When does marketing cross an ethical line?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of articles from MarketingCharts, which provides up-to-the-minute data and research to marketers.
An overwhelming majority (92 percent) of marketers consider themselves to be ethical, according to research released by Phrasee. But the same research also reveals that one-quarter have been pressured to use unethical marketing tactics at work.
Out of the options surveyed, it’s quite clear that the 400 marketers surveyed feel that ethical marketing needs to tell the truth and provide transparency to customers.
At the top of the list of unethical practices, 69 percent cited marketing that distorts or exaggerates the truth as one such behavior. Closely related to that was using unrealistic or altered images (56 percent) — an important consideration given the fact that consumers prefer visual information, at least when shopping online. These concerns are also a major factor when establishing trust: research has found that consumer satisfaction is linked to brands delivering value that matches the marketing message.
Meanwhile, on the issue of transparency, 62 percent said it was unethical for marketing to conceal important information. Shortfalls were also seen around lack of transparency around the use of data in targeting as well as around the source of adverts.
The second-most commonly cited unethical marketing practice by marketers surveyed in the U.S. and UK was marketing that targets and exploits vulnerable groups (64 percent). Fifty-eight percent say that marketing that shames is unethical, as is that which induces anxiety or fear (56 percent), or exploits negative emotions like fear, anxiety or guilt to sell to people (52 percent).
The vast majority (88 percent) of marketers say that marketing ethically is important to them and that they would not work for a company that they did not consider to be ethical in its marketing (83 percent). But 18 percent also agree that the company they currently work for is not as ethical as they would like it to be in its marketing practices.
Ultimately, it may be the bottom line that improves the industry, as 26 percent of marketers say they have seen negative results from using unethical marketing practices.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which marketing practice do you consider most unethical — exaggerating or distorting the truth, targeting or exploiting vulnerable groups, or concealing important information? Have consumers become more sensitive to any of the areas mentioned with the rise in digital marketing?