Ethical decision-making by consumers: The roles of product harm and consumer vulnerability [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 70 (3):247-264 (2007)
The primary purpose of this study was to examine the effects of perceptions of product harm and consumer vulnerability on ethical evaluations of target marketing strategies. We first established whether subjects are able to accurately judge the harmfulness of a product through labeling alone, and whether they could differentiate consumers who were more or less vulnerable. The results suggest that without the presence of a prime, subjects who depended on implicit memory or guess were able to detect differences in “sin” and “non-sin” products and consumer vulnerability, but were far less likely to be able to distinguish among high and low levels of product harm and consumer vulnerability. The inability to accurately identify high and low levels of product harm and consumer vulnerability impacted their perceptions of the ethicality of target marketing strategies, such that only four out of 18 target marketing strategies were judged as unethical. Thus, our findings contradict previous research that found subjects judged many more of the integrated strategies as unethical [Smith and Cooper- Martin, J Market 61 1]. Our results suggest that assessing ethical evaluations of strategies varying in product harm, and consumer vulnerability may only be relevant if consumers can accurately identify product harm
Keywords consumer vulnerability  ethical evaluations  product harm  sin products  target vulnerability  vulnerable consumers  vulnerable groups
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