Research Papers On Marketing Ethics Issues

Guest Editors

  • Professor Charles Harvey, Newcastle University Business School, UK
  • Dr Nick Hajli, School of Management, Swansea University, UK
  • Professor Michael R. Hyman, College of Business, New Mexico State University, USA


Research Topic

Technology has a ubiquitous presence in the day-to-day lives of most contemporary consumers, who are continually presented with new opportunities for gathering and receiving information about potential purchases, and with novel platforms and marketplaces where they can connect and exchange with producers and other consumers in ever more seamless ways (Dolbec & Fischer, 2015). For marketers, these new and emergent technologies present exciting opportunities to manage these exchanges, through the ability to collect and access large volumes of data on the personal lives and behaviours of consumers, in ways which extend far beyond the breadth of the traditional market research tools, customer databases and loyalty programmes that have been deployed effectively in the past (He & Bond, 2015). Information transparency and the increasingly cost-effectiveness of data exploitation is then used by marketers to segment the market and target potential customers with unparalleled precision, enabling them to channel relevant content and position their offerings more effectively (Ngai, et al., 2009). Yet, it seems that with each technological development comes a new set of ethical dilemmas. There are serious concerns regarding how new marketing technologies are used, and what the broader implications of these may be for society at large (Ashworth & Free, 2006). Whilst corporate manipulation of ‘big data’ presents tantalizing opportunities for the targeted data profiling of individuals and households from multiple sources (Wang & Hajli, 2017), there are serious concerns about who owns, controls and grants access to the data (Roessler, 2015). This is more important now in the era of social commerce (Hajli, Sims, Zadeh, & Richard, 2017). Therefore, this special issue target papers, both theoretical and empirical, that focus on the multifarious ethical concerns that revolve around the use and abuse of new and emergent technologies in marketing. This special issue will comprise 8 to 10 papers.

Rationale for the Special Issue

Previous research indicates that many consumers are not aware when they sign up to a social media site that they are effectively signing away their rights to data privacy, and that unbeknownst to them their online persona is a tradable artifact that can be bought and sold like a commodity (Dommeyer & Gross, 2003; Graeff & Harmon, 2002). Underlying this phenomenon are broad ethical issues around privacy and the blurring of the division between the personal and the private, which are not unique to the domain of marketing, but which may cause even greater concerns given that they are exploited for the purpose of profit alone (Roessler & Mokrosinska, 2015). A consideration relevant to marketing also surrounds the lack of effective legal and regulatory measures for consumer protection, which is struggling to keep pace with technological change. The potential to exploit vulnerable portions of the population, who are not technologically aware of practices such as data mining or covert communication techniques, raises serious ethical concerns (Busch, 2015; Featherman and Hajli, 2015).

Marketing ethics in the social media era, privacy of consumers in social networking sites, security of information in current digital era, and technology and ethics are under researched within marketing and business ethics. The intention of the special issue is to publish a mix of theoretical and empirical research that focus on the multifarious ethical concerns surrounding the use and abuse of new and emergent technologies in marketing.

Call for Papers

There is a long tradition of writing on the ethics of marketing practice from John Ruskin in the nineteenth century (Harvey and Press, 1995) down to the present day (Tsalikis & Fritzche, 1989), including various attempts to develop general theories of marketing ethics and decision making (Ferrell & Gresham, 1985; Hunt & Veill, 1986, 2006). Fundamental to marketing ethics are issues relating to trust and potential abuses of trust between knowledgeable suppliers of goods and services and less knowledgeable consumers (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001; Morgan & Hunt, 1994; Sirdeshmukh et al., 2002), as the recent exposure of the Volkswagen emissions testing scandal has confirmed (Hothan, 2015). Information asymmetries are commonplace, encountered on a daily basis by citizens as they go about their daily lives, exposing them to manifold risks from product misrepresentation to loss of control of personal information and identity (Bélanger & Crossler, 2011; Grabner-Kraeuter, 2002). In the age of global capitalism, a raft of simple-to-use but difficult-to-fathom digital technologies have multiplied the gamut of risks – deception, fraud and misappropriation – faced by ordinary people (Mick & Fournier, 1998). Legal and regulatory frameworks designed to balance the interests of producers and consumers have struggled to keep abreast of the challenges emanating from ubiquitous technological change and the exploitation of resulting opportunities for gain by savvy marketing professionals (Bamberger, 2010). The availability of new and emergent digital technologies has and will continue to evoke profound behavioural, commercial and moral responses, each interrelated, controversial and hazardous for both producers and consumers (Martin & Craig, 2008). There is evident need of concomitant improvements in the moral compass, for the ethical issues surrounding the application of new and emergent technologies to be highlighted, discussed and resolved, manifest in improved understanding, policies, regulations and laws (Svantesson & Clarke, 2010). Herein is the subject matter of this special issue.

