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Message Themes

Published October 30, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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A marketer’s goal is to get a powerful message out to their target audience.  Kennedy (2011) suggests the best ads are built with the most persuasive, compelling, intriguing, fascinating message possible. To construct a super powered marketing message advertisers must assess everything and everyone they are up against that are presenting similar messages because their intent is to deliver a message that trumps all others and puts them in a category of uniqueness (Kennedy, 2011).  The strategy that helps marketers achieve these outcomes is doing their homework to come up with a unique selling proposition (USP) justifying their message against the competition. Incorporating a USP into the message theme of an advertising campaign will help the brand stand out above the others and is more likely to remain a fixture in the memories of consumers.

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Before marketers can start to build a tactical business case for content marketing they have to begin with the concept of innovation.  Baack and Clow (2012) explain that message themes are developed into a campaign to transmit key ideas in marketing campaigns. The use of recurring themes helps make the brand stand out more and is more effective at remaining in consumer memories. The message can incorporate different kinds of strategies that target (a) cognitive, (b) affective, or (c) conative responses to make their ads more appealing (Baack & Clow, 2012). For example, back in the 1990s, the Taster’s Choice Coffee Company created a series of ads that became both popular and memorable (Commercial, 1991). The ad conveyed a simple recurring theme in their message that conveyed that life seemed much better sharing a cup of Taster’s Choice coffee with someone special. The recurring theme that communicated their message was constructed in the form of a series of short dramatic scenes like a mini soap opera. Each time the couple would appear in different circumstances while viewers watched their relationship develop. The action was centered around the theme of sharing a cup of coffee each time viewers tuned in to witness the unique circumstances brought them together in each new ad. This advertising strategy was innovative at the time making this ad campaign a phenomenon in the history of TV commercials. This strategy was met with great success because their target audience was focused on people who were hooked to popular soap opera type shows at the time like Dallas and All My Children. Consumers were eagerly waiting for the next commercial to witness the plot development between the couple that was featured in the ads. Not only did sales boom, the Taster’s Choice brand became a part of pop culture during that time as millions of viewers anticipated each new episode to be a witness to the couple’s blossoming relationship. It was considered one of the most effective marketing campaigns on television at that era because of the emotional chord it struck with viewers. The soap opera message theme that delivered their message in that campaign was the bait that kept luring viewers and put Taster’s Choice in consumer memories for a long time. It’s twenty plus years later and I still remember them!

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References:

Baack, D., & Clow, K. (2012). Integrated advertising, promotion, and marketing communications (Fifth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.

1991 Taster’s Choice Coffee Commercial (1991). [Motion Picture]. USA.

Kennedy, D. (2011). The ultimate marketing plan: Target your audience (Fourth ed.). Avon, MA, USA: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Brand Marketing Promotion Campaigns

Published October 23, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Brand Marketing promotions are considered one of the most valid tools for a company in the modern world, especially during times of hardship. Diamond (2011) suggests that retailers in today’s society face challenges they never experienced before. The impact from ventures like catalog only merchants and internet commerce have had a significant impact on a retailer’s ability to maintain successful sales levels. Because of this component, merchants are doing everything in their power to manage these challenges. One way to manage them is to offer exceptional services and develop creative advertising and promotional events that will gain the attention of not only existing clientele, but attract new ones as well (Diamond, 2011). Brand marketing promotions are utilized as a strategic tool to encourage purchasing and help reinforce a company’s conviction in trade development. In economies that fluctuate due to oil prices, unstable manufacturer supplies, and currency fluctuations, trade promotion strategies have become challenging to design, implement and assess. For example, a company that sells auto tires will develop a promotion that offers a free tire with the purchase of three new ones as an incentive to help consumers save money on a significant purchase in tough economic times. This gives them a good guy image and sends a message that they care about struggling consumers. However, before marketers can consider designing trade brand promotion programs, they must first define the parameters to help them determine the most efficient delivery systems.

