MARKETING DEBATE—Is Target Marketing Ever Bad?

As marketers increasingly develop marketing programs tailored to certain target market segments, some critics have denounced these efforts as exploitative. For example, the preponderance of billboards advertising cigarettes, alcohol, and other voices in low-income urban areas is seen as taking advantage of a vulnerable market segment. Critics can be especially harsh in evaluation marketing programs that target African Americans and other minority groups, claiming that they often employ clichéd stereotypes and inappropriate depictions. Others counter with the point of view that targeting and positioning is critical to marketing and that these marketing programs are an attempt to be relevant to a certain consumer group.

Take a position: Targeting minorities is exploitative versus targeting minorities is a sound business practice.

Suggested Responses:

Pro: When marketers use their advance knowledge of specific target markets, such as minorities that preys upon the target market’s weaknesses and lack of information, then marketing can be said to be exploiting the said target market for gains. Marketers should always be aware that information is a powerful tool that has to be used responsibly and prudently. Products and services that cater to minorities that cause adverse health effects or pejorative social action(s) because of their usage need to be marketed in a socially responsible way. Just because a marketer has information on the buying habits, social styles, motivation,

perception, and purchase criteria specific to a target market does not automatically permit the marketer to use this information freely.

Con: Marketers do not create social systems nor does marketing create social ills. Marketers cannot assume the responsibility for lack of personal choice, lack of information or know­ledge, and the lack of personal responsibility. It is the role of marketing to deliver to the target market the goods and services they want and need. Marketing is “amoral” in its delivery of information to target markets and the target markets must decide for themselves the use or non-use of the products marketed. Using advanced research methods to uncover motivation, purchase intent, post-purchase usage, and the like is sound business practice and the marketer owes its stakeholders the responsibility to use this information that increases sales.


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