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Marketing ethics and the techniques of neutralization

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The need for conceptual work in marketing ethics is addressed by examining the five techniques of neutralization as a means for partially explaining “unethical” behaviors by marketing practitioners. These techniques are often used by individuals to lessen the possible impact of norm-violating behaviors upon their self-concept and their social relationships. Borrowed from the social disorganization and deviance literature, the five techniques of neutralization are: (1) denial of responsibility, (2) denial of injury, (3) denial of victim, (4) condemning the condemners and (5) appeal to higher loyalties. Examples of marketing professionals using each of the five techniques are given, and a conceptual model linking the techniques of neutralization with “unethical” behavior is presented. Finally, relevant research questions are offered for consideration.

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Scott J. Vitell is Assistant Professor of Marketing at The University of Mississippi. His most important publications include ‘A General Theory of Marketing Ethics’ (1986) (with Shelby D. Hunt) and ‘Marketing's Contribution to Economic Development: A Look at the Last 30 Years’ (1985) (with Van R. Wood).

Stephen J. Grove is Assistant Professor of Marketing at Clemson University. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Health Care Marketing, the International Journal of Sport Psychology, the Journal of Sport Behavior, the Bulletin of the Association for Business Communication, Simulation and Games, and several national and regional conference proceedings.

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Vitell, S.J., Grove, S.J. Marketing ethics and the techniques of neutralization. J Bus Ethics 6, 433–438 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00383285

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  • Economic Growth
  • Marketing
  • Research Question
  • Conceptual Model
  • Social Relationship