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The Red Campaign: Unethical Marketing Case Essay

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Updated: Jun 21st, 2020


Simon defines marketing ethics as a subject that addresses ideologies and values that characterize market tolerable behaviors (128). Ethics is a huge CSR factor since it sets the acceptable standards, which all CSR initiatives must obey when executing their missions. Marketers can go too far to obtain customers by engaging in unethical marketing practices, which are openly meant to deceive and take advantage of a given situation for individualistic or group gains. As the paper reveals, the government should pass some rulings to protect clients from these evil marketers in the cause-related marking. This paper discusses ethical marketing in the context of cause-related marketing (CRM) and the RED marketing campaign.

Analysis of the Issue

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) theory presents Cause-Related Marketing (CRM) as an important mechanism for ensuring that organizations engage in CSR (Kotler and Lee 3). Dadush defines CRM as the marketing of products and services not just based on quality and/or functionality, but also their relationship with some external causes (1273). The case of CRM demonstrates how marketing and ethics co-exist since organizations engage in CSR by committing a given portion of profits from the sale of services or products to a noble course or program that is meant to solve some social problems.

Ethical marketing refers to a situation where buyers and sellers have some values that they uphold when doing any business dealings. Marketers have gone a step further to obtain clients via the CRM in the RED campaign. For instance, as Dadush asserts, “The Red emblem has become universal, appearing on items as varied as coffee bean packets, strollers, t-shirts, computers, thank-you cards, and looking ahead, many things in between” (1270). Although CRM is beneficial, it can be abused through some evident unethical sides. Firstly, clients are not made aware of the two agendas that the campaign seeks to accomplish, namely making business profits and gathering money for donations. While they seem to be fighting a certain counterproductive societal issue, it is unethical for CRM to present personalized answers to shared tribulations (Dadush 1269).

While using the CRM, several moral, legal, and ethical issues can arise. Moral principles constitute a key factor in the corporate social responsibility. An organization has an added role of delivering value to communities in which it does its business. From an ethical perspective, this additional role is only evident when the marketing of products is decent such that the utilities of the products are not misrepresented simply to attract a large buyer sponsorship.

From a legal standpoint, companies are required to adopt slogans that act as communication tools to attract clients. For instance, companies that use the RED label deploy marketing slogans such as “Desire and virtue, Together at last, and Buy (RED), Save lives” (Dadush 1271). If customers cannot understand that the RED label does not denote a mark of the product contents, they may be misled to purchase it to save their lives, rather than contributing to the global fund for fighting AIDS in Africa. Taking advantage of the course that the movement pursues in Africa without being devoted to it in the effort to increase profits and/or keep off competitors is unethical.

Current Event

The case of the RED campaign is an attempt to engage in CSR by working with the society. For CRM to be ethical, it requires ardent communication with consumers. The objective is to convince them that some of the money they pay for the products goes to CSR. Thus, the RED campaign persuades consumers to buy a product and not that of a competitor in the quest to support a social course. Since CRM involves partnership with profit-making organizations and nonprofit-making organizations, both organizations achieve their main business objectives while consumers rest assured that they have acted in a socially responsible way by supporting a social course (Brand Strategy par.3).

Indeed, this plan forms the main criticism for CRM. Berglind and Nakata claim that organizations that engage in CRM agreements aim at exploiting social courses to raise their profit levels. This observation is the case for the RED campaign. Borrowing from the theory of planned behavior, companies such as the RED campaign apply the ‘greenwashing’ concept to take advantage of consumers who purchase their products by making them associate the products’ utility with the noble CSR course. As suggested by Berglind and Nakata, CRM is misleading because it misrepresents the utilities of the products in the interest of pushing more products to the market to increase companies’ profitability (449). This situation can happen due to the development of the wrong brand image (Brand Strategy par.5).

Does the government need to establish legislation on the appropriate marketing behavior? Different nations have ethical rules and regulations to control the marketing of branded products. This case highlights the significance of considering marketing ethics for CRM from the perspective of the natural law. Legislation is necessary to prevent unethical practices such as deceitful marketing and marketing strategies that are aimed at taking advantage of a given social situation to increase profitability.


In conclusion, marketing managers need to understand that corporate malpractices not only deny the shareholders their right to leap from their investments, but also violate ethical practices in corporate management. This observation is perhaps the case for marketing managers who are pursuing CRM strategies. They need to ensure that they do not surpass ethical boundaries while attempting to promote their products.

Works Cited

Berglind, Martin, and Charles Nakata. “Cause-related marketing: More buck than bang?” Business Horizons 48.5(2005): 443-453. Print.

Brand Strategy. Brand therapy–product RED: Product pro bono, 2007. Web.

Dadush, Sarah. “Profiting in (Red): The Need for Enhanced Transparency in Cause-Related Marketing.” International Law and Politics 42.1(2010): 1269-1335. Print.

Kotler, Philip, and Nancy Lee. Corporate social responsibility: Doing the most good for your company and your cause. New York, NY: Wiley, 2005. Print.

Simon, Herbert. “Rational Decision Making in Business Organizations.” American Economic Review 3.4(2007):123-129. Print.

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