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British American Tobacco’s Ethical Marketing Essay

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Updated: Jul 4th, 2021


Marketing research and analysis reveals that British American Tobacco’s (BAT) current marketing practices violate the established guidelines that regulate the advertising of tobacco products. The company runs advertisements on magazines whose readership constitutes about 15% of youth (Franck, Filion, Kimmelman, Grad, & Eisenberg, 2016). Additionally, its online marketing platforms comprise advertisements that depict smoking as pleasurable. There have been public complaints regarding the use of younger-looking celebrities to market tobacco products. People are afraid that such marketing practices will send a negative message to the youths. The public has called for the company to review its marketing practices to ensure that they abide by the established ethical guidelines. It is my view that continued use of the current marketing strategies will have devastating impacts on the company’s reputation.

Parties to the Case

The issue of marketing tobacco products affects many stakeholders. They include parents, the BAT leadership, youths, and the advertising agencies. Parents are concerned that the continued exploitation of young models to advertise tobacco products will lure their children into using the goods (Hall, Gartner, & Forlini, 2015). Moreover, they are against the use of magazines that enjoy readership from the youths to market tobacco products. They recommend that the company ensures that children and teenagers do not have access to information regarding cigarettes and other tobacco products. The management of BAT must make sure that the company does not sell cigarettes to children. Moreover, it has to educate the public on the dangers of using tobacco products. The use of celebrity endorsement appears to send mixed signals to the company’s audience, particularly the youths (Franck et al., 2016). One may argue that the corporation cannot prevent teenagers from purchasing cigarettes. However, it is imperative to understand that the message that the business shares through promotional campaigns influence the buying decisions of most youths.

The BAT should ensure that its advertising agencies do not use kids’ channels to market tobacco products. The agencies have a responsibility to guarantee that children do not access information meant for adult consumers. Promoting tobacco products through magazines that target adult readers will prevent the company from entering into ethical conflicts with the public. Studies show that over 72% of youths spend a lot of time on the internet (McNeill & Munafo, 2013). Hence, they are likely to come across tobacco advertisements. The BAT should avoid using social networks like Facebook to market goods. Instead, it should create an exclusive online marketing platform that targets adult clients only. Failure to regulate the marketing of BAT products will contribute to youths indulging in tobacco use at an early age (McNeill & Munafo, 2013). It will have destructive impacts on the kids and society at large.

Possible Courses of Action

Advertising Practices

It is important to note that there exist strict regulations on tobacco advertising. Tobacco companies are not allowed to use cartoon characters or run adverts on television and radio. The only alternatives that the companies have are magazines and online platforms. Consumer interest groups are calling for the ban on tobacco advertising in all media because the adverts arouse the desire in youths to use the products (McNeill & Munafo, 2013). The association of cigarette smoking with pleasure does not augur well with the public. The BAT should consider reviewing its advertising practices to include an additional message that warns youths against tobacco. The move will affect the company’s profit. However, it is imperative to know that as a company, BAT has a social responsibility to guarantee the wellbeing of its target customers and their children. The company should cease using younger-looking models to promote its products as it sends mixed signals to youths.

Retailing and Promotions

The ban on the use of television and radio to market tobacco products led to the BAT resorting to the use of retail incentive programs. Retail promotion campaigns consume over 77% of the company’s marketing budget (Hoek, 2015). However, the public is complaining about the increased availability of tobacco products at many point-of-sales outlets (Patel, Rendell, Maudgal, & Oswal, 2013). They argue that the primary objective of banning tobacco advertising is to ensure that youths do not have access to the products or information regarding them. The current use of push promotional strategy is not facilitating the realization of this goal. Offering substantial incentives to retailers encourages them to use unconventional methods to advertise tobacco products in anticipation of getting additional rewards from the company. The BAT should consider stopping the promotion of tobacco products at the point of sale. Instead, the management should resort to promoting its products in places that are only patronized by adults such as pubs. It will ensure that children do not have access to information concerning tobacco products. Additionally, the move will boost the company’s image because the public will view it as accountable. The argument that such an undertaking will affect BAT’s profit is baseless since the company will continue to reach its target consumers.

Further Information

Studies show that different market segments have diverse views regarding ethical behaviors. Moral beliefs and ideologies change with life experience and age. The old and the married value ethical conduct (Savell, Gilmore, & Fooks, 2014). Hence, BAT requires conducting further studies to understand the opinions that different market segments have towards its marketing practices. Tobacco consumers are brought up in different cultural environments, which have divergent philosophies regarding business operations. Some consumers prefer a market environment that allows traders to promote their products freely. Others favor a situation where there are limits to how business people market their goods. Understanding how different market segments evaluate moral behaviors will enable BAT to resolve ethical challenges that surround its marketing practices. The company will have sufficient information on what to include or leave out in its advertisements. Moreover, it will know the appropriate advertising media to use for a particular target market.

Reviewing the company’s marketing practices will ensure that BAT does not contravene the established ethical guidelines. Moreover, it will enhance the organization’s public image as customers will regard it as responsible. BAT has a social obligation to ensure that it sells products to the right customers. The company should change its advertising practices to guarantee that youths do not have access to information regarding tobacco products. Ceasing to use younger-looking models to promote cigarettes and other products will prevent the company from sending misleading information to the youths. Additionally, it will save the company from costs attributed to possible litigations by members of the public or organizations that promote children’s rights. Doing away with a push promotional strategy will result in the reduction of the company’s marketing budget.


Franck, C., Filion, K., Kimmelman, J., Grad, R., & Eisenberg, M. (2016). Ethical considerations of e-cigarette use for tobacco harm reduction. Respiratory Research, 17(53), 12-32.

Hall, W., Gartner, C., & Forlini, C. (2015). Ethical issues raised by a ban on the sale of electronic nicotine devices. Addiction, 110(7), 1061-1067.

Hoek, J. (2015). Informed choice and the nanny state: Learning from the tobacco industry. Public Health, 129(8), 1038-1045.

McNeill, A., & Munafo, M. (2013). Reducing harm from tobacco use. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 27(1), 13-18.

Patel, S., Rendell, H., Maudgal, S., & Oswal, K. (2013). Tobacco industry tactics with advertisements at the point of sale in Mumbai. Indian Journal of Cancer, 50(3), 245-249.

Savell, E., Gilmore, A., & Fooks, G. (2014). How does tobacco industry attempt to influence marketing regulations? A systematic review. PLoS ONE, 9(2), 17-31.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'British American Tobacco’s Ethical Marketing'. 4 July.

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