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The biggest advantage of brand promotions is that they increase customer attraction. Borgeon and Cellich (2012) explain that the strategic goals of trade promotions should: (a) build brand awareness, (b) focus on needs versus demand, (c) reach the target audience, and (d) include a competitiveness response. Today’s trade is characterized by the continual escalation of competition among producer and suppliers, rapid innovation in products, short design and product life cycles, aggressive pricing, and knowledge base competition (Borgeon & Cellich, 2012). As a result of these trends, new approaches are continually developed to serve consumer needs that incorporate a capacity for competitiveness as part of a company’s promotional strategy. For example, a company that wants to sell a new product based on a consumer’s need to include healthier food choices, may set up an in-store promotion that gives out free samples to entice consumers to try them.

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Companies develop many different kinds of trade promotions to entice consumers to try their products. Baack and Clow (2012) purport, companies that design their campaigns with promotional incentives will generate interest and excitement that will stimulate more traffic for their company. These tactics include the use of: (a) coupons, (b) refunds and rebates, (c) contests, (d) sweepstakes, and (e) premiums (Baack & Clow, 2012). The biggest mistakes marketers make is not conducting the research required to create an effective campaign. For example, if a marketer fails to identify their target audience, they stand to lose thousands of dollars in promotional material that was intended to attract a specific consumer because it never reached the intended audience. Advertisers that do not promote their events to the right audience could also face embarrassment and bad publicity from sponsoring contests that no one shows up to. Companies who make the effort to conduct extensive research and implement measurable data collection systems, have a better chance of seeing a return on their investment and are more likely to create memorable trade promotion events that can have a positive long lasting effect on consumers as well as bring success to companies, even during hard economic times.

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References:

Baack, D., & Clow, K. (2012). Integrated advertising, promotion, and marketing communications (Fifth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.

Borgeon, M., & Cellich, C. (2012). Trade promotion strategies best practices. New York, NY: Business Expert Press, LLC.

Diamond, J. (2011). Retail advertising and promotion. Ridge, NY: Fairchild Books.

Media Buying

Published October 16, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Advertisers face many significant changes with how the media operates in today’s global market. Katz (2007) postulates that there are three major critical changes in how media executives plan, buy, and sell advertising. These can be referred to as the three C’s: consolidation, consumer control (technology enabled) and communication accountability (Katz, 2007). For instance, anyone that stays on top of business news can acknowledge that the media seems to find countless ways to consolidate their time and energy. Media domination is driven by demands for high profits resulting in more companies purchasing their competitors to create something even bigger and hopefully better. In addition, media planning has conformed into communications planning as it expands mediums to include everything from the internet, to sports arenas, to elevators, to TV screens in public places like at Madison Square Garden, as well as event sponsorship and promotions. In other words, today’s media buyers and sellers have a lot to consider when making the most effective advertising decisions that will reach their target audience and yield a return on the company’s investment.

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Most studies agree that any communication to reach consumers is immediate exposure that offers some kind of value. Geskey (2013) suggests it is the job of the media team to think of all the many ways marketing can reach the right prospect that will create a memorable interaction to yield measurable returns. In addition, they also realize that the sole purpose of media sellers is to sell them time or space at the highest possible price. So marketers must learn about their industry and the company’s advertising needs to develop proposals that fall within their budgets and are supported by volumes of statistics and analyses to help them decide on the most effective and objective path that will satisfy their advertising strategies (Geskey, 2013). Furthermore, in today’s competitive market, the stakes are much higher because of the financial significance in allocating funds wisely. Big companies like General Motors or Kellogg’s, for example, stand to lose millions of dollars in lost revenue if ads are not developed and placed effectively to convey their messages to reach the relevant audience.

