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Ethical Challenges in Marketing Communication

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Autor:   •  December 24, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,128 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,085 Views

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Ethical Challenges in Marketing Communication

Ethics play an integral role in the development and sustenance of any personal or business relationship. Ethics determine the acceptable behaviors within a society and the overall behaviors of a business. Marketers must understand the impact ethics have on marketing communications and develop Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) strategies accordingly. This paper will discuss various ethical challenges facing marketers today, identify internal and external factors on IMC, and formulate two ethical questions based upon the analysis.

Ethics in Marketing

The practice of ethics within an organization is an important but difficult concept to understand and practice. The reason ethics are difficult to manage is that the concept is so subjective (Duncan 2002, pp. 671). Ethical values differ between societies and individual relationships, therefore a company must decide on an ethical communication strategy and portray it as consistently as possible. Duncan (2002) describes three ethical considerations companies must understand when developing marketing communications and relationships with customers.


Stereotyping plays a significant role in developing marketing strategies that are both effective and ethical. "The challenge for brands is to develop messages that strike a chord with targeted audiences without reinforcing negative stereotypes" (pp. 672). Companies must ensure that their marketing tactics are not alienating certain individuals or groups while reaching the appropriate target market. In order to build and maintain profitable customer relationships, a company's marketing strategy should reflect the values of a diverse culture without the possibility for misinterpreted communication.

Vulnerable Groups

The second ethical dilemma companies may encounter while developing marketing strategies is targeting vulnerable groups to increase profitability. The text describes vulnerable groups as children, minorities, the elderly, and developing countries (Duncan, 2002). Companies must ensure that their marketing strategies are targeting the appropriate people without influencing these vulnerable groups and exploiting their behaviors. Children and the elderly are highly seen as easy to target because of their inherent behaviors and susceptibility to persuasion. A company must also understand the effects of marketing to minorities. Marketing to the Hispanic community can be a profitable market segment, but a company must ensure that its marketing communications do not target these groups harmfully. For example, marketing a product, such as tobacco or alcohol specifically to the Hispanic community, would be considered unethical and could result in loss of customer loyalty.

Offensive Brand Messages

Companies must also recognize the content of a marketing communication. With the increase of competition in the 21st Century business environment, companies must develop marketing strategies that stand out amongst the message clutter. The inherent issue here is that companies are using various brand images to increase their market share. Many companies use sexual images to promote their products. This type of advertising can result in protest and loss of customer loyalty. In another attempt to promote their product, some companies use socially inappropriate material, also known as taboo topics to reach their audience. This can have a negative effect on marketing strategies by upsetting certain market segments. Companies must ensure that their marketing strategies are appropriate and socially accepted in order to increase profitability.

Internal and External Factors

The next issue that will be discussed in this paper is the effect of internal and external factors that may influence IMC. A company must recognize all factors that affect the planning and development of an IMC strategy and ensure that negative consequences are minimized. External factors that may affect a company's IMC strategy include brand equity, decreasing brand loyalty, demand, message clutter, and a decrease in customer trust (Duncan, 2002). Companies must recognize these factors and their relationships to IMC.

Although a company has little control over the above external factors, the organization must ensure that its IMC strategies in response to these factors are handled ethically. For instance, if a company is attempting to build brand equity and instigate customer loyalty, it should not offer illegitimate or unethical incentives


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