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Marketing and Ethics, United Colors of Benetton

Marketing and Ethics (United Colors of Benetton)

Marketing issues, as they relate to business ethics, extend across a wide range of business activities that characterize a company's relationship with its customers (product manufacturing and integrity; disclosure, labeling and packaging; marketing and advertising; selling practices; pricing; and distribution). In recent years the scope of marketing issues has expanded, including new problems like an environmental responsibility, a firm's relationship to its competitors etc. Companies now are expected to bear a greater responsibility for the integrity, use and consequences of their products and services. Companies' concerns with satisfying society needs have a very rational explanation: if a company will not care about welfare of society, it may ultimately cease to exist, because it operates by community consent to oblige its requirements. For that reason, firms put a lot of effort in dealing with the issue of corporate social responsibility, recognizing the importance (and potential benefits) of doing so.

There are plenty of external standards for marketing practices: codes of ethical behavior (e.g. ones established by the American Marketing Association), industry specific guidelines developed by different trade associations and legal standards set forth by national and local governments. These laws and codes provide assistance to companies in establishing their marketing policies. Some of the examples of such policies are as follows (http://www.bsr.org/):
*Sears, Roebuck- the company's Code of Conduct states, "...you (employee) are expected to deal fairly, honestly and responsibly with all customers, fellow associates and anyone else you come in contact with while representing Sears. With regard to customers, this duty requires you to conduct sales in a truthful and accurate manner, always maintaining the highest of ethical standards. .... "

· USAA: the company's Core Values Statement reads: "We will consistently behave in ways that are ethical, earning the respect of members and customers by being steadfast in our commitment to act in both their best interests and the interests of the Association, regardless of any business, social, economic or personal pressures to the contrary."

In what follows, we will focus on the topic of ethical ramifications of certain advertising practices, which are rarely covered by the companies' policies; namely on utilizing emotion-arousing ads.

The American Marketing Association (AMA), for example, in its code states that one of the basic marketer's responsibilities is not to harm customers (Sirgy, 1999). It also recommends avoiding false and misleading advertising, but there is no annotation regulating advertising by appealing to customer's...

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