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.
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).
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.
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.
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