To what extent unethical marketing techniques could damage the sustainable business environment. Discuss. Marketing is like a double-edged sword, if it is adopted properly, it will give profits to a company; however, if it is used inadequately, it will give harm. It is undeniable that today’s business operations have more intense competition level against each other due to the advancement of technology that allows people to receive more information. Marketing plays the key role in making products being recognized by consumers. To get people’s attention, some massages about the product need to be sent to the target market.
With the high level of competition, the unethical marketing issues arise in order to make their own firms gain more attentions. However, this affects directly on customers as they are misled by dishonest advertisements, and it can impact the organization as well, as it destroys the sustainable business environment of a company. The paper will firstly explain about the selected unethical marketing techniques that commonly used in advertising and promotion with some examples, and then will move on to the discussion about sustainable business environment and the impacts of unethical marketing practices to the organization.
Unethical marketing techniques Dishonest advertising is commonly practiced by today businesses, and it is one of the top ten concerned ethical issues in marketing practices besides bribery and unfair pricing issues (Chonko & Hunt, 2000). The unethical marketing issues in advertisement have been a critical discussion for a long time because it is not a ‘recent phenomenon’. Dishonest advertising can be practiced through the promoting a false or misleading statement about the product in order to draw public attentions as advertisements are the powerful marketing tool persuading people to try and purchase the product (Thachappilli, 2010).
Several selected advertising and promotion tactics that this paper will discuss are individual autonomy, consumer sovereignty, brand parody, and comparative advertising. Individual autonomy is considered to be unethical when a company focuses on those target audiences who have a low level of autonomy or maturity. The advertising targets at a group of people who are lack of ability to aware or respond to the product promoting through the psychoactive ads. This strategy arouses one’s desire toward a particular product, which affects and reflects is self-esteem and social status. It also uses the ‘sneer group pressure’ to lure people to follow the mainstream as they are in the materialism culture. The advertising promotion usually uses the role model to attract the target market. And, the victims of this kind of advertisement, usually, are young people, who lack of experience to recognize the manipulative power of advertising (Nwachukwu et al. , 1997). Unlike adults, children have less ability to differentiate between the marketing and the real fact.
They also tend to belief in the advertisement and likely to have more purchase requests as many of them can influence parents’ spending decision. However, if those children live in poverty, this can trigger numerous social problems: young thieves, young drug dealers, and, the worst case, young murderers. The example of the advertisement that is heavily criticized about targeting on people who are not autonomous is from the famous athlete shoes brand, the Nike Air Jordan campaign.
Critics support that Nike used the role model to target young people, who are not able to afford an expensive pair of athletic shoes (Nwachukwu et al. , 1997). Even though children are a lucrative market, it is unethical to target on them. Consumer sovereignty practice is more ethical when an advertisement focuses on people who are knowledgeable, aware of the uses of the product and the availability of alternative products or brands (high level of sovereignty consumers), but it is unethical when it targets to those who are less aware of these factors (low level of sovereignty consumers).
For example, the consumers in developed countries, like from Europe and North America, are more knowledgeable and sophisticated than the consumers in developing countries, like from Africa. An unethical issue arises when an advertisement focuses on people who do not know about the information about the product, as well as its side effects, and the advertisement tries to misleading them. An example of unethical consumer sovereignty practice is the marketing of infant formula to those unknowledgeable mothers living in less developed nations during 1960s and 1970s.
Those advertisements tried to promote the infant formula by sending out milk nurses, who were actually sales persons dressed up in nurse uniforms, to demonstrate the product and recommend those mothers to feed their babies with the infant formula. They misled the fact that breastfeeding is a better alternative choice. As the result of being uninformed mothers, higher numbers of sick and malnourished babies were reported due to the drop of breastfeeding and over blending the formula (Nwachukwu et al. , 1997).
Hence, it is unethical to market on unknowledgeable group of people as this kind of advertisement fails to reveal the true fact that the consumer should know. Brand parody strategy is the act of using the certain physical trait from media, such as TV series, films, important events in society, book, in a humorous way. There are plenty of parodies in advertising nowadays. Unfortunately, there are limited numbers of researches studying further about a competitor brand parody. Zinkan and Johnson, the first two people studying parody in advertising, stated that “advertising reflects popular culture.
In extreme case, their reflection takes the form of parody”. They also said that the level of success of a parody depends on the high level of recognition of the original advertisement by the audience. If the original one is launched by the popular company and is widely recognized, the parody version will be the talk of the town. Sony, the world’s leading electronic devices company, revealed that ‘only the best are copied’. Thus, the popularity of the original work can guarantee the success of a parody.
However, it is unethical practice when it is done by competitors as it is used to attack rivals’ brand images and/or products. For instance, iPod was parodied by SanDisk. SanDisk posted a website called ‘iDon’t’ to persuade people to use Sansa e200 MP3 player by SanDisk rather than using iPod from Apple with a message said, “the time has come to rise up against the iTatorship. There is an alternative” (Jean, 2011; Krazit, 2006). This shows that SanDisk tried to provoke consumers not to use Apple products, and it is unethical to use a parody to attack a competitor.
Figure 1: iDon’t advertising campaign From http://www. maccast. com/category/random-thoughts/page/4/ Comparative advertising strategy is the ads that mention one product is superior to another product. It is unethical when one company tries to launch advertisements that attack its competitors both directly and indirectly, with or without the mention of competitor’s title and/or goods, but there is a link between the advertiser and the competitors, and the competitors are affected by the campaign (“The danger,” n. d. ; Miskolczi-Bodnar, 2004).
