What Are Some Real Examples of Ethical Dilemmas in Marketing?

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Three examples of potentially questionable marketing practices include recommending inferior competitors, creating ghost locations and using aggressive research methods. Though many of these practices are legal, the extent to which they are employed often move them into a realm of moral ambiguity.

The first scenario, recommending inferior competitors, often arises when a consumer wants to compare bids on a project, but does not know enough vendors to do so. When the consumer asks the first bidder for the names of others, the first bidder may choose to only list those whose prices or work quality are inferior and will keep them from being chosen.

Next, as part of a marketing strategy, businesses may be tempted to create ghost locations, or temporary offices that give the impression of a local presence. These locations may have very little staff support, or may be abandoned after the bidding process concludes. This practice is especially questionable when used to secure contracts that are reserved for local companies.

Finally, aggressive market research may include ethically objectionable activities that are not as extreme as industrial espionage, but have that tendency. For instance, a firm may not wish to gain access to a competitor's trade secrets by illegally tapping their telephones or computers. Instead they may find a reason to send someone into the competitor's building. And, once there, the scout takes the opportunity to count the machines, employees or inventory.