Marketing to Children
Marketingethics is paramount in the world of business today. It refers to thevalues, standards, and principles of conduct that marketers shouldfollow. The society expects the marketers to adopt beliefs that aremorally acceptable and promote the society wellness. This has broughtabout several ethical issues that draw much attention from the publicand marketers. One such issue is marketing to children, which is amajor concern in consumerism. Many marketers target children becauseof the great influence they have on their parents and the money theyspend on their own. Marketers have realized that children are thegreatest consumers of their products regardless of the quality. It iseasy to manipulate children because they have not developed theircognition fully. This means that they are likely to believe what theysee in advertisements especially if they are appealing to the eyes.The other concern of marketing to children is that they may notcomprehend the commercial messages. Likewise, some contents incommercials encourage certain bad behaviors that may be consideredimmoral or unacceptable (Lamb, Hair & McDaniel, 2009).
Theissue of marketing to children poses an ethical dilemma on whetherthese advertisements should be banned or not. Some speculate thatbanning these advertisements is good for children and the generalsociety, whereas others feel that parents should be the ones guidingchildren on certain advertisements. Banning of these advertisementswould negatively affect the businesses that target children.
Thetraditional theories that can be used to solve this dilemma includeutilitarianism and deontology/ Kantian. Utilitarianism is of the viewthat any action that promotes the general good for the communityshould be pursued. This means that if an action brings good to themajority of people in a society, then it is ethical. On the otherhand, Kantian believes that an action should be done for the rightreasons. Such an action should be selfless and can qualify as auniversal law. Both theories disagree with marketing to children.However, to some extent, utilitarianism theory has two perspectivesin which one of them may view marketing to children as acceptable(Wines, 2006).
Marketersspend millions of dollars with the intent of persuading people to buytheir products. However, there is a major concern on ethics ofmarketing. This has led to great controversies on the principles ofmarketing. The greatest controversy lied with the deficiencies thatmarketers hold including lack of sincerity, enhancing of consumer’smaterialism, use of symbols and status of possessions, and creatingunrealistic expectations about a good being advertised. Mostadvertisements are deceptive in nature and create unrealisticexpectations with regard to consumer satisfaction of the good.Luckily for many adults, they are able to comprehend the messages andare less likely to be manipulated. On the other hand, children arevulnerable to these advertisements and are likely to fall prey of thesame. As such, marketers target these children because they know thatthey are easily persuaded by deceiving advertisement messages. Theamount of money that many companies spend to market to childrenacross the world has explosively grown over the last two decades.Before then, the market specialized on children never existed. It istrue that there were products for children such as drinks, toys, andsweets however, the advertisements were limited. In addition, unliketoday, children had little access to money thus, limiting theirdecisions to purchase.
Todaychildren represents the biggest potential for growth the reason whymany marketers are interested in them. There are three main reasonswhy marketers are interested in children:
The money they spend on their own (the present market).
The influence that they have parents and family shopping (the influence market). Children of today have a say on what they want their parents to but for them and the place where they should shop or spend their holidays. They also have a word on the type of electronics and cars to buy based on what they regard to be good.
They are future consumers (the future market). Marketers view children as evolving customers and know that their shopping today may have a great influence on what they will shop in future. Some trademarks are acquired through childhood.
Marketershave realized that it is easier to sell a product by targetingchildren rather than targeting parents directly. This strategy iscalled pester power. Children have a great capacity to influence whatthey parents buy for them by asking repeatedly for certain products.Their nagging can make a parent buy a product even if he or she doesnot agree with it. Parents have a great desire to make their childrenhappy. This means that they may be willing to buy the products thattheir children ask for persistently. Marketers are aware of this factand have put much effort in persuading children to persuade theirparents to purchase them such products. For example, a child may seea toy advertisement on TV and persuade his or her parents to buy itbecause the advertisements make it appear as the best in the market.A parent who wants to please a child may be persuaded into buying theproduct.
Theethical dilemma of marketing to children lies in the notion onwhether it should be banned or not. It has been noted that marketingto children manipulates them because they do not have the capacity tocomprehend the messages fully. In addition, there are so manyproducts that are not good for children. For instance processed foodsare not very good for the health of children. However, since they areadvertised as if they are best products ever, children buy themwithout knowing the consequences. Some advertisements also encouragesome undesirable behaviors among children. This makes it necessary toban advertisements on children. On the other hand, there are thosewho claim that banning marketing on children is not good forbusinesses that are important for economic development. These peoplefeel that parents should control their children and help them tointerpret the good and bad products. The dilemma of marketing tochildren continues to face the world today. Some countries have evenbanned certain types of advertisements targeted at children. Suchmeasures protect children against manipulation by marketers. However,many countries still have these advertisements in televisions andbillboards. The debate on the banning of these advertisements isstill high and a solution is yet to be reached.