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An advertiser’s objective is to reach their audience to invoke emotions that cause them to take action. To help marketers achieve their goals, deliver their message effectively, and yield the highest returns, they develop advertising campaigns that incorporate three significant rules to their strategies: (1) extensive media planning, (2) the use of effective media frequency and reach concepts, and (3) efficient selection approaches to help them determine the cost effective medium to deliver their advertising campaigns. Baack and Clow (2012) explain that media planning serves to help marketers formulate a program to effectively integrate their message across a wide range of media channels. This first step is the process of data collection and assimilation of that information that helps them identify and locate a target audience and develop a plan to deliver their message as well as help them decide when, where, and how often they place their ads. After creating and delivering a powerful message, the next step is to decide on the frequency their message is transmitted to assist with product recognition and building a brand name. Each marketer must decide where to place the ad in addition to determining the amount of times it takes before they achieve the desired outcome which causes consumers to act. The third step helps marketers determine the most effective form of medium (electronic or print) to transmit their messages to make sure they reach their relevant audience (Baack & Clow, 2012). For example, marketers will incorporate media plans to gather data and assess the information to determine their audience. Then, they decide on the most effective means to communicate their message to their target audience. Advertisers for a hair product, for instance, must consider whether they are more likely to reach a customer waiting in the reception area at a beauty salon or reach them more effectively by a TV commercial, magazine, newspaper ad, or use of these outlets. By developing a strategic plan marketers can locate their audience and create campaigns based on the best media available to them that fall within their budgets to reach intended consumers. Marketers who develop and incorporate strategies to include media planning, media reach, and media selection in the development of their campaigns, will increase their chances of achieving higher returns on their advertising investments.

References:

Baack, D., & Clow, K. (2012). Integrated advertising, promotion, and marketing communications (Fifth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.

Geskey, R. (2013). Media planning and buying in the 21st century (Second ed.). Washington, DC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing.

Katz, H. (2007). The media handbook: A complete guide to advertising, media selection, planning, research, and 

Buyer Motivations

Published October 9, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Marketing experts know that the most effective ways to reach their audience is through a powerful message that evokes a feeling and motivates buyers to take action. Kennedy (2011) suggests that successful advertising campaigns implement strategies that focus on a unique selling proposition (USP). This transpires to explain the company’s position with respect to their competition (Kennedy, 2011). For example, Best Buy states it guarantees the lowest prices. They dare consumers to find a lower price and boldly state they will match it. This is one example of how a company telegraphs a message about their benefits through their promises. This tactic is used to effectively appeal to customers that are interested in saving money. Others, however, use tactics like fear to electrify consumers. For example, Allstate Insurance Company uses images of disastrous events like flooding, theft, and automobile fender benders to instill a message of fear. The message they want to communicate with this strategy is that their brand of insurance can bring them comfort during events of great suffering. Companies that express a USP that evoke strong emotions like fear can use it to their advantage to position their services and goods as the answer that addresses their needs. They focus on rousing consumer feelings from their own experiences of significant life changing events. This is one method corporations can use to build consumer trust.

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Marketing experts that use precision marketing methodologies can cut through the noise and focus on winning consumers as fully engaged advocates. Gallagher and Zoratti (2012) postulate that in today’s society, consumers have made it clear they are in control of the communication they tune into. They are voting with their money and their attention by fast forwarding through commercials, opting out of mailing lists, and blocking their phones to avoid solicitors. Consumers, instead, are spreading the information through social networks by voicing their opinions online, with friends, family, colleagues, and the global internet community. Because of this trend corporations are watching their advertising investments deteriorate. Market research reveals that consumer interests and attention are directly related to the salience of the message they transmit (Gallagher & Zoratti, 2012). In other words, in order to engage consumers that are ignoring them, they are finding new methods to penetrate their barriers by gathering extensive research to find out what is relevant to them and what appeals to them emotionally.

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There are many components that advertising firms use to transmit their messages that target relevant consumers. Baack and Clow (2012) contend there are seven major areas of appeal that help form these messages: (a) fear, (b) humor, (c) sex, (d) music, (e) rationality, (f) emotions, or (g) scarcity. Fear is the top emotion that advertisers implement to get their message out while humor is the second. Even though these emotions are not similar, they can, however, be linked together to convey a powerful message (Baack & Clow, 2012). For instance, a company that wants to send a message to men about a new cologne product, may link many of these characteristics to allure an audience. Old Spice, for example, created a very effective commercial about their cologne combining the components of fear, humor, and sex appeal to get the message out about one of their products. The commercial opens with a beautiful muscular man standing in front of a running shower, clothed in nothing but a towel. Using sex appeal in a humorous situation, the man appeals directly to his audience, looking straight into the camera asking the viewer to compare their mate to him while the images fast forward through a variety of heroic scenes ending with the man mounted on a horse reminiscent of a knight in shining armor. This message uses humor, rationality, fear, and sex appeal to communicate to the audience. The ad clearly conveys that the cologne can make their partner more heroic like the man in the commercial if they use Old Spice. The commercial banks on the man’s sex appeal to attract attention, while the concept of fear is implied to those who do not use the product. This advertising strategy communicates to both women and men. The man’s humor and sex appeal allures those who fantasize about a heroic partner, and the emotion of fear speaks to those who are afraid they are not heroic or attractive enough in the eyes of their partners unless they take some kind of action. Advertising teams that engage in precision marketing methods and focus on their target audience, are in a better position to influence buyer motivations and tend to yield the highest results.