Technology has a ubiquitous presence in the day-to-day lives of most contemporary consumers, who are continually presented with new opportunities for gathering and receiving information about potential purchases, and with novel platforms and marketplaces where they can connect and exchange with producers and other consumers in ever more seamless ways (Dolbec & Fischer, 2015). For marketers, these new and emergent technologies present exciting opportunities to manage these exchanges, through the ability to collect and access large volumes of data on the personal lives and behaviours of consumers, in ways which extend far beyond the breadth of the traditional market research tools, customer databases and loyalty programmes that have been deployed effectively in the past (He & Bond, 2015). Information transparency and the increasingly cost-effectiveness of data exploitation is then used by marketers to segment the market and target potential customers with unparalleled precision, enabling them to channel relevant content and position their offerings more effectively (Ngai, et al., 2009).

Yet, it seems that with each technological development comes a new set of ethical dilemmas. There are serious concerns regarding how new marketing technologies are used, and what the broader implications of these may be for society at large (Ashworth & Free, 2006). Whilst corporate manipulation of ‘big data’ presents tantalizing opportunities for the targeted data profiling of individuals and households from multiple sources, there are serious concerns about who owns, controls and grants access to the data (Roessler, 2015). Studies indicate that many consumers are not aware when they sign up to a social media site that they are effectively signing away their rights to data privacy and that, unbeknownst to them, their online persona is a tradable artifact that is bought and sold like a commodity (Dommeyer & Gross, 2003; Graeff & Harmon, 2002). Underlying this phenomenon are broad ethical issues around privacy and the blurring of the division between the personal and the private, which are not unique to the domain of marketing, but which may cause even greater concerns given that they are exploited for the purpose of profit alone (Roessler & Mokrosinska, 2015). A consideration relevant to marketing also surrounds the lack of effective legal and regulatory measures for consumer protection, which is struggling to keep pace with technological change. The potential to exploit vulnerable portions of the population, who are not technologically aware of practices such as data mining or covert communication techniques, raises serious ethical concerns (Busch, 2015; Featherman and Hajli, 2015).

This special issue of JBR invites papers, both theoretical and empirical, that focus on the multifarious ethical concerns that revolve around the use and abuse of new and emergent technologies in marketing. Below we list some indicative themes of relevance to this issue, which include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Security, anonymity and information privacy issues in using publicly available electronic documents for research.
  • Researching and marketing to vulnerable populations.
  • Surveillance and consumer tracking e.g. mobile marketing and in-store surveillance data profiling.
  • Trust and transparency in online communications platforms.
  • Symbolic violence in web-mediated communication platforms.
  • Children’s consumption of technology and marketer’s interventions e.g. advergames.
  • Big data storage and analysis.
  • New technologies of marketing research and data representation.
  • Market regulation and safety concerns in consumer-to-consumer service delivery e.g. Uber and AirBnB.
  • Data profiling of individuals and households.
  • Information exchange and the micro-targeting of individuals
  • Anti-consumption practices and user control: re-appropriating web discourses and information use (e.g. Ghostery, #FBRape)
  • Image appropriation and copyright law
  • Ethical underpinnings of regulatory and legislative frameworks


Timeline

The deadline for the submission is the end of February 2019. It is expected that the special issue will be published in 2020.

Guest Editors

Professor Charles Harvey is Professor of Business History and Management and Director of the Centre for Research on Entrepreneurship, Wealth and Philanthropy (REWP) at Newcastle University, UK. His research spans the fields of strategy, organization studies and international business and is methodologically multi-faceted combining quantitative and qualitative approaches using diverse sources. He champions the cause of historical organization studies as a means of illuminating contemporary issues in society, notably the increasing concentration of power and resources in the hands of elite actors and the consequences for individuals, nations and global society. He has published widely in books and journals such as the Academy of Management Review, the Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies, Organizational Research Methods, Human Relations, The Economic History Review, Business History, The Business History Review, and the Journal of Business Ethics. His interest in new marketing technologies and the ethical issues these raise stems from longstanding research on database systems and technologies.

