Ethical Considerations For Marketers

Often cases of International businesses caught-out engaging in unethical conduct aren’t unheard of. It was at a social gathering the other week I had noticed an old ‘power balance’ rubber wrist band lying on my friend’s drawer. To my delight, I went on to ask how was he conned into purchasing such a product. He responded disappointingly stating that the product claimed it scientifically improved ability after he had noticed various athletes sporting the coloured bands. Plain and simple, he was conned into purchasing a faulty product feauturing unethical marketing.

power balance band

golfer power band

(Rohrer, 2011)

For those who don’t know about the brand Power Balance, the company claimed to “improve strength, balance and flexibility” to users of their rubber wrist bands. The honour roll of famous athletes included: England cricketers such as Ian Bell, basketballer Shaquille O’Neal, Rugby player Marc Van Gisbergen to name a few (Rohrer, 2011).

england players powerband

Victorious England cricket players celebrate following their ashes victory with Power Balance wrist bands on (Rohrer, 2011).

It was in this instance that the marketers of Power Balance knowingly and wilfully made claims of their product, despite there being no credible scientific evidence to support- engaging in misleading conduct (Diaz, 2011).

More recently in 2014, Red Bull was found guilty of unethical advertising in their statement “Red Bull gives you wings”, engaging in puffery, or use of promotional statements that express subjective rather than objective viewpoints. The advertisements costed the company $13 million, being guilty of a fraudulent/deceiving nature.

red bull wings

A Red Bull ‘Gives you wings’ TV advertisement

However not all forms of unethical marketing are illegal since unethical conduct is not always essentially against the law, such as marketing to children. Children are increasingly becoming susceptible to marketing and advertising because of their parental influence, technology and future spending patterns (Calvert, 2008).

Other examples of this include: targeting the vulnerable, false comparisons, stereotyping, exaggeration, fair competition, sugging, pricing and surrogate advertising. In light of this, many companies can use unethical advertising to gain a competitive advantage in the market.

Murphy and Laczniak (1981) concluded that from their studies “the function within business firms most often charged with ethical abuse is marketing”. The role of a marketer is to understand, develop and promote goods and services that meet consumer needs, whilst developing long term relationships with customers that benefit both parties in the market. Hence, marketers must ensure and revise strategies to ensure mutually beneficial relationships with consumers continue to exist.

Would you want to purchase from a brand accused and/or guilty of using unethical conduct to prosper off consumers?
 I  don’t plan on it.



Aidman, A. (1995). Advertising in the Schools. ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, [online] vol. 222. Available at:

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Calvert, S. (2008). Children as consumers: Advertising and marketing. The future of children, 18(1), p.205-234.

Diaz, J. (2011). PowerBalance Admits Their Wristbands Are A Scam. [online] Gizmodo. Available at:

Duggan, O. (2014). $13m lawsuit proves Red Bull doesn’t give you wings. [online] The Telegraph. Available at:

Hunt, S., Chonko, L. and Wilcox, J. (1984). Ethical Problems of Marketing Researchers. Journal of Marketing Research, 21(3), p.309-324.

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Westing, J., Laczniak, G. and Murphy, P. (1981). Marketing Ethics: Guidelines for Managers. Journal of Marketing, 50(4), p.251-66.


How does packaging affect consumers? How packaging can make or break a sale

Once upon a time my younger brother was hesitating to make Kellogs2005_47a decision to choose a box of cereal in the supermarket. Would it be the trusty milo? Or would he pick something different in the form of a coco pops box that with Star Wars characters and a 1 in 3 chance of winning a toy spoon? I watched on as he proceeded to select the Coco pops box. It begun to strike me how substantially product packaging can influence consumer in the decision making process


Perhaps people are swayed to purchase based on their recognition of familiar stimuli in brand packaging through classical conditioning or the association with other products?

Packaging equips marketers with multidimensional features to indirectly and directly communicate knowledge about a product/organization, a technique to communicate with consumers and safeguard to the quality of product (Silayoi & Speece, 2007).

In today’s society consumers are faced with an ever-growing amount of product varieties and innovation. With so many options available to purchase, consumers must evaluate and best decide which product to buy. With in-store decision rates climbing to an all-time high of 76% (POPAI, 2014), the appearance of a product packaging or design can be a significant consideration for marketers in appealing to the consumer’s decision making process.

Packaging appeals to a consumer’s attentiveness towards a certain brand, increases its image, and stimulates consumer’s perceptions about product (Rundh, 2005), which is why it is important for marketers to form consistency when designing product packaging. A medium exploited by marketers includes the use of Stimulus Generalisation and Discrimination.

