Chat with us, powered by LiveChat In this discussion topic you are asked to Take and defend your own critical, ethical stands when it comes to international business (Learning objective #1). You will be graded on how wel - Writeden

In this discussion topic you are asked to Take and defend your own critical, ethical stands when it comes to international business (Learning objective #1). You will be graded on how well your discussion demonstrates competence in this learning objective, not by how much you write.


Companies, domestic and foreign, can get in trouble when their marketing actions or messages enter in conflict with the values of their audience. The principle is the same whether you are selling home or abroad, and (cross-)cultural awareness can help.

Choose one of the ads posted by the professor that proved controversial. Note that controversial does not automatically mean ethically wrong, and even if it is unethical, it may be in different ways or for different reasons for different people.

First, quickly analyze the ad as a marketer: What is the intended target audience like? Who could the ad offend? (the target audience or some other community?) What is the main message or value proposition of the ad?




International Marketing

Ethics is an extremely important topic to cover in any business course. Because of the nature and contents of International Marketing, ethics and ethical choices are embedded in the course.

Being that the case, I like discussing ethics as a first topic and allowing you to learn the following lessons through this lens.



This module is NOT about:

⊡ Reminding you that bribing, lying, cheating are wrong (you already know that, and it is a low bar to set)

⊡ Telling you what to think or what to believe in ⊡ Judging or evaluating morally other countries or cultures



Module objectives. By the end you will be able to: 1. Take and defend ethical stands, especially in situations where social

norms conflict with ethics.

2. Apply learned ethical heuristics and frameworks to real-life ethical scenarios.

3. Describe how laws and ethics are related and different.

4. Recognize critically the limiting influence of your own life experience, in order to better understand other viewpoints.

Textbook equivalence: Cateora, Chapter 5, Business Ethics



How do you feel about?

Burka-wearing? Bullfighting?

Arranged marriages?


How do you feel about?

Burka-wearing? Bullfighting?

Arranged marriages?

How strong are your feelings about them?


How do you feel about?

Burka-wearing? Bullfighting?

Arranged marriages?

How strong are your feelings about them? How much do you know about these practices?

How do you feel about the ethics and values of your own country?


Self-Reference Criterion (SRC)

SRC refers to the human tendency to see the world through the glasses of our own culture, opinions, values, and life experience. Often, we think that our opinions are “common sense”, that our way of living is “natural”, and we assume that our experience is representative of other people’s lives.

SRC is human, normal and unavoidable. What good marketers (and especially global marketers) must do is take off these glasses every now and then, and try new ones!



One example of Self-Reference Criterion (SRC):

In the 2010’s, a Detroit environmental nonprofit was in a mission to plant trees all over the city. They went to neighborhoods, provided the trees, materials and all the labor to plant them in an effort to make Detroit greener.

They were puzzled when several neighborhoods with high minority populations opposed their actions, submitting “no tree requests”

How can they say no to free trees? Don’t they know that they purify the air, provide shade, and increase home values?




It was not until 2014 that a sociologist thought of asking the residents why they opposed trees in their street. They had good reasons:

⊡ Partly it was mistrust. They had been lied to before, and they were used to having little control over their neighborhoods, which nobody likes.

⊡ These poor neighbors were mostly renters, very few homeowners, so the argument for increasing the home value was counter-productive. The concern that they might be priced out of their homes was legitimate.

⊡ Finally, the nonprofit offered to plant the trees, but the residents would have to be the ones caring for them. The roots of trees often ruin roads, untrimmed branches can fall on people, and the city would not solve these problems in a poor neighborhood.


Self-Reference Criterion caused environmentalists to judge the situation based on their personal experiences and knowledge. This is only human and cannot be changed. They were doing the right thing, based on their perception.

So what can a good marketer do?

Be the sociologist in this example! Ask the other side. Pause a minute, suspending your presumptions and judgments, and try to see the other side of the issue.




A very related concept, ethnocentrism usually refers to how SRC makes us judge what is ours (our country, group, our culture) as correct and good, and others as mistaken or undesirable.

