The marketing industry acts an an integral interface between a company and consumers. It is the vital form of communication that enables the right portrayal of a company or brand to be represented to the right group of people at the right time and in the right place.
According to the American Marketing Association, marketing is defined as "the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large." ("Definition of Marketing", 2013)
We live in an era where the decisions, perceptions and attitudes made by individuals within society are more influential than ever before. When this is combined with increased competition from the prolific expansion of the market base and access to global markets through globalization, the
Ethics within the marketing industry is imperative. This is partly due to the associated links between marketing and the future. Consumerism is a key element within society that only continues to develop and grow. Adverts and brand images are immersed into the everyday lives of all people, so if these adverts and images don't portray and rally for positive movements then the future of society in general, is not going to be one of positive change.
The Australian Marketing Institute has an aim of strengthening the marketing profession to create value now and lead organizations into the future. An aim that is unachievable without ethical consideration in the products and brands being marketed.
Arguably one of the toughest aspects of marketing is the ability to achieve a balance between the conflicting perspectives of all parties involved in creating an integrated and successful marketing campaign. Moral dilemmas are far from few and far between in this industry but the outcome of achieving morally and ethically correct campaigns is an invaluable accomplishment which can only bring about success not only on a local but global scale also.
Professional ethics are defined as the personal and corporate rules that govern behavior within the context of a particular profession. The marketing industry as a profession has its own professional ethics and number of key indicators of unethical advertising. These indicators or known unethical pursuits, help for marketing professionals to create campaigns that can ethically and morally satisfy the needs of the client, the marketing company, the consumer and the marketing industry. The indicators of unethical advertising include; deceptive advertising, misleading sales literature or sales tactics, price fixing or cartel like collusion, attacking competitors unfairly and solicitation of competitor information by deception
Deceptive advertising is not only an unethical form or advertising but it is also illegal. There are laws in place through The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that do protect consumers from being mislead about products and services available to buy. However, it is important to create a distinction between legal regulation and Ethical responsibility as although in some cases they have a symbiotic relationship, there are also significant differences. Most simply, legal regulation is a force of law issued by various government departments and agencies to carry out the intent of legislation. Where as ethical responsibility is the duty to follow a morally correct path. Andrew Johnson in his chapter ‘a new take on deceptive advertising' makes a statement that “our culture is steeped in morally objectionably bullshit”. His paper “advances the argument that a great deal of advertising (including) advertising that is perfectly legal, is bullshit and therefore unethical”.
If a marketing professional engages in deceptive advertising not only are they creating a bad image for the brand and agency they represent but they are also harming both prospective consumers and competitors. The influence of globalization has already created significant challenges for the marketing industry through the continual increase of a dynamic global environment. So the ability to then try and compete in an international market with unrealistic competition portrayed through deception in advertising creates a huge issue for the industry as a whole.
Deceptive advertising creates a negative domino effect due to the many factors that can be so badly effected by the unrealistic representation of a product or brand.
Misleading sales literature or sales tactics doesn't necessarily involve oral misrepresentation it can also encompass the portrayal of actors as real people with ‘professional' comments about a brand. An example of this is when actors are characterized as doctors in pharmaceutical and medical branded ads. Misleading
advertising can also come in the form of unrealistic representations of men and women in fashion magazines through photo shop
companies must constantly deliver innovative products suited to consumer tastes whilst reflecting corporate governance and social responsibility
The Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) code of ethics is advantageous to its members as it creates clarity and no ambiguity surrounding moral and ethical dilemmas. The advantage of creating a single code of ethics is the ability for a unified industry to be created. Laczniak and murphy in the Journal of Macromarketing speak of the importance to create a single code of ethics for marketing managers as it “generates a connective, holistic approach”. A single code addresses some of the major factors marketing managers should consider if they desire to conduct their marketing campaigns with the highest levels of ethics and social responsibility (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006). The AMI professional code includes all forms of ethical behavior from respecting public interest and competitors to not knowingly associating themselves with a client that uses illegal methods to obtain business (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).
The AMI plays an integral role in shaping the marketing industry and leading it into the future. Their purpose is to over all advance the marketing profession. This is done through emphasising the belief that marketing should be future focused. Marketing as a whole does unveil new possibilities and does allow for potential in ideas markets and businesses to be realised (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006), so the future of marketing is not only imperative to ensure the continuation of new possibilities and the evolution of products in a consumer driven world but also to protect the livelihood of other business professions as all the industries are interdependent.
Ethical and moral dilemmas are not few are far between in the marketing industry. Marketers are constantly faced with challenging issues of the conflicting perspectives of different parties within their working bubble. Each party involved in a marketing venture has different duties and goals they are wanting to achieve, yet they all must come together in the end with one goal, to create a successful and integrated marketing campaign. In creating a marketing campaign, the parties and their intended goals comprise of; the marketer who's goal it is to market the product to consumers, the client who wants their brand or product marketed, and their audience (society) who is looking for a product that while also considering the integrity of the marketing profession as a whole.
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