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Free «Ethical Problems of Marketing Managers» Essay Sample

Marketing managers play a major role in how products are marketed and advertised as well as whom the advertisements are targeted to.  In the scope of this profession, marketing managers are responsible for assessing the real demand for goods and services offered by the companies they represent as well as their competitors in order to accurately identify potential customers.  The correct estimations of these pertinent details allows the project manager to develop pricing strategies that will enable the successful marketing of the product while maximizing the development company’s profits and market share and maintaining customer satisfaction.  The marketing manager must also supervise product development and anticipate patterns that signify the need for new products and services. 

It is also the duty of the marketing manager to evaluate the fiscal properties of product development, such as financial planning, expenses, research and development funding, and return-on-investment and profit-loss estimations.  Marketing managers are additionally required to plan, direct and coordinate marketing activities and policies that will promote products and services and collaborate with advertising and promotion managers.  They are directly responsible for the hiring, training, and performance evaluations of marketing and sales staff and supervise their every day actions.  It is their duty to parley the contracts with vendors and distributors that run merchandise supply, establish circulation networks, and develop delivery strategies. These individuals must also consult with merchandise conceptualization staff on item specifications like design, color, and packaging. 



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Additional duties include:

  • Compilation of lists describing and detailing product information. 
  • Using sales predictions and strategic planning to guarantee the sale and profitability of products, lines, or services and analyze production developments as well as watch market trends. 
  • Collaborate with legal personnel to resolve problems, which may include copyright infringements or percentage allocation with external producers and distributors. 
  • Organizing and participating in activities to endorse products and trade shows while working with developers, advertisers, and production managers to sell products and services. 
  • Make recommendations regarding businesses and other groups based on neighborhood, nationwide, and global factors that influence the sale and purchasing of products and services. 
  • Instigate market research studies and evaluate their results. 
  • Confer with trade personnel to get suggestions regarding the kind of goods or services that are projected to be in demand. 
  • Perform financial and commercial surveys to categorize likely venues for future products and services. 

Employment prospects for highly skilled marketing managers are vast and exist on a global scale.  There is a wide array of job opportunities for marketing managers in premiere companies like P&G, Kraft, General Mills, PepsiCo, Nestle, J&J, Clorox, 3M, Abbott Laboratories, Amazon.com, American Airlines, American Express, Apple Computer Corp., Baxter, Best Buy (Office of Career Development, n.d.), and a plethora of other Fortune 500 companies, worldwide.  Within the corporate structure, advertising managers typically supervise the marketing managers as they facilitate over the operations of the various promotion and advertising departments, although small companies may elect to hire management from external sources and they act as liaisons between the two companies (Careerprofiles.info, 2011).  

Ethical Case Study One: Market Research Ethics

Market research is part of the early stages of a marketing campaign. This is not to say that it is immune from compromised ethics. In fact, if ethical standards are compromised at this stage of a campaign, it will taint the entire process. One of the situations a marketing manager can encounter at the research stage of a campaign is an issue of stereotyping. “Consistent with research on prejudice, psychological studies have found that stereotyping is a natural and common process in cultures around the world.” (Understanding Prejudice, 2002). According to the Media Awareness Network, stereotypes can be either positive or negative.  By and large, however, stereotypes are used to build up one group of people while tearing down another.

As a marketing manager, a review of the research done for a campaign can reveal any stereotyping that has occurred. In recent history, firms have overlooked stereotypes that ultimately harmed the brand value of the companies they represented. One example is the “Motrin Moms” debacle of 2008. In this instance, the marketing company for McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the makers of Motrin pain relievers, created a video campaign that stated baby-wearing was the cause of back pain for new mothers and Motrin could be used to alleviate that pain. Baby-wearing is the act of carrying the baby against one’s chest using a sling or other specially designed carrier. The ads “likened the sling to a fashion accessory and said that while toting the baby can be tough, it "totally makes me look like an official mom." (Petrecca, 2008). Mothers who practiced baby-wearing at the time, or who had in the past, were insulted by the commercial. They took to social media, blogs and other online communities to vent their anger about the campaign. McNeil was forced to apologize for the stereotyping that occurred and ended up pulling the ads off of the air.

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Had a capable marketing manager reviewed the market research about mothers who wear their babies, he or she could have questioned whether the research was an accurate reflection of how such mothers feel. As the marketing manager, this responsibility is the first defense against a marketing campaign that goes wrong and damages the reputation of the client in the eyes of consumers.