For example, appropriate physical distance depends on your culture. Americans negotiating with Europeans may feel that the other side is being “pushy” and “aggressive”. Europeans may think that the others are “unfriendly” or “cold.”

Both would be wrong if they made business decisions based on assumptions coming from their SRC.




American businesspeople are aggressive and persuasive negotiators, but they do poorly in international business because they think everything works in foreign countries as it does in the USA.

Do you feel represented by this statement? Do you think it represents everyone in the USA? The majority? Is there any truth to it at all?

Your answers to these questions probably range from “yes” to “no” with a lot of shades of “it depends” and “somewhat” in between.

Stereotypes are oversimplified mental pictures shared by many people that summarize a country, group, culture as a set of typical attributes.



What does “American” mean?



Cultural adaptation and ethics

Your personal ethical standards are as applicable and important when you are abroad or dealing with a different culture. What you must adapt is your understanding of how to reach them.

For instance, reflect on how different cultural values and customs can affect common ethical principles like the following:

Trustworthiness, Fairness ,Respect, Caring, Responsibility, Citizenship



In Spain, a “7:00PM” informal meeting between colleagues probably means arriving at 7:15-8:00. This is not being untrustworthy, because it is assumed by everyone. Rather, if you really expected starting at 7:00, you would be misleading them by simply saying that time with no extra warning!

In Hungary, men traditionally entered a bar or pub before a woman, out of concern for her safety. At the same time in the United States, men were taught to open the doors for ladies, out of chivalrousness. Both ways to show respect have largely changed since.

In Chinese tradition responsibility is assigned broadly to the context, not only to the individual. Thus, if a teenager misbehaves, more weight of responsibility is put onto the parents, extended family, friends and even schoolteachers.



Conflicting social norms and ethics

While general ethical values might be shared across many countries, specific behaviors differ more in the degree of acceptability.

A Japanese company in Nepal might learn that child labor is, if not fully condoned, much more wide-spread and normalized than at home.

A European company in the U.S. can legally collect information on its customer in amounts and ways that European privacy laws prohibit.

The Most Restrictive Principle recommends applying the most restrictive or strict of the two ethical stands when two standards can be applied. When in doubt, don’t.



Laws and ethics

Laws are not the same as ethical standards and this module focuses on what is right, not what is legal or what you can get away with.

To illustrate the link between laws, ethics, and public opinion, consider the following three questions every time you make a business decision:

⊡ Is it legal?

⊡ Is it right?

⊡ Would it stand public scrutiny and full disclosure?

If the answer to any of these is “no”, consider very well your options.


Cultural appropiation Cultures and countries can be “branded”, and marketers are good at transforming them, packaging them and selling them for consumption.

Hola Spain pizza from Domino’s Pizza Korea



Cultural appropiation Cultural appropiation is the unauthorized taking of elements of a foreign culture for one’s purpose.

Is this ethical? Every case is different, and you will make your own judgement. However, I would suggest that you see it as a continuum:


Ethical, harmless, appropriate (Cultural borrowing)

Unethical, harmful, inappropriate (Cultural appropriation)


Cultural appropiation Seen through this framework, focus should be on any factors that make the action more or less ethical. For instance, the more of these questions you can answer in the positive, the more confident you can be that the action is ethical:

⊡ Is the “taking” respectful, positive, well-intentioned?

⊡ Is the “taking” accurate rather than a misrepresentation of the culture?

If you are going to borrow and monetize for your benefit, doing at least your best to represent the culture seems like a good rule.



⊡ Is there a match between the borrowed culture and your own, or the message or purpose?

Using Gandhi imagery to sell products is one thing. Using it to sell weapons or packaged beef crosses all sort of lines.

⊡ Is there a balance of power between the borrowing and borrowed?

Minorities and oppressed communities already have a lack of power and control over their lives and identity. If appropriating cultures can be questionable, consider the added effect of a power imbalance.