based on
what they feel is morally right or wrong. The marketer must also take in
consideration the literacy level in such less-developed nations.
Marketing ethics are moral standards that guide marketing decisions and actions
(McCarthy, 26). Today’s companies must form clear policies to guide marketers
in their marketing decisions so they can be socially responsible individuals.
The decisions that the marketer makes has a big influence on how others see the
company. The employees must choose between what is in the best interest of
themselves, the company, or that of society as a whole