To illustrate, the famous fast food restaurant, Burger King, used the famous clown character, Ronald McDonald, from its competitor’s company, McDonald’s, in Burger King’s TV advertisement. It is obvious that the advertisement tries to communicate that even Ronald McDonald chooses Burger King’s hamburger (MARQUES, 2005). And, this is misleading as it effects McDonald’s reputation. In addition, this TV advertisement was banned in Germany and was a big discussion issue in Netherlands (van Leeuwen, 2005; MARQUES, 2005). Figure 2: Ronald McDonald visits Burger King advertising campaign From: http://www. marques. rg/Newsletters/Downloads/IssueNo081. pdf The sustainable business environment can be greatly impacted by these unethical marketing practices. More and more companies use unethical techniques to market their target group, and sometimes, to beat their competitors. Those companies may select the unethical way to do marketing and may claim that it is technically legal as the action is not against the law, but it fails in term of the ethical view. Nevertheless, it is not worth for those companies to apply unethical marketing strategies as there are negative consequences from using these unethical tactics.
Before discussing about the negative impacts of immoral marketing techniques, let’s take a look at the sustainable business environment first. Lee Cockerell, the former executive vice president of operations for Walt Disney World Resort, gives his opinion about the sustainable business environment by stating that “good leaders are environmentalists: their responsibility is to create a sustainable business environment—that is, one that is calm, clear, crisp, and clean, with no pollution, no toxins, and no waste—in which everyone flourishes” (“Creating a sustainable,” 2009).
It is clear that to have the sustainable business environment, a company should adopt and enforce the ethical ways to do business within the organization. A company is required to go beyond the line: besides following the law, rules, and regulations, a company needs to implement codes of ethics along with activities in the organization to promote and reduce unethical behaviors (Chonko & Hunt, 2000; Nwachukwu et al. , 1997). Being an ethical ompany and having sustainable business environment can give the firm several advantages, which are: creating trust among stakeholders, which can also attract more financial sources from ethical investors: getting positive brand image and word of mouths from customers, which can raise more demand from ethical-concerned customers: enhancing reputation, which can raise brand awareness from society—and these benefit a firm in long-run as working in an ethical working environment can motivate employees—leading to better business performance, and a company will get better support from public (“Ethical issues,” n. . ; Thachapilly, 2010). With the higher degree of competition, a company may adopt unethical marketing techniques to get attention and to attack other companies. However, consumers are now more aware of ethical issues than ever. With the advance of information technology, they have a chance to gain more information and freely give opinions toward a product and service (Thachappilly, 2010). And, this forces a company to implement more ethical techniques in doing a business, including the marketing process, as consumers can trace what advertisers have claimed from the Internet (Perkins, 2007).
If a company is regarded as unethical one or adopting unethical marketing tactics, that company cannot retain its sustainable business environment because of being dishonest to its consumers. The damage of using unethical marketing techniques is detrimental. It will drastically damage the brand image, reputation, and customers’ perception toward a company—and these will impact its operation as the consequence. According to Thomas et al. (2002), intangible evidence, like ethical image and behaviors, is usually evaluated and judged by customers—and this is how customers perceive the brand.
If the customers see that a company adopts unethical tactics, they will perceive that company as a dishonest one, which can affect their future purchasing decisions. Ferrell (n. d. ) stated that “reputation is a marketing asset”. She further explained that it is also another greatest intangible asset of an organization because it built over years of operation. Only one negative occurrence can negatively affect customers’ perceptions toward the brand image and its reputation for a long period of time. This can also impact on sales margin and customer relationship, as a company destroys their trusts.
It takes time to develop positive reputation, but it can be destroyed in a blink of the eye, and it cannot restore right away. All above, customers have high influence on a company as they one of the primary stakeholders: ones who support its product and can make the business run. They may punish a dishonest firm by boycotting its goods, avoiding purchasing, and even condemning the brand on the Internet or social network—this is the power of public opinion (Jean, 2010; Thachapilly, 2009). In shareholders’ dimension, new investors may refuse to buy shares from a company that practices unethical behaviors and has bad image.
Employees may seek for a new job in a good reputation for responsible behavior company as their current workplace is known as unethical firm, they do not have motivation to work for an unethical organization. Moreover, an unethical firm may lose its market shares to competitors who use more ethical techniques. All these consequence damages the sustainable environment of a business. All in all, plenty of unethical marketing techniques are adopted by many business operations. The selected techniques are related to the advertisement and promotion.
First one is advertisements targeting on not autonomous audience, like young people, through the use of their desires, social forces and role models. Second technique is about advertisement focusing on low sovereignty consumer, or those who have limited information about a product and falsely suggested by sales representatives to use that good without knowing that there are other choices of consumption. The third technique is the brand parody strategy, which is the remade version of advertisement by a competitor that can harm the original work’s image and reputation.
The fourth strategy is the comparative advertising strategy that advertisers intend to compare its product with the competitor’s product and persuade that their product is better. Adopting unethical marketing practices can damage the sustainability business environment. Consumers may go against the product from unethical business operators since they have a bad perception toward the brand image. The bad reputation will affect the sustainable environment as well, as it affects investors’ decision making in buying shares from that company.
Employees may resign from the company that has unsustainable business environment as it is titled as an irresponsible and immoral firm and they are lack of motivation to work for an unethical organization. Lastly, the public will support alternative brands that are more ethical in doing their businesses. And, this makes the company losing its sustainable business environment as the unethical ways give only short-term benefits, which is enjoying profits, rather than giving long-term advantages. References Chonko, L.
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