Kotler and Armstrong, posit that marketing is about managing profitable customer relationships by creating value for the customer in order to get value in return. It begins with identifying what the customer needs, crafting customer driven strategies, fashioning out marketing programs, building customer relationships and capturing value for the firm.
In the process of carrying out various marketing activities, through different media, the question of marketing ethics comes to the fore. Marketing ethics according to Philip Kotler is “the area of applied ethics which deals with the moral principles behind the operation and regulation of marketing”. Applied ethics, in the words of Brenda Almond, co-founder of the Society for Applied Philosophy, "the philosophical examination, from a moral standpoint, of particular issues in private and public life that are matters of moral judgment". It is thus a term used to describe attempts to use philosophical methods to identify the morally correct course of action in various fields of human life.
An ethical practice would bring about the greatest good and value for all those involved. Marketing is hinged on the need to transmit the value of a product or service to end users to influence buying behavior and unethical practices may arise from the hassle to meet performance targets. Marketing cannot be said to be totally ethical since it involves reaching out to a large mass of people with different backgrounds, lifestyles and inclinations. Ethics, been more of a philosophical question provided the product or service been marketed is not intended to cause harm will be difficult to generalize as the market consist of demographics ( Penn, Christopher).
Although some practices in marketing are obviously unethical like the misrepresentation of facts on a product or service that leads to dissatisfaction by the end user thereby creating ill will, Marketing and advertising are essentially not bad as they seek to create awareness.
A closer analysis of consumer behavior which marketers often employ in crafting strategies when they need to launch a new product, revamp the dwindling sales of an existing product , indicates some degree on manipulation. Edward Bernays who was Sigmund Freud’s
Nephew, alluded that if one appeals to the emotions of people rather than their intellect on a continuous basis, you could make them do anything even if it was totally irrational. Depending on the extent to which it was utilized, it could be perceived as indoctrination, manipulation or just plain old marketing and advertisement. In other words, people could be psychologically induced to make purchases they really didn’t need to (“Intelligent manipulation”).
Consequent to this prevalent pattern of impulse buying, landfills are overflowing with waste and excessive consumerism is the order of the day. Monies that would have been channeled to more productive use is lost when people give in to their human weaknesses one of which is our insatiable desire for things. The Economic law of diminishing marginal utility can also be applied to consumer behavior. This law states that for every additional unit of consumption made when supply of the item is constant, satisfaction decreases to the point of discontent especially when dealing with non-essential goods. Having this in mind, marketers have utilized every means possible to ensure seamless patronage of their goods and services irrespective of whether it’s in the interest of the consumer (“Why is Marketing ethical/unethical”).
Marketing has been less than ethical in a number of ways such as the use of price wars. This is a practice that is utilized by industry monopolist to maintain hold of market share and stifle competition. Price wars involve crashing prices of goods and services below the market average to encourage customer retention and win more of the market share from their competitors. To the customer, price wars are