Dr. Nick Hajli is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Swansea University. He sits on the editorial board of several academic journals as a section editor, member of the advisory board or a guest editor including the Technological Forcasting and Social Change, Computers in Human Behavior, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, International Journal of Information Management, and Journal of Strategic Marketing. He has published widely in journals such as the Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Business Research, Industrial Marketing Management, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, Expert Systems with Applications, Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

Dr. Michael R. Hyman is Distinguished Achievement Professor of Marketing at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. His roughly 85 academic journal articles, 60 conference papers (11 which won a ‘best paper’ award), four co-authored/co-edited books, 30 other academic contributions, and 50 non-academic works, attest to this writing compulsion. Currently, he is Journal of Business Ethics section editor for marketing and a Journal of Marketing Theory & Ethics associate editor. His research interests include consumers' responses to advertising, ethics in marketing, survey research methods, knowledge acquisition in academia, and philosophical analyses in marketing. He hopes to launch a virtual Institute for Philosophical and Future Studies in Marketing within the next 18 months.

References

Ashworth, L. & Clinton, F. (2006), ‘Marketing dataveillance and digital privacy: Using theories of justice to understand consumers’ online privacy concerns’, Journal of Business Ethics, 67: 107-123.

Bamberger, K.A. (2010), ‘Technologies of compliance: Risk and regulation in a digital age’, Texas Law Review, 88(4): 669-740.

Bélanger, F. & Crossler, R.E. (2011), ‘Privacy in the digital age: A review of information privacy research in information systems’, MIS Quarterly, 35(4): 1017-1042.

Busch, A. (2015), ‘Privacy, technology and regulation: Why one size is unlikely to fit all’ in in Roessler, B. and Mokrosinska, D. (Eds), Social Dimensions of Privacy: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 303-323.

Chaudhuri, A. & Holbrook, M.B. (2001), ‘The chain of effects from brand trust and brand affect to brand performance: The role of brand loyalty’, Journal of Marketing, 65(2): 81-93.

Dolbec, Y-C. & Fischer, E. (2015), ‘Refashioning a field? Connected consumers and institutional dynamics in markets’, Journal of Consumer Research, 41(6): 1447-1468.

Dommeyer, C.J. & Gross, B.L. (2003), ‘What consumers know and what they do: An investigation of consumer knowledge, awareness and use of privacy protection strategies’, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 17-2: 34-51.

Featherman, M. & Hajli, N. (2015), ‘Self-service technologies and e-service risks in social commerce era’, Journal of Business Ethics (e-print ahead of publication)

Ferrell, O.C. & Gresham, L.G. (1985), ‘A contingency framework for understanding ethical decision making in marketing’, Journal of Marketing, 49(3): 87-96.

Grabner-Kraeuter, S. (2002), ‘The role of consumers’ trust in online shopping’, Journal of Business Ethics, 39(1/2): 43-50.

Graeff, T.R. & Harmon, S. (2002), ‘Collecting and using personal data: Consumers’ awareness and concerns’, Journal of Consumer Marketing, 19(4): 302-318.

Hajli, N., Sims, J., Zadeh, A. H., & Richard, M.-O. (2017). A social commerce investigation of the role of trust in a social networking site on purchase intentions. Journal of Business Research, 71(Supplement C), 133-141. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2016.10.004

Harvey, C. & Press, J. (1995), ‘John Ruskin and the ethical foundations of Morris & Co., 1861-96’, Journal of Business Ethics, 14(3): 181-194.

He, S.X. & Bond, S.D. (2015), ‘Why is the crowd divided? Attribution for dispersion in online word of mouth’, Journal of Consumer Research, 41(6): 1509-1527.

Hothan, R. (2015), ‘Volkswagen: The scandal explained’, BBC News online, 25 September 2015, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34324772, accessed 28 September 2015.

Hunt, S.D. & Vitell, S.J. (1986), ‘A general theory of marketing ethics’, Journal of Macromarketing, 5(1): 5-16.

Hunt, S.D. & Vitell, S.J. (2006), ‘The general theory of marketing ethics: A revision and three questions’, Journal of Macromarketing, 26(2): 143-153.

Martin, K.D. & Smith, N.C. (2008), ‘Commercializing social interaction: The ethics of stealth marketing’, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 27(1): 45-56.

Mick, D.G. & Fournier, S.G. (1998), ‘Paradoxes of technology: Consumer cognizance, emotions and coping strategies’, Journal of Consumer Research, 25(2): 123-143.

Morgan, R.M. & Hunt, S.D. (1994), ‘The commitment-trust theory of relationship marketing’, Journal of Marketing, 58(3): 20-28.

Ngai, E.W.T., Xiu, L. & Chau, D.C.K. (2009), ‘Application of data mining techniques in customer relationship management: A literature review and classification’, Expert Systems with Applications, 36(2): 2595-2602.