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References:

Baack, D., & Clow, K. (2012). Integrated advertising, promotion, and marketing communications (Fifth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.

Gallagher, L., & Zoratti, S. (2012). Precision marketing: Maximizing revenue through relevance. London, UK: Kogan Page Ltd.

Kennedy, D. (2011). The ultimate marketing plan: Target your audience (Fourth ed.). Avon, MA, USA: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Ethics in the Global Marketplace

Published August 5, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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The global marketplace continues to expand because of the increasing number of organizations that are now engaged in commerce outside of their own jurisdiction. Boatright (2009) purports that as large multinational corporations (MNC) cross their own boundaries intense competition is at the core for the elevated levels of ethical problems that arise because in most cases, leaders and managers are unprepared to address them (Boatright, 2009). For example, many MNCs often engage in practices that exploit inexpensive labor and natural resources from less developed countries (LDC) and most do so without making investments in them that would help advance their economic development. Corporate leaders, for example,  find themselves in situations where they are forced to make unethical choices because they are being asked to place the procurement of profits as their primary goal disregarding the health and welfare of the consumers that support them. Leaders in one case study were asked to provide products that contained harmful substances and export them to other markets outside the US where little restrictions apply. The fact that managers even have to consider this as an option personally is appalling and at heart of why we are seeing so many examples of corporate misconduct exposed in the headlines like a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant that shipped contaminated vaccinations, or a peanut farm that was exported products contaminated with salmonella. When corporate leaders are faced with issues like these, profit is usually at the forefront of their decisions over safety.

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Corporate leaders are driven and have a duty to make sure their organization is run efficiently to achieve successful outcomes. Byron (2006) suggests that with the guidance of corporate leaders, a company’s purpose is to articulate their dominant values, translate those values into their principals and allow those principals to influence corporate culture. For example, the old version of corporate culture was characterized by such values like freedom, individuality, competition, loyalty, efficiency, self-reliance, power, stability, contractual obligations, and profit. If these values are not regulated and controlled, unworthy values like greed and the motive to dominate rather than serve can propel individuals and organizations to engage in ethical misconduct. In the new corporate climate however, leaders are embracing and learning to comprehend the ethical connection between the organization and a broader picture of its stakeholders which include employees, supplies, consumers, the community and the environment (Byron, 2006). Regardless of the situation an individual find themselves in, the final decision should reflect good judgment and the right choice, which in my view, does not include bringing harm to stakeholders. This in the long term, is a best practice choice.

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Unfortunately, many leaders are forced to make a decision between profits and the welfare of their consumers.  Some are aware of how other companies handle similar situations and feel immense pressure to adapt those industry practices to save their own hide and remain competitive in their market, or as Ferrell et al. (2013) describe, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2013). Leaders face a multitude of pressures because (a) their organization is showing signs of eroding market share, (b) unethical supervisors put pressure on team leaders to cut costs or layoffs would result, and (c) they are usually under a time restriction to yield results. In addition, rather than work in partnership with colleagues to find the best solution, sometimes supervisors make it clear the weight of the decision is on one person’s shoulders. In a case like this, the decision could yield a positive outcome and everyone is victorious. However, if the decision should prove disastrous, that manager is on their own.  In conclusion, many organizational leaders find themselves facing similar issues because they have not established an ethical culture and instead created a climate that is vulnerable to ethical misconduct.

