The Ethics of Marketing to Vulnerable Populations

Journal of Business Ethics 116 (2):403-413 (2013)

Authors
Trevor Hedberg
Ohio State University
David Palmer
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Abstract
An orthodox view in marketing ethics is that it is morally impermissible to market goods to specially vulnerable populations in ways that take advantage of their vulnerabilities. In his signature article “Marketing and the Vulnerable,” Brenkert (Bus Ethics Q Ruffin Ser 1:7–20, 1998) provided the first substantive defense of this position, one which has become a well-established view in marketing ethics. In what follows, we throw new light on marketing to the vulnerable by critically evaluating key components of Brenkert’s general arguments. Specifically, we contend that Brenkert has failed to offer us any persuasive reasons to think that it is immoral to market to the vulnerable in ways that take advantage of their vulnerability. Although Brenkert does highlight the fact that the specially vulnerable are at greater risk of being harmed by already immoral marketing practices (e.g., deception, manipulation), he fails to establish that the specially vulnerable are a unique moral category of market clients or that there are special moral standards that apply to them. Moreover, even if Brenkert’s position were theoretically defensible, the practical implications of his position are far less tenable than he suggests. If our criticisms are sound, then Brenkert and others who endorse his position are seriously mistaken regarding how one can permissibly market products to vulnerable populations, and, in addition, they have improperly categorized certain morally permissible marketing practices as being immoral.
Keywords Ethics  Marketing  Vulnerability  Market clients  Exploitation  Consumer interests
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s)
DOI 10.1007/s10551-012-1476-2
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1785/2002 - Oxford University Press.
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1785 - In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Late Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell.
A Framework for Assessing Immorally Manipulative Marketing Tactics.Shlomo Sher - 2011 - Journal of Business Ethics 102 (1):97-118.

View all 9 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Freedom of the Will and Consumption Restrictions.Ronald Paul Hill - forthcoming - Journal of Business Ethics:1-14.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Marketing and the Vulnerable.George G. Brenkert - 1998 - The Ruffin Series of the Society for Business Ethics 1998:7-20.
The Ethics of Marketing Good Corporate Conduct.Mary Lyn Stoll - 2002 - Journal of Business Ethics 41 (1-2):121 - 129.
Marketing Ethics: Some Dimensions of the Challenge.Paul F. Camenisch - 1991 - Journal of Business Ethics 10 (4):245 - 248.
A Framework for Assessing Immorally Manipulative Marketing Tactics.Shlomo Sher - 2011 - Journal of Business Ethics 102 (1):97-118.
Marketing Ethics: An International Perspective.Bodo B. Schlegelmilch - 1998 - International Thomson Business Press.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2012-09-06

Total views
4,543 ( #286 of 2,309,296 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
905 ( #220 of 2,309,296 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature