Marketing can be defined as the process by which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationships in order to capture value from customers in return (Kotler & Armstrong). It involves finding out what consumers want and providing it for them. The main goal is to satisfy or delight the customer. If a company satisfies the customers more than others, they succeed. There is also bad marketing, such as adding addictive ingredients in food or beverages to hook customers and influence them to keep buying that product. These kinds of schemes can prove to be effective, but in the long term will have negative results. Some people see marketing as manipulation or story-telling, because brands have used unconscious associations, exaggerations, and children to get consumers to purchase their products, but I see a personal responsibility to buy products you truly need or want.
Advertisements can be used to appeal to consumers to associate feelings with brand image. “Part of the reason this happens is because the brain's emotional systems can function independently from the cortex, the seat of consciousness (www.psychologytoday.com).” Consumers may not know why they prefer one brand over another, but the brands image as we know it, may be built by many different images that we\'ve seen and correlated with that brand. This can be seen as unethical because it is a blurred vision of a product. Many people believe that a product should be able to speak for itself without having to appeal to our involuntary senses. Our brain is a very powerful tool, and some marketers take advantage of that fact.
Some companies tell lies or false facts about products to get people to buy them. These lies are built by deliberately false claims defining a product as something it's not. The term for this type of advertisement is puffery: “Puffery is the term used to denote the exaggerations reasonably to be expected of a seller as to the degree of quality of his product, the truth or falsity of which cannot be precisely determined (Danciu 23).” A typical example of this is the promotion of the industry of diet pills. These pills typically have little to no effect, use bodybuilders or celebrities as actors, and claim rapid weight loss by consumption. By making these assertions, people struggling with weight loss who view these commercials, waste their time and money just to be deflated by the lack of results. This is one of the most unethical forms of advertisement, as it takes a product with virtually no value, and makes consumers believe that they need it.
Some brands use children in their advertisements to push parents to buy certain products. In a Mcdonald's advertisement campaign, they used a young girl and boy to push a product. In the television commercial, the young boy and girl are sitting on a bench together, and the girl asks if the boy considers them boyfriend and girlfriend. The boy declines, and says that she demands to much. Then, “the boy changes his mind when she says she'd be satisfied with a Mcdonald's burger” (Munjal 241). The use of children in this commercial influences the receptibility for young kids. As well as, becoming more appealing to adults finding it cute and maybe having an association with their children. When targeting children in marketing, they are unable to comprehend it objectively, and it exploits their innocence.
Ethical marketing is less strategic, and more honest, factually based advertising of products and brands. In regards to unethical marketing, “‘You know right from wrong,' says Laura Hartman, author of Business Ethics: Decision-Making for Personal Integrity & Social Responsibility. ‘What's tough is standing up for it. Sometimes, it takes a lot of courage to be ethical'” (Meglio, Monster.com). Ethics is somewhat common sense, a set of morals used to complete business. Ethical marketing is much more relational than unethical marketing. It is about building a relationship with customers, and make profit for stakeholders by considering environmental and social morals in products and promotions. There are many relationships to worry about in marketing: customers, shareholders, employees, suppliers, government, environment, and competitors. Business and marketing ethics is a compromise in marketing effectivity and social responsibility. The stronger ethics in marketing seems to show greed levels in a society. As time goes on, it seems we are becoming more content with powerful forces deciding societal issues and standards. Marketing goes on to effect societal behavior, as well as self-image.
One solution for this issue, is a set of policies instated by the government that involves proving statements made in advertisements. This could be a sector in the government that looks into honesty and social agendas in advertising. There should also be an explicit difference between advertising and imagery that appeals to senses. This kind of step in government would be huge, but companies with a lot of advertisement hold a social responsibility. The only issue with this solution is that there is always a way around policies by bending the rules. Overall, ethics isn't something that should need to be enforced, but clearly as we seen in some examples of advertisements, it is.
Another solution to the issue of unethical marketing is the boycotting of companies that use these kinds of advertisements to gain customers. It would be tough for some people to avoid these products, but it would make honest, well valued products more prevalent in our economy. With a lot of issues, the only way to be heard is to take it into our own hands. The uncovering of these unprincipled advertisements would lead to companies being more careful of offending, trying to control, or deceiving society. Strengthening the ethics of big corporations in America could prove to be very beneficial for our society.
Every day, we are surrounded by hundreds of advertisements. Companies are using many different strategies to get their products to consumers. Unethical marketing and advertising is far too common in today's society. Advertisements are often used to speak to consumer's feelings to create an association with a brand's image. Some companies misrepresent products to make them more appealing to viewers. Some brands even try to appeal to children with their advertisements to push parents to buy certain products. Ethical marketing is a less strategic, and more truthful approach to showing customers the value in a product. It is more about developing a loyal relationship with everyone related to the company, and attaining customers based on that reputation. To push out unethical marketing, we must take action. The government must put a stronger filter on the advertisements that meet the eye of consumers. As citizens, we can boycott the companies that we see trying to exploit us into buying their products, in turn, fighting against the hold they have on us.
...(download the rest of the essay above)