Nike sport shoes produced by children of 10 years old or by sweatshops (wherein workers are slaves exploited within immoral conditions), isn’t it ringing any bell? For 20 years, the brand is at the heart of controversial critics and has become unintendedly the symbol of the necessary fight against these inhuman practices. These attacks have been effective: seeing their image being damaged and their turnover diminishing, Nike has no other choice than adopting a more ethical marketing.
Yes, but what is “ethical marketing”?
Patrick Muprhy, expert on the topic, defines it as being “open, reliable, and responsible practices for setting a marketing policy, whether it is at the individual or organizational level, which shows evidence of integrity toward consumers and other stakeholders”.
This ideal, that any managers should look for, is translated within certain practices and has a real impact on the brand image. In 2016, three French companies were listed within the most ranking of the most ethical companies: L’Oréal, Capgemini, and Schneider Electric.
A society that claims to care about ethical issues
Citizens are concerned with the quality and security of food, production and distribution mode. For many of them, it leads to a more responsible consumption (e.g. organic and sustainable products, awareness of counterfeit, etc.). These consumers demand for ethical and fair prices at the two ends of the chain.
Sure, but in practices?
Numerous ethical questions still remain. Thus, in the distribution system, the imbalance between power and responsibility results into a lack of transparency upon price policy (at the point of sales, dynamic pricing strategy of Amazon, etc.). As well, the questions raised also concern the well management of the supply chain and the choices / control of outsourcers. Finally, the new forms of advertising, for instance one-to-one advertisement (targeting) or putting down barriers with information (native advertising), bring to light the new and necessary protections that must be provided to consumers in regards to their right for privacy.
So what should we do?
Developing research on ethical marketing
Putting differently, the ambition must be to conduct research that aim at testing various theories, even contributing to developing new ones, with an interdisciplinary approach (linked to the law for instance) and a cultural approach (to ensure the invariance of measurement tools). These research must be conducted among managers and directors instead of student samples; the use of scenarios can be valid but it needs to be in a reasonable number and recent enough.
Training future managers and directors
This means the need for a specific class on ethical marketing, and to integrate this topic to others already ongoing in marketing, with a genuine and relevant mix of theory and examples issued from the economical press.
Companies’ ethical practices relate to anyone and to each of our own faces: teacher, researcher, consumer, and citizen. So, let’s gather and fight for a more ethical social economy!