Roessler, B. (2015), ‘Should personal data be a tradeable good? On the moral limits of markets in privacy’ in Roessler, B. and Mokrosinska, D. (Eds.), Social Dimensions of Privacy: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 141-161.

Roessler, B. and Mokrosinska, D. (Eds) (2015), Social Dimensions of Privacy: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sirdeshmukh, D., Singh, J. & Sabol, B. (2002), ‘Consumer trust, value and loyalty in relational exchanges’ Journal of Marketing, 66(1): 15-37.

Svantesson, D. & Clarke, R. (2010), ‘Privacy and consumer risks in cloud computing’, Computer Law & Security Review, 26(4): 391-397.

Tsalikis, J. & Fritzche, D.J. (1989), ‘Business ethics: A literature review with a focus on marketing ethics’, Journal of Business Ethics, 8(9): 695-743.

Wang, Y., & Hajli, N. (2017). Exploring the path to big data analytics success in healthcare. Journal of Business Research, 70(Supplement C), 287-299. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2016.08.002

‘And what is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good — need we ask anyone to tell us these things?’ (R. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
Like everything else in its path, the advent of interactive digital technologies has transformed research, both for marketing academics and practitioners. Not only have tools such as online surveys, email interviews and online focus groups provided wider access to participants and quicker results, but entirely new areas of research have sprung up. Topics such as online consumer behaviour, engagement with social media and responses to smartphone advertising have become areas of profound interest to the marketing academic and practitioner alike.

However, digital technologies have also brought new challenges to doing research in an ethical manner. Questions of privacy and confidentiality, reliability of data collected and distribution of results have become problematic in a digital world where people can perceive they are hiding their identity but actually leave traces of their activities and intentions, and where the rallying cry of the internet in the 1990s — ‘information wants to be free’ — has since become the perception that everything available online has no fee or ownership.

Adding to these challenges are pressures from legal and regulatory bodies. For example, UK practitioners have to deal with the implementation of the so-called ‘Cookie Law’ of 2011, which requires sites to explicitly obtain consent from users before storing or retrieving information on their device, but it is unclear whether users actually understand what they are giving consent to. Other legislation designed to protect children from inappropriate advertising, or requiring permission to obtain or use personal data, struggle to keep up with the latest technologies, but must still be taken into consideration.
For academic researchers, another pressure to consider is the institutional Ethical Review process. Research councils, universities and journals are now insisting on ethical review of research as a condition of funding and/or publication. This review process is designed to ensure ethical compliance, rather than judge the quality or suitability of the proposed research. But digital research is coming under increased scrutiny, raising issues that research institutions are unsure how to cope with, or which are in conflict with practitioner norms.

The key to addressing these issues lies in practitioners and academics sharing education and expertise to understand and address the ethical challenges inherent in online market research. Take, for example, the question of remunerating participants in online research. Practitioners are accustomed to providing incentives to encourage online survey completion, usually via prize draws. However, some institutional ethics review panels are opposed to this practice, claiming that this would violate principles of anonymity as the participant would have to provide contact details in order to be eligible for a prize, and that, in fact, privacy concerns may actually preclude participation if an email address needs to be provided. (In practice, ethical concerns about participation incentives can be addressed by storing contact data separately from survey responses, and ensuring that separation is made clear at the start of the survey.)

This is something that both academics and practitioners can easily implement, and should be standard practice when offering incentives for online surveys. The concern about incentives being counter-productive needs to be challenged and challenged strongly. While there is not a preponderance of academic studies on this topic, what is out there does suggest that incentivising participants is a useful practice in online surveys and one in which academics and practitioners should be able to work together to demonstrate its efficacy.
This sharing of education and expertise is not a one-way street, as practitioners can use their experience to assist the academic in solving ethical issues. For example, academics often have an extensive background in research ethics and should therefore be in an ideal position to educate the practitioner on why ‘ethical research is good research’, and how to identify potential ethical problems and develop appropriate solutions. This type of training would be an invaluable contribution to any certification in digital marketing, including the IDM’s own diploma programmes.

In a previous issue of this journal, Professor Merlin Stone argued that academics need to make their research more relevant to practitioners. Co-operation in understanding and responding to the ethical challenges inherent in digital research can not only increase the value of academic research to the business community, but also bring the value of practitioner research to the academic world.

References

  1. Merlin, S. (2013) ‘Co-operation between academics and practitioners — Hope for the future?’, Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 105–107, doi:10.1057/dddmp.2013.54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Portsmouth Business School, University of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

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