What is Stimulus Generalisation/Discrimination?
Stimulus generalisation is a process wherein a consumer extends a learned response for one stimulus to other similar despite un-identical stimuli. (Avery et al., 2013)

Whereas Stimulus Discrimination – a process wherein a consumer perceives two stimuli as different so that the response learned for one stimulus is not repeated for the other. (Avery et al., 2013)

One of my favourite examples of product packaging targeting consumer behaviour is Armand de Brignac champagne. It embosses internationally recognisable gold bottles and wooden casing representing its reputation as the world’s best champagne. Employing metal coating with bright gold, silver and pink, the packaging engages in stimulus discrimination by promoting the unique niche qualities of their brand. Simultaneously consumers associate the product with an established, and glamorous reputation resembling those of precious metals, also known as classical conditioning.



Armand de Brignac Champange

Conversely the rising use of environmentally-friendly labelling on packaging conveys the use of socially and environmentally friendly production. This approach engages in stimulus generalisation as the consumer classically conditions that they’re making an effort to contribute to improve standards and environmental footprint.

rainforest alliance coffee

Environmentally friendly ‘Rainforest Alliance’ certification ensures sustainable coffee production to consumers.



Avery, J., Kozinets, R., Mittal, B., Raghubir, P. and Woodside, A. (2013). Consumer behavior. 3rd ed. Cincinnati, Ohio: Open Mentis.

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Rundh, B., 2005. The multi-faceted dimension of packaging. British Food Journal, 107 (9), 670-684.

Silayoi, P., & Speece, M., 2007. The importance of packaging attributes: a conjoint analysis approach. European Journal of Marketing, 41 (11/12), 1495-1517 Online Shopping [accessed 2/5/16]






An Apple A Day – How Brand Communities Improve Consumer-Business Relationships

It’s a name synonymous with innovation, the extraordinary and even simplicity. The notoriously trendy Apple empire has become a predominantly household name amassing a cult-like following, ensuing the release of the iPod and iPhone during 2001 and 2007 respectively. Prior the tech giant had focused on computer development during the 1980s and 1990s, however due to Apple’s consumer influence driven marketing and innovative product lines, the company was able to differentiate and distance itself from many competitors and surpass the challenges it faced in becoming a market leader.

This feat can be linked to Apple’s successful consumer influence driven marketing approaches involving the company’s development and maintenance of their brand community.

What is a brand community?
A Brand community is characterised by social scientists as “shared consciousness, rituals, traditions, and a sense of moral responsibility exhibited by consumers (Albert M. Muniz, 2001).

brand communities relatiobship

Think about the neighbourhood where you grew up. Regardless of its geography, shape or size, all neighbourhoods grant their inhabitants a sense of community or belonging. In the neighbourhood the intentional approach to community (through the development of schools, community groups, recreation centres to name a few) brings stakeholders closer to make issues more apparent and assist the community develop a more ideal environment for all.

This consideration is similar when looking at Apple’s brand community- it requires a setting for cultivation and nurturing, much like a neighbourhood, to suit the needs of the brand and its community. It creates a two-way relationship.

What makes a brand community so advantageous to both Apple and consumers alike?

According to (Roll, 2008) brands in today’s world are not intangible ‘things’ but alternatively are flourishing entities with identities and personalities that permit customers to express themselves during consumption. Adopting this approach attracts like-minded customers with a similar consciousness’, rituals and traditions into the Apple community. Subsequently, the community are encouraged to actively involve themselves in branding activities whilst they continue to identify and appreciate the brand.

think different

Apple’s ‘Think Different’ Campaign.

The iconic motto ‘think different’ Apple utilised would exemplify the ideology of its consumer community. Adopting a customer service fixated on the rationale that uniqueness and innovation is ‘cool’.

einstein think different apple.jpg

The ‘Think Different’ Campaign included iconic figures such as Albert Einstein, John Lennon and Muhammad Ali.

An example of how the brand community saved Apple can be illustrated during their decline and failure to revive the Mac computer in the 1990’s. Apple instead turned back to their loyal Mac user community, developing the iPod exclusively for their users who would bandwagon and thrust them back and into the powerhouse they are today.

Macintosh ad1990s

Apple Mac advertising during the 1990’s.

Apple’s efforts towards its brand community reiterate the significance of how establishing and maintaining long-term relationships can provide a competitive advantage and strategic resource against competitors (Webster 1992).



Apple Inc.

Albert M. Muniz,  . a. T., Msrch 2001. Brand Community. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(4), pp. 412-432. (2016). How Brand Community Marketing Saved Apple | Blade Creative Branding | Blog | Marketing, Design, Trends. [online] Available at:

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Webster, Frederick E., Jr. (1992), “The Changing Role of Marketing in the Corporation,” Journal of Marketing, 56 (October), 1–17.