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Ethical Issues in International Marketing

Special issue call for papers from Marketing Intelligence & Planning

Guest Editors

Matthias S. Fifka, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg
R. Greg Bell, University of Dallas
Raj G. Javalgi, Cleveland State University


This call of papers aims at contributing to the literature on ethical issues in international marketing. While there is an abundance of publications on ethics in marketing in general and on specific ethical issues – in a recent review, Schlegelmilch and Öberseder (2010) identified over 500 contributions to the field – the international dimension of ethics in marketing has strongly been neglected until today, despite a long research tradition.

Ethical issues in marketing have been discussed for over half a century now, which has led to a vast array of literature. Due to this diverse character, Murphy et al. (2005: 17) have appropriately defined marketing ethics broadly as “the systematic study of how moral standards are applied to marketing decisions, behaviors and institutions.”  In the 1960s and 1970s, the related literature was mostly normative in nature, calling for moral behavior of marketing professionals (Twedt, 1963; Bartels, 1963; Crawford, 1970; Ferrell et al., 1978; Patterson, 1966; Tybout and Zaltman, 1974). Nevertheless, this period also saw some conceptual works already. In 1967, Bartels developed a first model of ethics in marketing by discussing factors that influence the ethical decision-making process and providing a respective model. This work on strengthening the conceptual base of marketing ethics was continued in the 1980s (Ferrell and Gresham, 1985; Hunt and Vitell, 1986; Laczniak, 1983). In addition to normative and conceptual works, researchers also began to conduct larger empirical studies to analyze the actual ethical behavior of marketers and their attitudes (Chonko and Hunt, 1985; Hunt et al., 1989; Dubinsky and Loken, 1989).

The 1990s saw a specialization of research on marketing ethics. Academics began to look at particular issues such as the influence of religion on the moral of marketing professionals (Laczniak, 1999), targeting vulnerable consumers (Austin and Reed, 1999; Benet et al., 1993), and the interplay between ethics and law in marketing (Gundlach and Murphy, 1993). Yet, since the turn of the millennium, with the exception of sustainability marketing (Kirchgeorg and Winn, 2006), sustainable consumption (Hoffmann, 2007), and internet-related ethical marketing issues (Palmer, 2005; Stead and Gilbert, 2001), few new trends in ethics and marketing have developed.

One of these trends that is visible, but that has not received due attention despite its potential importance is the international dimension of ethics in marketing (Armstrong, 1996; Rawwas, 2001; Singhapakdi et al., 1994), as Schlegelmilch and Öberseder (2010: 7) point out in conclusion to their extensive literature review: “International marketing ethics […] is a comparatively new area that could become highly important in future.

This importance can be attributed to a continuing globalization of business operations, the entering of new markets, and a growing number of marketers seeking to sell products to an increasingly diverse customer base (Nill and Schibrowsky, 2007; Schlegelmilch and Öberseder, 2010). Due this international context and the respective transcultural business activities, questions with regard to the norms, values, and perceptions of ethical issues of those who make marketing decisions and of those at whom they are addressed are growing in importance.

Scope of the Call for Papers

Based on these preliminary thoughts, we seek theoretical and empirical papers which address ethical issues in international marketing. Nill and Schibrowsky (2007: 260) have described international marketing ethics as referring to “[c]ross-cultural issues and problems that may arise when different cultures clash, when laws and customs are conflicting…”. In light of the above literature, this special issue focuses on the following topics.   However, other related articles will be also be considered. 

  • Ethical issues relating to  data collection, usage and sharing of data across platforms in an international marketing context
  • Ethical issues relating to tracking consumers in an international marketing context
  • Pricing in different countries, particularly developing ones, for essential goods such as water, food, and medication
  • Product availability in poor or remote regions
  • Excessive or misleading pricing
  • Targeting vulnerable customers in regions with lower educational standards
  • Consideration of moral or religious values in advertising
  • Promoting artificial needs
  • Promoting materialism
  • Use of bribes in the supply chain and in distribution
  • Cross-cultural comparisons of ethical attitudes of marketing managers
  • International marketing ethics from a transitional economy perspective
  • Institutions and institutional environments and marketing ethics
  • Rewards and marketing ethics across cultural and institutional environments

Submission Guidelines

All paper submissions should conform to Marketing Intelligence & Planning’s standard guidelines for authors, details of which can be found at the following website:

All papers need to be submitted online to the Special Issue on “Ethical Issues in International Marketing” through the ScholarOne System ( For informal enquiries you can contact the guest editors.

Questions about the special issue can be directed at the guest editors via e-mail:
[email protected] (Matthias Fifka), [email protected] (Greg Bell), or [email protected] (Raj Javalgi).

Deadline: Manuscripts must be received by 15 July 2015


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