casts light upon the unethical practices carried out in the domain of marketing strategy. The paper identifies basic ethical issues explaining how customers are trapped and they lose confidence in the organizations and their marketing campaigns.
Marketing is considered as the backbone of a business organization which enables it to communicate with the customers. It is an unquestioned fact that business is driven by the customers who are primary revenue generators and no business can survive without customers (Kotler). The core objective behind establishment of a business is to earn profit and the customer is the sole body driving the process of profit generation.
Profit generation is the function of increasing gap between cost and price of item sold or increasing the number of items sold. The former option is difficult to practice in every industry and it may be a temporary approach. Hence the business practitioners tend to focus on the latter option. Even the organizations which enjoy higher profit margins tend to attract more and more customers as there is no ceiling to profits and no one dislikes the higher profits coming from high sale of items.
Having understood the importance of customers in the business market, every organization tends to attract more and more customers. The marketing strategy is crucial for every business organizations and experts are hired to devise an effective marketing strategy.
Marketing revolves around making the target market realize that the product or service offered by a particular organization is the need of the customer. There was a time when product development cycle was triggered by the need of a particular product. Need identification was the basic step in every business identity and organizations came into existence to meet the needs of the customers (Rosenau). As the lifestyle improved, and the needs changed from food, clothing and shelter to uncountable objects facilitating human lives, the business organizations ended up following unethical practices in marketing strategies.
It is important to mention that the modern 21st century changed the marketing paradigm from developing a product to satisfy the customers' need to developing a product and creating its need. It is ironic but fact that the customer of 21st century feels his life incomplete without the products which were beyond the imagination of people living in 20th century. The quest for development in life style led to many changes hence the organizations evolved with offering the products which do not satisfy any need rather serve no purpose other than generating profits for the organizations. This practice in unethical as the customer is trapped to buy the product considering it his need, while the reality is not the same.
The marketing literature is rich in flattering customers about the importance of their satisfaction level for the organizations. Every business organization claims that its success lies in the satisfaction of customer and it leaves no stone unturned to attain the maximum possible satisfaction level (Szwarc). There are organizations which go even beyond the satisfaction level and talk about customer's gratification level and his delight. Still, while devising marketing strategies, the organizations tend to promote the positive points of their offers and hide the negative points. Consequently, the customers are attracted and many leads are generated. The leads are converted into opportunities as well as the task force is trained enough to trap the customers. It is only after the customer uses the product that he comes across the real features and performance of the product.
The organizations boast of their feedback system that they get feedback from their customers (Self and Roche) and use that feedback for improvement of their products. They fail to realize that every customer does not give feedback. There are uncountable users of their products who have no time and interest in their feedback surveys. Hardly any customer gets back to the organization to complain about the product. Rest of them finds it an easy solution that the product offered by competitor is purchased.
The absence of feedback and complain does not mean that the customers are satisfied. The simple consequence is the customers lose confidence in the organization's marketing tactics which had forced them to buy the product. It also happens that people start ignoring the sales force as they feel that the sales people cheat the customers.
There are many ethical and social issues having their roots in the marketing strategy of organizations and ultimately lead to increased dissatisfaction of the customers. The customers may be attracted for a while but in the long run, the organizations do not gain anything. Described below are certain unethical practices carried out in the modern 21st century.
As mentioned earlier, the marketing practices revolve around making the customers feel that the product offered by a particular organization is their need. It may not be true in all cases. The organizations may argue upon the definition of need and may refer to the Maslow's hierarchy of needs to justify their marketing strategy. It is quite possible that a particular product is not the basic need of the customer but it may satisfy his self-esteem need. For instance, the branded clothes are sold at higher prices than those of unbranded clothes. The only reason behind higher price is; the branded clothes satisfy the self-esteem need of customers and they feel delighted wearing those clothes. The latest trend in this category of products is offering the brand at reduced prices so that people belonging to lower middle class can also afford them. The lower middle class members, who already feel deprived as they cannot afford the branded clothes, run after the items at sales and the ones offered at cheaper rates.
The ethical issue in this case is exploitation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The organizations justify their prices on grounds of offering brand and satisfying the self-esteemed need, but they forget to realize that the hierarchy is based on the assumption that the next level of need is approached only after the previous level is satisfied. People may have nothing to eat the next month but they run after branded clothes put on sale.
An argument can be that Maslow's model is criticized on grounds of its hierarchy and it is in the air that self-esteem need belongs to everybody regardless of his income group. The argument is weak and the practice is still ethically wrong as no other model has been so explicit in categorizing the needs.
Wrong Target Market
Wrong target market is another ethical issue most commonly found in the commercial organizations. The practice becomes harmless in the few industries but in many other industries, it is detrimental to the interest of customers. Any product that is sold to the customers deliberately despite knowing the fact that it may harm, is highly unethical practice (Statement of Ethics). This unethical practice is followed without hesitation in the modern corporate world. Below are the examples explaining this concept.
There are certain beverages which act as stimulants, depressants and relaxants. These beverages may include, but are not limited to wines, coffee and other products having nicotine and caffeine. These products are harmful to the people if the quantity exceeds the recommended level. The recommended level may change from gender to gender and age to age. Most of the times, children and young adults are not included in the target market when the product is developed. It is the thirst to sell the product, which leads organizations to target young adults for coffee and pregnant women for low-end wines.
It is a common observation that the customers ask the salesman about the gender of the product. Particularly speaking in the context of dresses, people are really confused whether the target market is male or female. The common answer given by the salesman is they can be worn by either of them. There is no discrimination or male or females in that particular dress. However, the reality is different. There are certain differences in the dresses of males and females. The shirts have buttons at different side and the pant's length is different. The customers take a fancy to the beautiful clothing and purchase them being guided by the salesman that they can equally suit both males and females. The result is customers wear the dresses and somebody recognizes the dress as belonging to particular gender. The customer feels embarrassed and loses confidence in the salespersons.
Deceptive pricing is perhaps the biggest ethical issue in the field of marketing. While setting prices, the marketers play with the emotions of the customers by deliberately tweaking the pries to appear as low. Any product with the price of 500 is tagged as 499. It makes the customer think the product is in the price range of 400. Despite knowing the fact that 499 is written just to catch the attraction, customers fail to think that the price is 500. They understand that it is a tactic still their mind thinks of price range as 400+.