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Marketing in the 21st Century
Marketing in the 21st Century

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2 Marketing and ethics

As a manager you may have to make decisions that raise ethical issues. Ethics is an important and growing consideration within marketing, from the perspective of both marketers and consumers.

The growth of fair trade and organic produce reflect customers’ willingness to spend more money for the same product if they perceive ethics have been applied to product sourcing.

Marketing ethics question whether particular marketing activities can be considered morally right or wrong. As you progress through this course, you should question your ethical position regarding the examples, concepts and activities you undertake.

Stop and reflect

Consider these marketing examples that raise ethical issues. To what extent are they acceptable to you and why?

  • A manager gives an extra discount to a customer who is a personal friend.
  • An organisation charges a higher price to less wealthy customers on the basis that they buy less from the organisation.
  • A hospital or health insurance provider refuses to provide a drug to cancer patients on grounds of cost while neighbouring authorities provide it.

While some of these examples may be quite common, fairness is an issue because people are being treated differently purely on the basis of their power in relation to an organisation or its managers, or where they live. Fairness or justice is one of the key issues raised by ethics. Developing this perspective further, Marsden (2007) suggests that a consideration of marketing ethics should involve:

  • recognising and describing moral issues that arise from marketing activities
  • using ethical theories and frameworks to critically assess these moral issues
  • establishing a set of codes, rules and standards for assessing what is right or wrong regarding the marketing activity being undertaken.