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Marketing Ethics Characteristics: implications and examples

Identify two characteristics that make marketing ethics special (different from accounting ethics), and explain the implications of these unique characteristics on the ethics of marketing decisions. Give examples to illustrate.

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Ethics is the study of moral principles that guide conduct. There are two schools of thought on the study of ethics in marketing:
? 'Let the buyer beware' - this point of view says that the right of the seller is the central view. A company using this view has little regard for consumer's needs and wants.
? 'Let the seller beware' - in this view, customer satisfaction may be taken to the extreme. No matter what the customer does, it is OK.
Ethicists believe that Relationship Marketing is a reasonable practice that leads to positive relationships between buyers and sellers. Relationship marketing allows buyers and seller to work together. This disadvantage is that this takes time to develop and may be difficult to develop.

Marketers must be aware of ethical standards and acceptable behavior. This means that marketers must recognize that there are three viewpoints: the company, the industry and society. When there is a difference between the needs of the three aforementioned groups, a conflict may arise. Ethical conflicts may also arise when one's personal values conflict with the organization. Ethical dilemmas facing marketing professionals today generally fall into three categories: tobacco and alcohol promotion, consumer privacy and green marketing.

Standards for ethical marketing tend to guide business in efforts to do the right thing. There are four functions of these standards: to help identify acceptable practices, foster internal control, avoid confusion and facilitate a basis for discussion.

The American Marketing Association has identified the following rules to guide marketing behavior:
1. Responsibility of the marketer - accept responsibility for the consequences of their activities and make every effort to ensure that their decision, recommendations and actions function to identify, serve and satisfy all relevant publics: customers, organizations and society.
2. Honesty and fairness - uphold and advance the integrity, honor and dignity of the marketing profession.
3. Rights and duties in the marketing exchange process - participants should be able to expect that products and services are safe and fit for intended uses, that communications about the offered product is not deception, that all parties intend to honor their obligations in good faith, and that internal methods exist for equitable adjustment and/or redress.
4. Organizational relationships - marketers should be aware of how their behavior influences the behavior of others in organizational relationship. They should not demand, encourage or apply coercion to encourage unethical behavior in the relationship with others.

The marketing concept has become synonymous with having a consumer orientation and the 'societal marketing concept' extols the need for marketers to consider the wants and long-run needs of both society and consumers.
One option for people faced with a moral dilemma is to deny responsibility and one way of doing this is to claim 'moral sanctuary'. That is, the person essentially argues that the normal rules and constraints of ethics and morality do not apply in the current situation. Supporters of this argument claim that business is like a game and therefore the normal rules of society do not apply, or that one cannot survive in business if one is too ethical. Since games are governed by rules that specify not only how, but also where and under what conditions a game is played, even games require ethical conduct. In business, in so far as a person must make a living or purchase goods, he/she is of necessity a participant in the game and therefore cannot choose whether or not to participate. Also, it is possible to be ethical and survive in business.
The second option when faced with a moral dilemma is to transgress, then justify the transgression. Some examples are:
? Denial of responsibility. Individuals argue they are not personally accountable due to factors beyond their control, e.g., 'I couldn't help myself'.
? Denial of injury. Individuals content that their violating behavior is not really serious, since no one directly suffers because of it, e.g., 'What's the big deal? No one was hurt'.
? Denial of victim. Individuals counter any blame for their actions by arguing that the violated party deserved whatever happened, e.g., "If they're foolish enough to believe that, it's their own fault they were taken advantage of'.
? Condemning the condemner. Individuals deflect moral condemnation to those ridiculing them by pointing out that they engage in similar disapproved behavior, e.g., 'I was only doing what others do all the time'.
? Appeal to higher loyalties. Individuals argue that their violating behavior is the by-product of their attempt to actualize a higher order ideal or value, e.g. 'I did it because it was better for all concerned'.

Thirdly, people accept a need for ethical conduct but never consider the question of ethics because they believe that good business is good ethics. The rationale is that the very requirements for a profitable business constitute a morality and leave business executives with little choice but to do good and avoid evil. Organizations who adopt this philosophy put themselves at risk of unethical conduct because they do not acknowledge the ethical consequences of their actions. On the other hand, proponents of good ethics is good business suggest that a corporation must have integrity in order to achiever long term profitability. Some corporations want to appear good and not be good.

The objectives of marketing, the marketing concept and even the language of marketing may contribute to the problem used to justify particular business and practices. The needs and wants of consumers and the wider concerns for the impact on society are only of concern to the marketer to the extent that they affect the objections of the operation; one objective being profitability. Marketers adopting this orientation remain oblivious to the likely consequences of their actions. The language of business also presents problems. 'War' and 'Competition' are two metaphors in marketing. This language emphasizes the notions of power, control and dominance - the opposite of concern, caring and cooperation. Even the marketing concept may lead to the risk of unethical behavior. Because marketing concepts appear to put the needs of the consumer and society first, they may lead the public to believe that marketers are behaving in an ethical manner, regardless of whether they are. Since the concept embrace an ethical dimension, marketers may also believe their actions are ethical by definition.

What can be done about this? A number of different approaches can be considered:
1. Examination of values. Business people could and should examine their own attitudes, values and behavior.
2. Apply normative principles. Business people could and should be introduced to different systems of ethical analysis. Hosmer (1988) refers to four principles that he believes should be taught:
a. The Utilitarian Principle. Act in a way that results in the greatest good for the greatest number.
b. Kant's Categorical Imperative. Act in such a way that the action taken under the circumstances could be a universal law or rule of behavior.
c. Personal Justice. Act so the least advantaged members of society will be benefited to some extend.
d. Personal Liberty. Act so the ability of other members of society to lead lives of self-fulfillment and self-development will be maximized.
3. Apply 'rules of thumb. There are also less formal 'rules of thumb' that can help get in touch which one's own ...

Solution Summary

The well-cited, 4500 word solution presents a full explanation of business ethics in both the marketing field and the accounting field. One example used is Enron.