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References:

Boatright, J. (2009). Ethics and the Conduct of Business (Sixth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Byron, W. (2006). The power of principles: Ethics for the new corporate culture. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell. (2013). Business ethics and social responsibility (9th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Cultivating an Ethical Corporate Climate

Published July 31, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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The corruption and scandalous behavior of organizational leaders has prompted corporations to set up more effective policies to reduce ethical misconduct. In fact, as a result, many organizations have taken a proactive approach when it comes to cultivating an ethical climate. Recent studies suggest that 90% of fortune 500 companies now employ codes of conduct and new laws require CEOs to sign off on documents that state they have no conflict of interest financially or personally that may cause unethical operations. These are some of the measures corporate leaders take to maintain the trust of their stakeholders. Boatright (2009) posits that there are three kinds of codes of ethics. The most common specify rules for various situations and are identified as codes of conduct or statements of business standards and practices. Another kind of statement addresses core values or the vision of an organization. This is referred to as a mission statement or company credo. These include affirmations of the commitments an organization makes to key stakeholders. The third form is the corporate philosophy which describes the beliefs that guide the company. Philosophy statements are usually written by the founders of new industries, like when innovative technology is developed that introduces new ways of doing business. In addition, there are some companies that develop an aspiration statement which describes the kind of company they aspire to evolve into (Boatright, 2009). These various codes of ethics provide the stakeholders an explanation of the organization’s values and ethical principles that guide their actions.

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The institution examined for this blog post is The Chopra Center for Well-being. Deepak Chopra and David Simon, two highly esteemed medical doctors, created the Center for Well-being to offer a medical facility that integrates both eastern and western medicine to help people experience physical and emotional healing (Chopra & Simon, 2013). Organizations that manage public health and welfare have a responsibility to their clients and a higher need to establish codes of conduct because errors and ethical misconduct in this industry can result in the loss of life. Because of this, stakeholders require assurances of an effective ethics program to detect and prevent criminal conduct. The Chopra Center’s homepage clearly states their goal which is to guide guests and provide tools and healing principles that nurture health and restore balance to help them live a more joyful life. These statements clearly communicate their organizational goals and  the methods they employ as ethical medical practitioners.

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It is important that stakeholders trust the leaders that run a corporation. Ferrell et al. (2013) postulate that the development of an effective business ethics program outlines an organization’s objectives and devise systems to manage, evaluate, and monitor their operations (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2013). Stakeholders want to feel confident that leaders are engaged in actions that do not include abuse of power or misuse of organizational resources. For example, in addition to stating their goals on the homepage, The Chopra Center website also has a link to their mission statement which professes they exist to serve as a global source for healing and transformation. By clearly publishing their mission statement, their goals, their history, media information, a FAQs page to address questions and other information to address concerns, the Chopra Center website helps minimize risk and manages stakeholder fears by providing a wealth of information with openness and transparency. The information provided on their website displays a formal control of input that indicates is supported by a strong support staff whose shared values help establish a sturdy structural system. In conclusion, the Chopra Center team clearly seems to comprehend the importance of establishing an effective ethical culture because as an organization in the health care industry, it helps them avoid legal issues that could end up with disastrous consequences.

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References:

Boatright, J. (2009). Ethics and the Conduct of Business (Sixth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Chopra, D., & Simon, D. (2013). The Chopra Center for Well-Being. Retrieved July 14, 2013, from The Chopra Center for Well-Being: http://www.chopra.com/welcome-chopra-center

Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell. (2013). Business ethics and social responsibility (9th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Ethics Audit Programs

Published July 29, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Most organizations incorporate some form of ethics system regardless of whether it is formally established or informally understood. Campbell and Houghton (2005) contend that ethical behavior does not simply translate to complying with legal and professional regulations; it is a state of mind in which individuals follow unwritten tenets and exist in a culture of making choices that does not bring harm to others or the environment (Campbell & Houghton, 2005). For example, leaders of ethics audit programs should require that individuals that manage them should  have adequate training to run ethical compliance programs. In other words, they should make sure the individual appointed to this position is sufficiently qualified. For example, one company that appointed an employee to manage the ethics committee for their organization was appointed merely because he was conveniently located near the office, not because of his experience in ethical or legal matters. In addition, he was reluctant to take the position unless he was substantially compensated for his time. This means his motives were driven by a reward system not by his moral values or principles. This component changes the dynamic of his role as an authoritative figure.

