The Ethics of Marketing


Today I’ve had an interesting conversation with Annie, a mom of two kids. She told me about some initiatives a big supermarket chain is doing. (No names, they are actually brilliant in their marketing and communications.) Every now and then they have promotions, where they hand out little toys for kids at the till. As a matter of fact, her kids are now furious, if she doesn’t want to go to this particular chain for shopping.

This is a scene that reminds me of a subject, marketeers and people working in advertisement should consider more often. I call it “the ethics of marketing”.

If a supermarket chain hands out toys to toddlers, they are likely not only to drag their parents into the store every time they do the shopping. No, they are also emotionally attached to this supermarket chain, and might – unconsciously – do their shopping at the same chain as adults. Some brands also have promoted to toddlers (or even younger ones) for some time now. They want to influence kids on their later purchasing behavior. As a result, young generations grow up in a world full of promises and temptations. They might not yet know the rules of money, but they know what they want. They see and hear temptations everywhere.

Have you ever been thinking about the moral implications? If ads evoke the desire of “having”, into what sort of people will these kids turn? How difficult will it be to understand that they might not be able to afford all their desires. And their happiness? Will it decrease once they can’t get what a brand promises? Will they be able to compensate?

I think, the line between branding and influencing to kids is really thin, and marketeers should consider this in their daily jobs.

Luckily, Annie is the boss, and not the kids. Shame only, they are too small yet, to actually already do the shopping.

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