The ethical problem that emerges presents itself in the form of stereotyping.  The ad campaign placed a stereotype on women that used strap-on carriers to tote their babies, insinuating that these women were wearing their babies as a fashion accessory to make them look like a real mother rather than for maternal reasons, like safety, ease of access for nursing mothers, and many other legitimate reasons. 

When embarking upon marketing campaigns, marketing managers are responsible for their intent, the means they use to sell their product, and the end results of the selected marketing action (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  When passing judgment on the ethical proportions of an uncertain marketing practice, that object of such scrutiny is analyzed according to the “intent of the action, the means or method by which the practice is implemented, and the end or consequences of the strategy or tactic” (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006, p.161).  The intention is the reaction the marketing manager hopes for, the means is how they attempt to encite this reaction from their target consumer, and the consequences are what actually occur (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  The presence of ethical integrity within the marketing construct simplifies the process of exchange and simplifies the process of conducting marketing research (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  Data regarding target consumers becomes more accurate and easier to gather, brand equity becomes easier to establish, and fewer transactions are voided (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  According to Laczniak & Murphy (2006), “The iron law of social responsibility posits that when entities, such as marketing organizations, have great economic power and do not exhibit proportionate social responsibility, they will have their power proportionately diminished” (p.159), which usually results in the implement of new legislation regulating business ventures. 

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Marketing ethics encompasses the societal and professional standards of right and fair practices that are expected of marketing managers in their oversight of strategy formulation, implementation, and control.  Marketing law constitutes the baseline expectations upon marketing by society. It is a black letter set of rules and regulations that are codified over time to address the dynamics of business practice that deals with the marketing function (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  While the underlying structure of the advertisement may have been aimed at achieving androgynous or patriarchal undertones, the foundational features of the advertisement were chauvinistic and included dualism, hierarchical thinking, and the logic of domination, which are typical of male-chauvinism (Brennan & Lo, 2008).  These patterns of thinking and conceptualizing the world also encourage and sustain other forms of chauvinism, including human exploitation (Brennan & Lo, 2008).  The dualistic way of thinking allows the world to be viewed in contexts of polar opposites, “such as male/female, masculinity/femininity, reason/emotion, freedom/necessity, active/passive, mind/body, pure/soiled, white/colored, civilized/primitive, transcendent/immanent, human/animal, and culture/nature” (Brennan & Lo, 2008).  These narrow and simplistic perspectives allow the promotion of stereotyping in marketing and many other business enterprises.

We determine what counts as a virtuous act based on the character and the motives of the person performing the act (Waller, 2008, p.104).  A person behaving virtuously consistently does the right thing for the right reasons, consciously choosing the acts based on their own merit and from a core of good character (Waller, 2008, p.104).  However, many of us have learned what constitutes virtuous behavior from theological teachings and from social interactions with family, friends, instructors, and our peers.  Virtuous behavior is not accidental, but deliberate and good character is the result of consistent efforts to exemplify virtue.  Aristotle deemed a virtuous person to be “the one who achieves true happiness and satisfaction” (Waller, 2008, p.106).  This does not adequately answer the question ‘What counts as virtuous behavior?’ because there are many differing determinations about what constitutes happiness and satisfaction.  Hursthouse and Foot classify virtue as anything that promotes human flourishing, which means a good, healthy, flourishing life for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our species (Waller, 2008, p.106).  This is a better definition because it encompasses consideration for those that may be directly or indirectly affected by our actions and forces us to be accountable.  Aristotle also developed a guide called ‘The Golden Mean’ to determine what counts as virtuous, but this doctrine of moderation is inadequate because it allows for unethical acts, as long as they are done in moderation. 

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According to Sonenshein (2007), “several prominent theories claim that individuals use deliberate and extensive moral reasoning to respond to ethical issues, such as weighing evidence and applying abstract moral principles” (p.1023).  To solve the problem of stereotyping, I would focus on marketing the benefits of the product rather than attempting to direct the strategy at a specific consumer.  In the case of the Motrin ad, I would concentrate the campaign on the benefits of using the product, like pain relief and how fast the product begins to take effect without stressing the source of the pain.  I would also use comparison marketing and mention how the speed of Motrin compares to comparable products and how much longer it lasts than other products.  I would maintain focus on the product itself rather than the customer and allow the product to be androgynous rather than specific to male or female needs. 

Ethical Case Study Two: Targeting the Market Ethically

Another slippery ethical area for marketing managers lies in determining the correct target audience for a given campaign. This difficulty is seen in the recent efforts of some parenting groups that wish to curb or stop advertising during children’s shows that promotes sweets and fast food. Other incidents have included the advertising of products for adults during children’s programming and vice versa. It is vital that a campaign be targeted to the correct group of consumers to be successful. This is why toys and snacks are promoted to children, the largest group of consumers of these items. By contrast, cars are most often advertised during prime time, since the target market is most likely to be watching then.