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Rules and policies in an organization are made to include the culture and values of a company. Boatright (2009) posits that these guidelines are outlined in a company’s formal documentation which includes their mission statement, a code of ethics policy, personnel manuals, training material and management directives. Orientation training, compensation, promotion, auditing and monitoring systems serve as various devices that help support a company’s rules and regulations (Boatright, 2009). In another  case study, the organization conducted its own ethics auditing report and concluded it was doing a good job of monitoring ethical issues and even complied with the report’s recommendations to establish a confidential hotline for employees to report legal concerns. However, one of the organizations top executives discovered another reality actually existed. One where: (a) employees are violating operational procedures, making unauthorized short cuts to meet deadlines that have resulted in harm to employees and the environment, (b) an inequality and glass ceiling situation that exists with respect to the compensation between male and female employees, and (c) discrimination issues in targeting a specific ethnic group and taking advantage of their unfamiliarity with labor laws. In addition without organizations like the EPA and OSHA monitoring their activities it is easier for them to engage in practices that violate regulations. Now that the leader is cognizant of these issues if he does nothing to change the situation or report it, when it is eventually discovered, he will find himself in dire need of an ethical crisis management and recovery plan to save his hide.

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Organizations that do have an ethical program or implement an ethics auditing system will face challenges that can result in legal and ethical misconduct. Ferrell et al. (2013) suggest that to help prevent a crisis from erupting, the development and implementation of a crisis management plan can serve to help leaders respond and recover faster from unethical and scandalous events that may occur (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2013). Although executives are not responsible for the events of the past, they are charge of guiding the organization’s future. If they are not able to manage ethical issues they face, he and the organization could face substantial legal and financial ramifications which will in turn disrupt company operations, prevent employees from performing their duties, slow production, damage the institution’s reputation, and lose the confidence of their stakeholders. If leaders avoid these issues they will only escalate until they reach the tipping point and at that juncture, it may be too late to recover. In the meantime, the executive’s job and reputation will be on the line because investigators will look to them for answers. It is recommended therefore, that leaders work on developing a crisis management plan because executives that cultivate an unethical environment steer organizations straight into the maelstrom of a managerial catastrophe.

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References:

Boatright, J. (2009). Ethics and the Conduct of Business (Sixth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Campbell, T., & Houghton, K. (2005). Ethics and Auditing. Canberra, Australia: ANU E Press.

Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell. (2013). Business ethics and social responsibility (9th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Ethics and Federal Compliance Laws

Published July 24, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

Aristotle

To comprehend the topic of business ethics, it is important to identify the voluntary and legally required aspects of institutional practices and the behavior that supports it. Aristotle (384– 322 BC) believed that a person’s good or bad character was developed by habituation. In other words a person’s goodness or wickedness is developed as the result of repeatedly engaging in acts that have a common quality. These repetitious acts rely on an individual’s natural aptitudes and tendencies to gravitate towards righteous or immoral behavior (Aristotle, 2012).  In other words, the formation of a person’s character emerges by actions that are committed repeatedly in a certain manner and as a result of being guided or receiving direction externally to support these patterns. Once the behavior is understood by the individual, they can then choose to engage their free will. The continuation then, of the behavior, becomes a habit which over time translates into second nature. This demonstrates how a leader’s conduct and business practices cultivate a climate that is adopted by subordinates. During the Enron scandal for example, investigators discovered that Enron’s leaders developed a culture of deceit that was supported by their top executives, board members, and corporate attorneys, to gain the competitive edge and ensure capital gains.