TraditionalTheories for Resolving the Dilemma
Thedilemma of marketing to children can be resolved using deontology andutilitarianism theories. These two theories among others have beenused for a long time to resolve some ethical dilemmas.
Utilitarianismstates that ethical decisions should promote the benefits of thesociety while minimizing harms. This means that what matters most arethe good consequences of the larger society. This implies thatethical decisions should produce the greatest benefits for entiresociety as opposed to producing the greatest harm to the society. Inshort, this theory aims at producing the greater good. Utilitarianismis one of the most flexible theories because it focuses on theconsequences.
Fromthe perspective of utilitarian, marketing to children has twodimensions. It views what has the greater good to the society. Is itthe companies that employ many people and bring economic developmentor is it the welfare of children and spending? The one that producesthe greater good should be adopted. Undeniably, the companies thatmarket to children benefit millions of people who are employed. Thismeans that they contribute greatly to economic development.Therefore, if they were to close down due to lack of consumers, manypeople would be rendered jobless. On the other hand, these marketingstrategies harm many children and accentuate materialism. It has beennoted that many advertisements manipulate children into buyingproducts. Some of these products are deceiving and do not produce thedesired results. The processed and junk foods have found a greatmarket in children who are persuaded into buying them because of thegreat taste and sugar content. This has undesirable consequences onthe health of children and the future generation. If childrencontinue to purchase these food products, they are likely to developunhealthy lifestyles even in future. Additionally, someadvertisements promote bad behaviors that may create anothergeneration with moral degradation. Thanks to advertisements, manychildren have developed undesired characteristics that may impact notonly their present life, but also the future.
Basingon the two arguments, it is evident that utilitarian supports thebanning of marketing to children. Children consist of a largerpopulation than the people employed in the companies that market tochildren. The welfare of children is a greater good than theemployment of few people. Children are the future decision makers andif their well fare is not taken into account, they may not have abright future. In addition, if children develop questionablebehaviors, they are likely to pass them to the next generation. Thiswill eventually create a community with moral degradation andundesirable behaviors. In short, from the perspective of utilitarian,marketing tom children should be banned for the greater good of thecommunity. However, from this perspective, ethical relativism shouldapply. Application of this law should be based on the interests ofeach region as opposed to globalization. There are some regions thatre more affected by marketing to children than others.
Deontologistsstates that ethics should be based on duties. The theory focuses onthe action rather than the consequences. In this case, people shoulddo what is right and focus on individual wellness. It follows thegolden rule of doing what you would want others to do to you.Deontologists claim that actions under this notion qualify to beuniversal laws. Certain moral principles such as fairness,compassion, honesty among others are crucial regardless of theirconsequences. Deontologists argue that some actions, despiteproducing desirable consequences, should not be undertaken. Someactions are not just right even if they maximize the utility. Ethicaldecisions should focus on individual actors and not the society.
Marketingto children is harmful to children in various ways. Adverts targetingchildren are manipulative and deceptive. Therefore, the act itself ismorally wrong if deontology view applies. It may be benefiting manypeople in such companies, but this does not make it right. Inaddition, advertising to children’s intentions is out of selfinterest. Marketers’ main concern is to make profits at the expenseof innocent children. They are aware that if they target children,they are likely to multiple their products. This is againstdeontologists, who are in support of selfless decisions. Any decisiontaken out selfish interests and intends to harm others is consideredmorally wrong. This is the same thing that marketers are doing. Theydo not care about the well being of children as long as they makemoney out of it. It does not matter how many people will lose theirjobs provided that people do the right thing. Therefore,deontologists support the banning of marketing to children intotality. This perspective should be globalized by having universalmoral standing as opposed to ethical relativist.
Fromthe two ethical theories, it is vivid that marketing to children isunethical. It brings more harm than benefits. The marketers are doingthis out self interest without regard for the welfare of bothchildren and parents. The harm caused by this ethical issue is farand wide reaching. Therefore, marketing to children should be bannedfor the welfare of all.
Lamb,C. W., Hair, J. F., & McDaniel, C. D. (2009). Marketing.Mason, Ohio: South-Western Cengage Learning.
Wines,W. A. (2006). Ethics,law, and business.Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.