Is it ethical to target uninformed consumers who do not have all of the information they need to make an informed decision? Is it ethical to market a product that will ultimately harm the consumer in the long run? Many marketing professionals believe that it is their job to provide information to consumers looking for specific products.
Billions of people globally use mass media to receive information about products and services, so because of this, is it ethical to target uninformed consumers? Let’s find out.
Pros and Cons of Ethical Target Marketing
Target marketing is sending advertisements to consumers with particular traits or interests. To maximize effectiveness, the advertisements are sent to reach a targeted group, which is defined by personal characteristics, product interest, geographic location, etc.
While ethical target marketing has always been present in the marketplace since its inception, concerns have sparked a debate on whether target marketing is ethical or not. Let’s check out some pros and cons of target marketing:
Targeted ads are intrusive and rude. However, there are many advantages to ethical targeting that might cancel out the disadvantages.
- The first advantage is pretty simple. For companies that want to advertise products, ethical target marketing occurs. This means the product you are advertising does not infringe on consumer rights (in most parts of the world anyway) or that they perform as advertised.
- The second benefit of ethical target marketing is that it allows businesses to advertise products ethically. For example, a company that wants to market a product like weight loss supplements would only want the informed consumer group interested (i.e., obese people).
- Target marketing helps a business focus its advertising and promotions on specific groups to gain a larger market share in a particular demographic. For example, an athletic shoe company may target young adults in urban areas who have a passion for skateboarding or snowboarding.
- Target marketing saves money for consumers because they are getting what they want instead of being forced to buy a product they don’t want.
- Target marketing also makes customers feel special because companies focus on their specific needs rather than other people’s buying habits.
- Having a targeted market means that companies can easily measure the success of their product helps them find out what to improve on in the future.
- One con is that some companies may not want their products marketed to certain groups.
- Another con is that some people might feel they are being put into a box and stereotypes by the type of marketing they view.
- A third negative aspect about ethical target marketing is that if it isn’t targeted correctly, the group might not afford the product.
- Difficulty Creating a Wider Brand: When companies only target one consumer segment, the brand’s image can become diluted because the product won’t be relevant to different groups of people.
- Identifying the Target Market: Target marketing can be difficult because it requires you to identify a specific customer group that is profitable and accessible for your business. This information may not always be available or reliable.
- Additional Costs: Target marketing requires you to create more materials that are targeted at one consumer group. This can lead to increased costs, reducing profit margins or preventing growth.
- Competition Can Affect Margins: The more your business focuses on targeting, the more you run the risk of your product becoming commoditized. When many companies target a specific consumer segment, it can increase competition and decrease margins.
What Does It Mean To Target Uninformed Consumers?
Many ethical marketing courses and textbooks will discuss the principles of ethical targeting marketing toward specific populations. For example, they are marketing toward mothers who care about their children’s health or senior citizens with experience in financial matters.
Because ethical marketers target informed consumer groups most often, they may not detail what it means to target uninformed consumers. Ethical marketers who target informed consumers will provide honest and credible information to the consumer without trying to mislead them into buying products.
Most ethical targeted marketing occurs with an educated population. If ethical marketers target uninformed consumers toward so-called “green” products during the holiday shopping season, they may be accused of unethical marketing or even greenwashing.
Many ethical marketers will turn toward product placement or targeting marketing toward a group likely to buy their products even if they are not a part of a specific population.
Unfortunately, many companies take advantage and make targeting uninformed consumers ethical because of their information on consumers, all simply for one thing: to make money.
Well-meaning companies like Coca-Cola might market their products to children because they are usually their largest market share. However, this is not ethical because the marketed product cannot be consumed by children. This leads us to believe that your targeting can either help or hurt you.
What Is Unethical About Target Marketing?
Target marketing is a direct-marketing technique that uses targeted promotion to send promotional items or advertisements to select consumers. Advertisers use the demographics of an area, occupation, consumer preferences, situational factors, and product availability to ensure that their audience receives direct marketing.
Due to the nature of targeted marketing, many believe unethical target marketing gains the audiences unfairly. Some advertising and business professionals believe targeted marketing should be outlawed because of the reasons below:
- Target marketing strategies (Direct mail & email) are not cost-effective for small businesses since the ads do not reach a large audience. The targeted ads only reach a targeted audience, making targeted marketing an expensive advertising method.
- Targeted ads are not cost-effective for large businesses when marketing is used to target specific locations to meet census data requirements. Targeted advertising would unnecessarily provide information or discounts to consumers who do not live in targeted areas.
- Most targeted ads use data about the basic demographic of a person to determine who should receive advertisements. However, this doesn’t consider other factors or individual interests, which sometimes prompt an individual to purchase items that are not necessarily within their age range.
- Many believe unethical target marketing strategies are targeted ads based on sex and gender rather than the intended audience’s interest in a product or service. This strategy might contravene some cultural beliefs.
- Targeted marketing is an ancestor of spam email and direct mail, which many find unethical or unsolicited. This kind of marketing allows direct marketers to use more selective marketing with a higher chance of being read by customers who have expressed some interest in the product or service but still may be intrusive.
What Is Unethical Consumer Behavior?
Unethical consumer behavior in today’s society is becoming increasingly more common. While some may argue that unethical consumer behavior results from greed, research shows that the issue boils down to much more than just money.
Consumers’ unethical behavior is when a consumer takes advantage of an exploitive or abusive practice to get something for free or pay less than the normal price. Unethical behavior also means obtaining products or services for free when you have to pay for them and not revealing that someone is researching for potential customers when it should be disclosed. This can include things such as shoplifting, deceit, and copying.
People who research consumers agree that they engage in unethical acts because they come from many reasons including survival instincts, desire for instant gratification, lack of ethics education, and a consumer culture focusing on money.
The research also found that some consumers do not even understand that their actions are unethical. To engage in helping consumers understand what is and isn’t ethical, you must research the different motives behind their behavior.
Some of the worst forms of unethical consumer behavior which affect human health include using counterfeit medications or buying animals for research practices. When consumers purchase imitation goods, they usually lack any safety or quality standards. They are more likely to be of substandard quality, exposed to dangerous materials, and not follow basic safety regulations for research practices.
Cultural beliefs can also affect consumer behavior. For example, some cultures believe that if they buy products made of certain animal skins, good luck will come their way.
Consumers who engage in the unethical act of not paying for items will take advantage of sales at grocery stores. They think that they are saving themselves money by taking an item and simply walking out.
Consumers engage in this practice thinking it is the only way to get low prices when many products are offered at discounted rates to people who are willing to wait for sales.
This behavior is also unfair to the people working hard to pay for their items by working full-time jobs or maybe even part-time to get discounts.
While most companies do not engage in the unethical practice of knowingly selling defective products, some go out of their way to make a product that is guaranteed to fail.
This can be done by putting bad parts inside the products, adding flammable materials, or building the product to break easily. While this behavior may seem unethical to most consumers, some argue that they are just trying to get ahead and stay afloat in a struggling economy.
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