There are inherent dangers in failing to target a campaign correctly. A marketing manager is responsible for reviewing campaigns to be sure that the targeting is appropriate to the product and the audience. One example of this is the 1995 Calvin Klein ad campaign that used teenage models dressed and behaving provocatively. ‘They featured what appear to be "barely (if even) legal" amateur models in a wood-paneled room being interviewed by a creepy older man.’ (Popken, 2007). Such mistakes can be avoided if the marketing manager diligently reviews his or her group’s campaigns.

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The ethical problem here is that the marketing manager has allowed this ad campaign to promote statutory improprieties, among many other forms of inappropriate conduct.  The ad seems to be promoting provocative and/or sexual behavior in teenagers. 

Kantian criteria for ethical behavior would deem advertising shows that encourage grave social issues like obesity in young children and teenage promiscuity, unethical, therefore disallowable by society (Waller, 2008).  Jeremy Bentham’s theory of utilitarian ethics dictates that ethical decisions are the ones that produce the greatest amount of pleasure and the least amount of pain for all parties concerned (Waller, 2008).  According to this mode of rationale, it would be deemed necessary to remove all television ads that may persuade young people to behave in any manner that might damage them.  Pleasure derived through overindulgence causes anguish; therefore, it would not be ethical to participate in overindulgent behavior.  Smoking, excessive or under-aged drinking, promiscuity, and any other unsuitable activities, as displayed in the racy programs consumed by American youth and the bombardment of suggestive advertising, is converse to the utilitarian code of ethics because these acts cause significant harm versus the amount of good.  According to Bentham’s theory, the initial pleasure induced by these activities would be easily negated by the resulting damage caused to society by unwanted teenage pregnancies, which renders the actions unethical (Waller, 2008).

As stated by Laczniak & Murphy (2006), “Marketing organizations striving to improve their ethical aptitude should cultivate better moral imagination in their managers by hiring and training those who will likely understand and appropriately apply moral reasoning” (p.162).  Airing inappropriate commercials or any type of advertising that includes children in compromising positions and presenting them during hours that pre-school and kindergarten-aged children are usually watching television is extremely irresponsible and counterproductive.  Producers of these ads claim they are intended to target common teenage and pre-teen issues and provide their audience with plausible ways to deal with these issues.  However, the suggestive nature of these ads counteracts all of the values parents try to teach their children, such as abstaining from drug and alcohol use and pre-marital sex or promiscuous behavior. 

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Robert Nozick’s dispute to the legitimacy of utilitarian ethics would give further support to the view that sexually suggestive programs damage the social values our society claims to strive towards.  Nozick’s argues that the pursuit of pleasurable pastimes seldom results in the discovery of happiness, and this view would demand the removal of such morally destructive visual content from television viewing itineraries (Waller, 2008).  Dostoyevsky would agree with Nozick’s contention that, despite the enjoyment children might gain from viewing unsuitable advertising, the eventual destructive behaviors that would result would not justify the action (Waller, 2008).  He would insist that our youth embracing such a lack of morals and the obvious social issues that would follow trumps any pleasure that may be derived from acting in a manner devoid of ethical values.  Social contract theorist John Rawls would argue that, if such behavior were observed from behind his veil of ignorance, allowing networks to broadcast such provocative ads should not be allowed (Waller, 2008).  The obvious ramifications of allowing adolescents to view sexually inflammatory commercials would deem such actions unfavorable.  From behind this proverbial veil, any behaviors or actions that may be detrimental to some are not optional (Waller, 2008).  Rawls contends that examining our actions from behind this veil is the best way to allow us to make completely ethical choices because we are able to choose without bias (Waller, 2008).  From behind Rawls’ veil of ignorance, it becomes obvious that allowing young people to watch such arousing television would be extremely damaging to their development, mental and emotional health, and damaging to the communities in which they live (Waller, 2008).

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As Sonenshein (2007) indicates, rejoinders to ethical concerns include four aspects, which are “recognition of a moral issue, ethical judgment, moral intent, and ethical behavior” (p.1023).  All four features are affected by the moral intensity of an issue.  As the moral intensity increases, human beings are more likely to distinguish moral concerns, make ethical judgments, institute moral intentions, and engage in ethical behavior (Sonenshein, 2007).  It is a common misconception that premeditated and wide-ranging reasoning is necessary in order to engage in ethical behavior.  Within the majority of corporations, marketing managers will fluctuate in their ability to assess and diffuse ethical issues due to their varying levels of moral development.  Some marketing executives will not have a braod cache of ethical sensitivity, while others will have the competence for considerable moral judgment (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006). 

