Striking a balance between ethics and industry has proven elusive in the business world. As a result, ethical marketing is more like a concept that guides all marketing campaigns than it is a marketing tactic in and of itself. Notably, it strives to encourage accountability, justice, and integrity in all ads. The most important part of bad publicity tactics is that they are not all illegal. To achieve a comparative edge in the industry, some businesses engage in unethical advertisements. A company’s management must analyze its promotional campaigns in light of the fact that they have a significant effect on future buyers. Some companies survive on using exaggerated and manipulative claims to trick consumers into buying their products. Mostly, other businesses depend on the continuous improvement of their brand and developing long-term relationships with the customers. Therefore, employing unethical advertising may lead to their failure since their clients do not want to feel cheated by the brands they love most. Notably, businesses should find an amicable way to deal with the ethical dilemma that exists between ethical advertisement tactics and accountability so as to adopt the best advertising policies that will steer the business into profitability. The paper illustrates a moral dilemma of companies regarding determining whether it is the responsibility of a company to refrain from taking advantage of the legal unethical marketing practices to improve their profitability or should the society hold corporations accountable through boycott and public denouncement. Additionally, the paper discusses two of the traditional theories and suggests possible solutions to the dilemma.
Key words: ethics, marketing, company.
The ethical dilemma surrounds the question whether it is the responsibility of the company to refrain from taking advantage of the loophole of unethical marketing strategies that are legal or should the society hold corporations responsible through public denouncement and boycott. The primary goal of any business venture is to make profits to the shareholders. Therefore, each and every effort the company makes should have a direct impact on the levels of profitability. Some business advertising strategies through unethical are profitable to business, and thus the firm should take advantage of their presence (Botterill, MacRury, & Richards, 2013). In some cases, the only way for some companies to make money is through manipulative and exaggerative and manipulative ways so as to lure potential customers. Without the unethical marketing strategies, the businesses could be closed. Consequently, such firms are forced by circumstances to employ all the advertising strategies ethical or unethical so as to stay in business.
On the other hand, the businesses have the social responsibility of upholding ethics in their advertising so as not to give a false information regarding their products. Notably, customers do not want to feel manipulated and cheated by the brands they trust most if such products are described differently than they usually are. Once the society realizes that an individual firm has used unethical advertisement techniques and is not accountable, the society has the right to boycott and possibly denounce the company activities in the community (Idowu, Capaldi, Zu, & Das Gupta, 2013). Therefore, businesses have to decide on whether to engage in ethical marketing which has the long-term disadvantage of limiting the firms’ potential to increased profitability or to participate in unethical marketing strategies and risk an adverse reaction from the society. Therefore, the situation presents businesses with an ethical dilemma that must be solved amicably for the improvement of the company stakeholders and the community as a whole.
So as to provide a harmonious potential resolution to the dilemma, two discussed traditional theories are used. The two approaches include the teleological and the deontological theories. Notably, the two concepts can provide various resolutions to the issue at hand, and both the arguments are centered on the idea that an action is a correct decision when the result is considered moral. The teleological theory is based on the fact that an action is considered moral when it benefits the majority. Consequently, the approach defines the right action regarding the good. The method backs the idea of businesses of using unethical marketing strategies for various reasons. The theory approves any policy that is motivated to benefit the business at large. Therefore, based on the theory, companies can use any legal strategy as long as it bears fruits in the interests of the firm at last. The theory is seen as egocentric as the industry does not put into account the impact of their advertising tactics to the customers. Thus, the better good of the company always guides the minds of policy makers hence aligning the firm with the general business principles. The theory backs the idea behind the concept of utilitarianism where the right thing is classified concerning the promotion of pleasure.