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The Enron collapse revealed deep failings that existed in the American accounting system and in the operation of corporate boards. Enron and other widespread corporate accounting scandals resulted in Congress establishing the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). It was designed to create a federal oversight system to monitor corporate accounting practices by making financial fraud reporting a criminal offense. Boatright (2009) reported that the SOX Act also increased the penalties for executives that engage in criminal activity. In addition, SOX addressed a wide range of provisions to require corporate transparency in three major areas: financial reporting, corporate boardrooms, and criminal law (Boatright, 2009). Poor business decisions alone however, did not result in Enron’s downfall. What was cleverly disguised from stakeholders was insider plundering. Because of this, Congress feels that Federal oversight is needed. Investors rely heavily on financial reports and in turn these reports can become the vehicles that lead to fraud. For example, by presenting a false image, executives can cover poor performance outcomes to maintain their lavish lifestyles. SOX changed the way corporations address problems with accounting and auditing. It requires that every publicly traded organization establish an independent auditing committee that is solely responsible for detecting fraud. It also supports internal whistle blowing by mandating all companies incorporate policies to support employees reporting acts of fraud without fear of retaliation.

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CEOs careers are now on the line. They are required to sign off on company financial forms to ensure their processors have complied with all mandates. Many corporate chiefs complain about the amount of time and money that is invested to comply with SOX regulations, but most agree that it is worth the trouble to reassure investors. Ferrell et al. (2012) posit that in addition, the law requires corporations to design a code of conduct that includes transparency and accountability in financial reporting to stakeholders (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2013). Experts expect further misconduct to occur despite the regulatory laws because global competitors are not required to comply with these regulations. This means that more scrutiny is called for because the more integrated world markets become, the more difficult it is to compete on a global level when the playing field is uneven. In the meantime, only time will reveal the long term results.

References:

Aristotle. (2012). Ethics. Seattle, WA: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Boatright, J. (2009). Ethics and the Conduct of Business (Sixth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell. (2013). Business ethics and social responsibility (9th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Published July 22, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Companies are in the business of making a profit for the benefit of their stakeholders.  This in turn means they have a responsibility to the employees, customers, suppliers, communities and society at large. Boatright (2009) posits that most organizations are cognizant of their responsibilities. They seek strategies to reach desired outcomes and initiate directives that adhere to corporate social responsibility (CSR). In fact, evidence suggests it is becoming more difficult for companies to gain sufficient competitive advantage in today’s cut throat marketplace without CSR. Together with regulations that are in place, more corporations are engaged in practices that monitor such things as fair prices, fair labor conditions, direct trade, democratic and transparent organizational behavior, community development and environmental sustainability (Boatright, 2009).  Top managers, however, are not always in the best position to make ethical choices because of various components. In one case study for example, a manager was thrust into a situation that required decisions and judgments based upon the organizational culture. In addition, as an expectant parent, the leader’s financial status changed temporarily because his wife was on unpaid maternity leave. This now left him as the sole breadwinner. In short, the supervisor’s new situation made it difficult for him  to make the best choices that were in alignment with his personal moral views because of the external pressures from his job and the internal pressures of a husband and an expectant father. He was feeling stressed from being in a position where he had to contemplate choices that could ultimately result in his termination.

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The legal issue he contemplated were having to conform to new policies that lead to behavior in violation of federal trade commission laws and mandates. Upper management was pressuring him to engage in practices that encouraged using information from trusted clients to give them an advantage in the market. This in turn created unfair competition. In addition, he did not have the support of many of his departmental staff members. In fact, many voiced  loudly their objection to the new direction the firm was taking. Ferrell et al. (2012) suggest that a company’s history consists of the unwritten rules that become part of its culture. Leaders at the helm are considered responsible for their behavior as well as that of their subordinates.  Corporations that follow the guidelines set forth in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act define parameters that institutions are expected to comply with, which includes systems that monitor and assess the internal and external auditing of financial statements (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2013). By adopting these new practices proposed from upper management, their company was in a unique situation to utilize information from trusted client relationships in order to profit over other organizations. This is a serious offense that raises the alarm for stakeholders.