The personality and aptitude to morally reason and devise resourceful ethical solutions when encountering an ethical question is not a skill every marketing manager will possess (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006), but the ones that do will be able to effect much positive change within their organizations.  Managers that wish to who aspire to base their mode of operations and maneuver using a high standard of morality often embrace a core set of ethical principles fundamentally based on a popular ethical and/or moral theoretical principles.  The two main ethical guidelines frequently included in business models are non-malfeasance and non-deception and they are part a larger base of five principles (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  The other three principles are protection of vulnerable markets, distributive justice, and stewardship (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006), and, together, they support an eminent plane of ethical responsibility that tends to inspire controversy and the challenging of ideas between marketing practitioners because these guidelines require a greater degree of moral obligation than many marketing executives are accustomed to exhibiting. 

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Non-malfeasance is the first crucial ethical standard and is a basic rule of professional ethics (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  This first stipulation establishes that marketers should knowingly do no major harm when executing their obligatory duties (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  The second vital moral rule is the standard of non-deception (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  This rule states that marketers should never deliberately misinform or unduly influence customers (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  The third moral principle for marketing is the code of protecting susceptible market areas (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  Vulnerable market segments include children, the elderly, the mentally feeble, and the economically disadvantaged (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006) and marketing managers have to make sure that extreme care is used when fabricating marketing campaigns aimed towards these demographics.  The fourth critical moral instruction for marketing is the code of distributive justice (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  This standard closely relates to the guideline of protecting vulnerable markets in that it is concentrates on the macro and universal marketing effects targeted at particular at-risk portions of consumers (Laczniak 1999).  In particular, the code of distributive justice insinuates that all marketing organizations have an obligation to determine the equality of marketplace that is derived from current market place standards (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).   

The various consequences may determine that marketing customs are unethical if they add to additional shortcomings within portions of the consumer market that has already been identified as ‘vulnerable’ and are the deprived in terms of information, economic resources, access to supply, market literacy, and other aspects necessary to marketplace transactions over time (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  The fifth and final moral guideline associated with enlightened marketing is the theory of stewardship (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  This standard prompts marketing managers to recall their social obligation to things in the best interest of the common good. This principle also connects to the subject of societal benefit because it reminds marketing managers of their duty to behave in the best interest of the immediate area and community (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).  In particular, adhering to the values of stewardship compels marketers to make certain that their marketing strategies will not inflict peripheral costs on society, principally the physical environment, as a result of their interior marketing operations (Laczniak & Murphy, 2006).

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The basics of ethics states “do good and avoid doing evil” and that the wrongness of the act makes it unacceptable, in spite of any good intentions or good results (Waller, 2008).  As Waller states, when considering ethics, both feeling and reason need to be considered (2008, p.125).  Feeling and reason need to combine and check each other in order to enable us to make rational, ethical decisions that benefit many and not one.  Care ethics combine the emotionalism of Kantian ethics with the doctrinal reasoning of Utilitarian ethics to produce what is supposed to be a balanced merging of philosophies that should enable “perfect” ethical decisions.  However, basing our ethical decisions solely on our sensory perceptions, or emotions, can trigger conflicts because our sensory perceptions are limited, therefore the decisions made based on them are based on limited information.  Using feelings as a guide is tantamount to basing a decision on an assumption.  Basing ethical decisions on reason allows us to examine all the options available and base the decisions we make on all the facts available, not only the ones that we perceive or an idea that may seem good at the time because of how we feel about the situation.  However, there may be instances where basing ethical decisions solely on reason may be flawed also.  Sometimes reason alone may not fully detail all of the ramifications of the decision because sometimes the consequences are emotional (Waller, 2008).

Rather than endorse inappropriate behaviors in teenagers, I would focus the campaign on teenagers doing appropriate activities in the jeans, like hanging out at the mall, watching TV, riding bicycles, rollerblading, and other activities to show how fun the jeans are and how enjoyable they are to wear.  I would also try to show how comfortable they are by showing the teens doing various athletic activities in them.  Focusing the campaign on the attributes of the product through demonstration of suitable activities will avoid conflicts with the brand image established for the product and further reinforce the positive attributes of the product.  The viewers will then associate positive activities, like the ones in the commercial with the product and images of inappropriateness will not be presented, thus avoiding this particular conflict.


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