Author, A.H.Roslan Harahap
A business produces products, services or a combination of both. The ultimate goal of any business is to make profits. Without making profits, the business will sooner or later cease to exist. Towards achieving this goal, it is essential therefore for the businesses to produce products or services that supposedly meet the needs of their potential customers. Otherwise, who will buy their products and services? However, even if the business produces products and services that meet the needs of the potential customer, there is no guarantee that the customer will buy the products or services if the potential customer has no information or awareness about it. In this regards, marketing is very important and plays a significant role. Marketing helps the business to inform and raise awareness on their products and services to the potential customers.
Generally speaking, marketing refers to the process whereby the businesses produce, communicate, deliver, and exchange products and services in the marketplace that meets the need of customers. Meeting the need of the customers implies that the products and services must be something worthwhile or of value to the customers. Thus, the essence of marketing is on the thinking that focuses on customer needs and satisfaction. In other words, marketing is about fulfilling customers’ need and wants rather than about getting or persuading the customers to buy or purchase the products or services. In a basic marketing course, we were taught that the basic marketing principles are the 4Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. For the business marketing strategy to be effective, these four components must be mixed correctly. In simple terms, to make a profit, the 4Ps marketing principles imply that businesses must produce the right product at the right price and place, as well as choosing the right promotion.
While the underlying goal of marketing is fulfilling customers’ need and wants, which is nothing wrong with it, nonetheless marketing can be deceptive or deceived the customers. There are many instances where businesses may resort to unethical activities and disregards the broader concern of the customers and society. Perhaps this might be due to the pressure to meet the performance objectives of the business. Thus marketing in theory and marketing in practice might be different. This raises the question of ethics in marketing. Ethics are the moral principles and values that govern the actions and decisions of an individual, group or organisation. For instance, in relation to the 4Ps marketing principles, what are the “right” product and the “right” price? Moreover, this raises another question: who determines what are the “right” product and the “right” price? “Right” to whom? Hence, marketing is not only a business or profits issue, but it is also an ethical or morality issue. Thus, it is not surprising to find that marketing appears to be a discipline that provokes much social debate and criticism.
One way to address the social concerns and criticism with regards to unethical marketing activities is through the enactment of laws, rules and regulations. However, its effectiveness to protect consumers and society at large from deceiving marketing practices might be limited. Change normally come from within rather than from outside. Thus, another way to address the social concerns and criticism with regards to marketing is by the businesses themselves to take responsibility and accountability on their marketing activities. In other words, businesses voluntarily practice ethical marketing to avoid unethical marketing activities.
The beauty of ethical marketing lies with the fact that it is not only beneficial to the customer and society at large; it is also advantageous to the business itself. Ethical marketing will ensure business marketing practices match the standards that the consumer and society considers as acceptable. After all, the ultimate goal of marketing is to satisfy customers as well as societal’ need and wants. Ethical marketing, therefore, will create more positive attitudes about the business, its products and its services from the customers and society. Failing to practice ethical marketing, on the contrary, may lead to dissatisfied customers, bad publicity, a lack of trust and loyalty, and hence losses to the business. Ethical marketing would not only lead the businesses to consider the needs and wants of the consumers and society, but it will also lead to the business to find the balance between those needs and wants with the company’s needs and goals, such that it will be a win-win situation to both the society and the businesses. Ethical marketing will not only ensure trust and loyalty of the society to the business in the long run, but it will also ensure the sustainability of the business itself.