right-and-wrong-decisions

There are advantages and disadvantages to the manager’s situation. The advantages are huge capital gains, status, recognition, and other enticing benefits. The disadvantage is conducting business unethically and illegally which can result in termination and incarceration. To incorporate these new practices, it encourages employees to chase monetary rewards based on commissions and fees on mutual funds that are risky, can go sour, and damage the credibility of the firm and its representatives. In short, chasing high profits unethically, will inevitably lead to the organization’s demise and the downfall of many respected careers. Because of the added pressures to provide for his expectant partner, the pressures from his superiors to engage in questionable practices, and the threat from one of his biggest clients, this leader had to face some very serious choices which could have long term negative outcomes. McGraw (2012) contends that surrounding yourself with the right people helps you learn the right actions to make the right decisions (McGraw, 2012). The financial industry tends to attract individuals that are drawn by power, which can turn to greed and corruption contingent upon personality traits. Many top executives find themselves in situations where they are called to participate in ethical misconduct from pressures like this leader faced. Their choices are: (a) comply and go with the directive of their superiors taking the risks that are involved with misconduct, (b) choose not to participate, which could ultimately cost them their job, or (c) find a solution that does not involve the exploitation of trusted client information to achieve similar positive outcomes. The last choice requires presenting a strong argument to upper management however, that supports changing the view of the superiors with reasons that urge them to engage in more ethical practices to achieve their goals. Ultimately it is up to each individual to come up with a strategy they can support and embrace with a healthy conscience.

References:

Boatright, J. (2009). Ethics and the Conduct of Business (Sixth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell. (2013). Business ethics and social responsibility (9th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

McGraw, P. (2012). Life code. Los Angeles, CA, USA: Bird Street Books.

Ethical Training Programs

Published July 17, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Ethical training programs equip employees with strong reasoning abilities and intellectual skills that can help them comprehend and find more effective solutions to complex ethical challenges. Ferrell et al. (2013) identify six stages of moral development based on Kohlberg’s model of philosophy. They are: (a) punishment and obedience, (b) purpose and exchange, (c) interpersonal expectations, relationships and conformity, (d) social system and conscience maintenance, (e) prior rights, social contract or utility, and (f) universal ethical principles. Kohlberg’s studies also suggest that individuals continue to evolve and reshape their morals and ethical behavior based on training, education and experiences (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2013). For example, an ethical dilemma in one case, was created by an employee that works in customer service. In this situation, the employee received a gift from a customer as a small token of their appreciation. However, accepting gifts from clients goes against the company’s code of conduct policies. According to Ferrell et al., experts may identify this dilemma as stage one in Kohlberg’s cognitive moral development model. Identifying this stage, can help a supervisor address the nature of his moral dilemma to help find the best solution. In this stage of development individuals respond to obedience and punishment, where rules dictate the terms of right and wrong, and good and bad conduct, that help determine outcomes. Because the organization has clearly defined policies forbidding salespeople from accepting gifts from consumers and identifies what is acceptable business behavior, a supervisor may send the following email in response to the situation:

Memorandum-1

By composing this letter, the supervisor is immediately taking responsibility of the seriousness of the matter and addresses the situation with recommendations to the employee for a swift resolution. The leader analyzes the issue, acknowledges the situation intensity, and identifies the matter as unethical behavior. By addressing these components, it is easier to decide on the appropriate action required to reach a mutually beneficial and ethical solution. These actions portray a skilled leader whose direct approach is sharp and swift while remaining sensitive to a valued employee’s unmitigated circumstances. There is nothing wrong with employees or clients showing appreciation for outstanding performances. However, this situation dictates that employees and clients follow the parameters of company policies to avoid situations where a staff member may lose their job by inadvertently participating in ethical misconduct by innocently receiving a reward. Boatright (2009) reminds us that justice requires that everyone has the right of equal opportunity to succeed in life (Boatright, 2009). However, receiving favors and rewards from certain clients is not fair to other employees who work just as hard and are not acknowledged for their excellent performances. Policies can change over time, however in order to do so, it must be done on a corporate wide level and implemented into the company’s culture and code of ethics throughout the organization so that employees have clearly defined parameters of what is right and wrong behavior. In conclusion, arming employees with strong reasoning abilities and intellectual skills can help them better comprehend ethical challenges and find more effective solutions to complex issues that are in alignment with corporate procedures and policies.

References:

Boatright, J. (2009). Ethics and the Conduct of Business (Sixth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell. (2013). Business ethics and social responsibility (9th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.