As marketers increasingly tailor marketing programs to target market segments, some critics have denounced these efforts as exploitive. They see the preponderance of billboards advertising cigarettes and alcohol in low-income urban areas as taking advantage of a vulnerable market segment. Critics can be especially harsh in evaluating marketing programs that target African Americans and other minority groups, claiming they often employ stereotypes and inappropriate depictions. Others counter that targeting and positioning is critical to marketing, and that these marketing programs are an attempt to be relevant to a certain consumer group.
Take a position: Targeting minorities is exploitive versus Targeting minorities is a sound business practice.
Target marketing is a significant marketing tool that involves segmentation of the market based on geographic, demographic, and psychographic traits of the customers (Gupta, & Pirsch, 2014). It has enabled marketers to identify who their potential consumers are, after which, they direct their efforts aimed at influencing their decisions of buying the commodities (Cross, et al., 2015). Since target marketing has been increasingly used for specific groups of people like the Hispanics, Asians, African Americans and other ethnic minorities, there has been a plethora of controversial debates surrounding the ethical validity of such practice.
For the schools of thought that hold that target marketing is exploitative, they argue that it is a way of taking advantage of a market that is vulnerable. Some have attached the type of advertisements used by marketers in certain market segments, for example, the use of billboards to advertise alcohol and cigarettes in segments of low-income (Gupta, & Pirsch, 2014). It has been suggested that it is similar to stereotyping when such adverts target minority groups like African Americans, and this makes inappropriate depictions. The result is an exploitation, because the costs involved in using such commodities are very high in the long run and this negatively affects the community (Cross, et al., 2015).
My stand on this issue favors the argument that targeting minorities is a sound business practice. This is because the activities of marketing only target rational and independent groups of potential clients to provide them with the exact information they need so that their free decision making can be influenced (Antioco, et al., 2012). Secondly, targeting minorities only exploits and addresses their wants, needs, and the existing gaps in that particular market segment. It is also agreeable to argue that the marketers do not create the existing social systems and cannot also take the responsibility of making personal choices, lack of relevant knowledge and information (Antioco, et al., 2012). The marketers only play the role of bringing commodities to the target market and try to influence their decisions. It is therefore not exploitative to do this since the final decision and information awareness rests with the target market. If their response is negative, the marketers will withdraw their goods or services (Cross, et al., 2015).
Targeting minorities in marketing also enables one to gain a competitive advantage. It does not amount to exploitation but it implies that the existing market niche is identified and appropriately addressed by traders and marketers (Gupta, & Pirsch, 2014). It is also a way of avoiding competition with already established big businesses that target the entire multicultural market. Concentrating in a specific minority segment of the market can result in better financial success of a business so long as it does not engage in illegal activities as per trade requirements.
In conclusion, marketing is all about being astute in the field and identifying potential clients. It therefore does not result in exploitation if a minority is targeted by marketers. However, there should be regulations as to the type of advertisements and the intended motives. The business people should be regulated on what they advertise to such market segments, the content of their adverts, the relevance and any other legal aspect that might be detrimental to the potential client. With these in place, target marketing for minorities is altogether an important marketing tool that is necessary for identification of market bases with unique needs and wants that can be comfortably addressed by the business community.
Antioco, M., Vanhamme, J., Hardy, A., & Bernardin, L. (2012). On the importance of social integration for minority targeting effectiveness. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 29(4), 380-389.
Cross, J. C., Belich, T. J., & Rudelius, W. (2015). How marketing managers use market segmentation: An exploratory study. In Proceedings of the 1990 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Annual Conference (pp. 531-536). Springer, Cham.
Gupta, S., & Pirsch, J. (2014). Consumer evaluation of target marketing to the bottom of the pyramid. Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 26(1), 58-74.