Culture's Role in Marketers' Ethical Decision Making

Katharina Auer-Srnka

In an increasingly multicultural marketing context, the question of the compatibility of ethical values across cultural borders has gained much in importance over the past decades. Given that more and more countries with rapid economic development are being integrated into world markets, culture needs to be understood as a multidimensional phenomenon that comprises more than just nationality. Today, marketers operating in the multicultural scene face two important questions: What is culture in the marketing context? And more importantly: What is the role of culture as a factor influencing individual ethical decision making? This article shall provide answers to both questions. In the first section, a multidimensional culture-concept is suggested. Drawing on theoretical concepts proposed in anthropology, psychology, and sociology, culture is described as a complex phenomenon rooted in the ideas and values shared by a group. Four distinct culture levels are distinguished: political and economic forces (supra level), national identity (macro level), professional and industry norms (meso level), and organizational, family, or clan value systems (micro level). While supra-and macroculture are defined as dimensions of the wider cultural environment, meso-and microculture are subsumed under the notion of closer cultural environment. To clarify the role of culture in ethical decision-making among marketers, relevant models proposed in the literature are reviewed in the second section. Total models of ethical decision making in marketing are discussed, in particular those developed by Hunt and Vitell (1986; 1991), Ferrell and Gresham (1985), and Ferrell, Gresham, and Fraedrich (1989). The review of these earlier models and other contributions to marketing literature reveals that ethical decision making represents a fixed sequence of stages – comprising moral perception, reasoning (or evaluation), judgment, intention, behavior, behavioral evaluation – and includes the underlying constructs attitudes and values. While the earlier works focused on the cognitive dimensions and the cognition-behavior relationship, this research investigates the whole "affective-cognitive-behavioral" spectrum of ethical decision making and identifies the cultural factors influencing this process. It thereby takes a comprehensive, integrative approach: Besides environmental factors – which are central in this article and comprise the various cultural determinants of ethical decision making at the supra, the macro, the meso, and the micro level – concurrent individual, situational, and issue-contingent factors are also considered.

Institut für Rechnungswesen, Innovation und Strategie
volume 2004
ÖFOS 2012
5020 Wirtschaftswissenschaften
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