On the other hand, the deontological theory judges the morality of an action based on preset rules and regulations. Therefore, a company makes its marketing decisions based on the determined set of principles. Notably, anything that goes against the set of principles is termed unethical. Remarkably, according to the theory, businesses must adhere to the set values, especially when choosing their advertisement methodology. The method enables the company to mitigate the madness of rushing for profitability while ignoring the preset values and principles of the business. Basing the argument on the first teleological theory, companies should explore all the avenues of attracting potential customers without putting into consideration consumer reactions. The second deontological theory enables companies to do what is right and provide clients with genuine information about their goods and services. The potential customers, therefore, make their decision on whether to subscribe to the products and services sold by the firm without the excessive influence of the intense advertising. Under the theory, the right choice is always the moral one, and unethical practice cannot be justified as good.
The best resolution for the ethical dilemma is to adopt deontological theory in ethical advertising techniques and accountability. Based on the theory, motivation is valued over consequences which are beyond the control of the business. A wrong motive cannot be justified by an unforeseen real consequence, but an ethical one can be warranted. Therefore, a corporation can defend its advertising strategies and since the procedures have undergone the assessment about their validity and ethicality (De George, 2014). Notably, the primary benefit of any business venture are the investors who cannot be able to make profits without the society. Therefore, corporations should always adopt advertising methods that are not deceitful to the general public. Remarkably, deontological theory promotes justice and sobriety in the business world by adopting ethical marketing strategies that promote justice even though the larger beneficially is not the business itself. Therefore, firms are forced to choose their egocentrism and focus on justice for the consumers. Notably, consumers are justified in knowing the real nature of the goods and services provided by the business through ethical advertising. The theory motivates companies to act the same way and emphasize that the best choice is the one that places the value of humanity first.
Ethical relativism is the theory that is based on the aspect that morality is about the norms of one’s culture. Under the theory, there are no moral standards against which a corporation’s practices can be judged. The aspect brings conflict in businesses in the global market as cultures in the outside world are different. Therefore, ethical relativism is potentially dangerous to the companies as that gain the right to distort what is right. Through globalization, businesses are exposed to a myriad of ideas from other firms. Consequently, the company may feel the urge to try the new business ideas regardless of their set rules and regulations. Notably, the principle goal of any business venture is to make profits, and thus they are liable to adopting any advertisement strategy that has ever worked for other companies elsewhere in the world. Therefore, a business that has taken deontological theory in designing its publication strategies find it difficult to cope up with globalization. Consequently, such businesses never grow nor revolutionize (Turban, King, & Lang, 2011). Business managers should be aggressive in seizing the available opportunities in the market so as to lift their businesses to the next level of profitability. Through globalization, businesses can be able to learn new ways of doing business and pay more attention to cultures and values that add value to the firm. Notably, globalization should not lead to relativism. Learning of the new ways of doing business for corporations from other establishments all over the world does not mean adoption of the cultures in the firm’s practices. Noteworthy, it is the diversity of the goods and services offered in the international market that makes the trade mutually benefit the trading businesses.
To sum it up, the advertisement is a tool used by companies to persuade potential customers into buying goods and services produced by the firm. The tool is useful in branding a business, and it provides an avenue that the enterprise can use to increase the consumption of its goods and services. Therefore, ethical practices should be upheld so as to ensure the right impact on the advertising strategies to the business. Particularly, companies should critically analyze their ethical advertisement tactics and accountability as the success of the firm is highly dependent on their effectiveness. Therefore, to deal with the ethical dilemma discussed in the paper, a corporation should deduce a compromise between the teleological and the deontological theories so as to come up with advertising strategies that are excellence and of benefit to the business. The two theories have major pros and cons, and thus the firm should seek to mitigate the cons of each theory and adopt the best practices of the principles. Finally, businesses should be concerned with the fundamental goal of providing profits to the stakeholders, but they should not also forget the social responsibility they have to the society.
Botterill, J., MacRury, I., & Richards, B. (2013). The dynamics of advertising. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.
De George, R. (2014). Business ethics. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.
Idowu, S., Capaldi, N., Zu, L., & Das Gupta, A. (2013). Encyclopedia of corporate social responsibility. Berlin: Springer.
Turban, E., King, D., & Lang, J. (2011). Introduction to electronic commerce. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.