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Ethical Issues in Social Marketing

The moral principles of marketing can be described as clearly established ethical norms and rules of conduct of a company on the market, which must be followed by the employee of the organization and for which there are no exceptions. According to Serrat, “social marketing involves changing seemingly intractable behaviors in composite environmental, economic, social, political, and technological circumstances with (more often than not) quite limited resources” (2017, p. 121). Marketing is a big world, the basis of which is to sell a product, make a profit and satisfy a customer’s need.

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One of the most recent news stories in marketing that has to do with ethics was the Amazon case. The situation took place on Twitter: it all started when Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont planned to meet with Amazon workers in Alabama to support their unionization efforts. Dave Clark, Amazon’s general manager of global customer service, replied to Sanders that their company’s starting wage is $15 an hour, which is already a progressive workplace (Twitter, 2021). In response to Clarke, Democratic spokesman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin wrote that it “doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles” (Twitter, 2021). According to journalist James Bloodworth, who worked undercover as an Amazon employee for his book, Amazon warehouse workers had to urinate in bottles or give up toilet breaks altogether because their demands for satisfaction were too high (2018). Instead of ignoring these statements or honestly confirming the fact, Amazon replied that “you don’t believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us” (Twitter, 2021). The question of ethics, in this case, remains open.

The new ethics is now divided into three important components: the first is everything to do with diversity, which includes issues related to tolerance. The second is a new understanding of aggressiveness and pressuring each other. The third component of the new ethics is what the coronavirus and the quarantine associated with it have very much dictated to us. This situation fits the second case. This organizational response could be seen as Black Hat Marketing. These strategies use deception and manipulation to achieve their objectives. No black hat techniques should be used for the transparency of a company’s policies. This principle makes the organization more credible, and the more credible a company becomes, the more seriously it is taken (Sajid, 2016). Despite this, here is the paradox: a large company such as Amazon will not diminish its reputation but will only acquire a new stream of interested individuals and potential customers.

On the one hand, the example can be seen in terms of an ethical theory, such as utilitarianism, according to which its utility determines the moral value of an act. In this case, the action is justified by achieving a benefit, a material good, judging by the result. However, all bonuses are aimed not at the consumer but the producer. This is where conversion marketing comes into play: the mechanism for this is that people will read the information, then go to the company’s website, and from visitors become customers.

On the other hand, it could be assumed that the company’s superiors dictated this response, then this case is one of authoritarian ethics. According to it, a person is obliged to obey the norms, rules, and moral laws that exist in the community; he or she has no moral right to his or her own opinion. To summarise, it is difficult to determine precisely whether this was a mistake on Dave Clark’s part, whether he purposely continued to respond to Twitter users, and whether he responded correctly to customers and employees. However, it is not to say that marketing is not ethical in itself, but there are individual elements and manipulations which can hardly be called such.

Reference List

Amazon News (2021) [Twitter]. Web.

Bloodworth, J. (2018) Hired: Six months undercover in low-wage Britain. London: Atlantic books.

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Sajid S. I. (2016) ‘Social media and its role in marketing’, Business and Economics Journal, 7(1), pp. 2-5. Web.

Serrat, O. (2017) Knowledge Solutions. Mandaluyong: Asian Development Bank.

Rep. Mark Pocan (2021) [Twitter]. Web.

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