Direct Marketing – Ethical Issues

When certain consumer-direct channels  (CD)  are used to reach out to consumers and deliver the goods to  hem,  the marketing practice is termed as direct marketing.  The various ways of direct marketing involve  reaching the  consumer  through  direct  mail,  catalogues  or  telemarketing.  In  most  situations,  marketers  and  consumers  have  a  symbiotic existence  in  this  type  of  marketing  with  marketers  having  the  benefit  of  increasing  consumer  awareness and  consumers  getting  information  about  the  various  products  available  in  the  market.  However,  there  are  times when  this  interdependence goes  awry  and  direct marketing  crosses over  the line  to become unethical.

  • Irritation  –  telemarketing  can  become  extremely  intrusive  when  marketers  do  not  keep  in  mind  the  time  of  call.  Also,  when  the  consumers  have  to  confront  poorly  trained  callers  or  computerized  calls,  it  becomes  irritating.  An  example  can  be  aggressive  telemarketing  by  cellular  service  providers.
  •  Unfair practices  –  Vulnerable  consumer  groups  like  children,  adolescents  and  the  elderly  are  often  targeted  as  they  are  easy  to  influence.  Similarly,  impulsive  and  less  sophisticated  buyers  are  often  lured  by  unethical  marketing  practices.
  • Deception and fraud  –  exaggeration  of  product  size,  desirable  characteristics,  misleading  statistics,  and  claims  of  excellent  performance  are  the  most  common  among  unethical  marketing  practices.  Product  prices  are  also  quoted  with  some  latent  prices  so  that  they  give  an  impression  of  being  less.
  • Invasion of privacy  –  company  databases  are  composed  of  data  collected  when  consumers  indulge  in  non-buying  activities  such  as  apply  for  a  credit  cards,  get  a  magazine  subscription  or  even  send  an  email.  Thus  marketers  seem  to  have  a  lot  of  unethical  information  on  consumers’  personal  lives  and  this  information  can  be  used  to  an  unfair  advantage.

However,  in  present  times,  marketers  have  also  become  aware  that  these  unethical  practices  if  followed  will  only  lead  to  a  disadvantage.  They  may  even  lead  to  negative  consumer  attitudes  about  the  advertised  products,  lower  response  rate,  wasteful  expenditure  on  untargeted  marketing  and  may  also  lead  higher  legislative  control  on  advertising  at  some  point  of  time  in  the  future.  Thus,  direct  marketers  are  now  moving  towards  honest  and  well  targeted  marketing  that  is  not  only  cost  effective  but  also  efficient  as  it  focuses  only  on  consumer  segments  that  are  interested  in  learning  about  the  product  being  advertised.

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