Academic discussion about the ethics of marketing typically focuses on the role such practices can play in undermining human autonomy through manipulation of the consumer’s decision-making processes However, empirical researchers have not explored these issues from the perspective of those who may be targeted by such messages. In this study we use a pair of structured surveys to identify consumer attitudes towards manipulative marketing, focusing specifically on how their views on the use of manipulative marketing tactics may change depending on how they feel about the consequences these tactics will bring about. Study 1 presents respondents with a series of scenarios in which a consumer is presented with marketing messages for a product that will have positive or negative consequences. The respondent is then told that the marketing messages will transform the consumer’s preferences with varying degrees of probability.Study 2 repeats the same scenarios, but places responsibility for changes in consumer behavior on being zapped with a hypothetical “marketing ray gun” rather than the persuasiveness of the marketing messages themselves.
Preliminary results from Study 1 suggest that consumers are sensitive to manipulative marketing tactics, but only when they dislike the consequences of a campaign’s success. Aside from their immediate significance to the marketing literature, these results have implications for an extension of the dual process theory of moral reasoning in two ways: by extending the application of this model for marketing ethics, and by exposing a key way in which rule-based and consequentialist moral values interact.
Rob Barlow, Hult International Business School, United States
Matt Johnson, Hult International Business School, United States
Stream: Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting
This paper is part of the ACBPP2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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