For any susceptible individual, there is either permanent or temporary vulnerability. Usually, it is only those who are subject to some considerable level of harm that are the “vulnerable.” This vulnerability may happen because of their own distinctive characteristics which include those of the agents who are said to inflict the harm on them, or the method within which certain deeds inflict harm on them (Brenkert, 1998). Smith (2000) indicates that Brenkert has a strong interest in consumer ability and the seller’s requirements. He has thoughtful analyzed the moral issues raised by the injustice that can be caused by aiming vulnerable consumers.
He develops the principle below: “marketers may not aim those who are particularly vulnerable in ways such that their marketing promotion relies on the vulnerabilities of that particular vulnerable group”. He writes, concerning marketing to children, “any marketing done to children should be done in ways that do not assume the vulnerabilities since children are cognitively vulnerable because of their undeveloped abilities.” According to him, there are insufficient legal controls on advertising to children in the following way: “there is no direct address to this matter despite the FCC’s limit on the amount of advertising on children’s television programming; therefore there should be close monitoring on the content of those advertisements”.
Specific vulnerable persons have diverse conditions, which they possess largely because of factors beyond their control. Besides, they could be ignorant of their vulnerability. As a result, they are in either case, less able to shield themselves against harm to their interests. Consequently, due to reasons beyond their control, the following groups all experience their vulnerabilities: the child, the elderly, the grieving and the allergic. However, this may in particular circumstances, be true of different racial groups. The weaknesses or inabilities these individuals own are due to factors largely beyond their control, due to the system within which they get themselves, or due to the greater power of marketers that make their characteristics particularly weak or incapable. Marketers use this combination to render off their special characteristics and the means or techniques, which render them particularly vulnerable. This stresses the relational nature of vulnerability. In spite of whether they actually get harm, the fact is that the marketers take advantage of them. This means that they have no or little control over these characteristics of their behavior. They do not qualify as market consumers despite the fact that they may enjoy or delight being marketers’ target (Brenkert, 1998).
According to Murphy & Smith (2009), Brenkert powerfully feels that trickeries for example promising surplus of what any substance can deliver, channel stuffing by sales representatives and overselling unlimited guarantees is unethical. Exclusively vulnerable groups comprise the old, financially weak consumers, young children and the disabled people. He further feels that all marketers must always take precaution when dealing in transactions with vulnerable groups in the society. In addition, Brenkert (1998) argues that, it is unethical to advertise goods to exclusive vulnerable people with the intention of pressurizing them to purchase their product even if the products may not help them or might harm them. It is also evident that such advertising continually aim at those who are not entirely knowledgeable market customers. Moreover, some marketers are not ready to take up responsibility for their actions after they market unethically to vulnerable groups. Brenkert feels that these marketers should face the consequences and that there should be strict laws prohibiting such actions. According to him, “It is a case of displaced moral responsibility.”
In the case of Kraft Foods Inc and its advertisement to children, Brenkert would conclude this as an unhealthy advertisement. This is strongly because children under the age of 12 are vulnerable according to Brenkert. He would conclude that the company takes advantage of the susceptibility of these children and their convincing nature to their parents. The fact that the company in 2005, Kraft attempted to form a lobbying group to stop the government from controlling food promotion to children would seem unethical to Brenkert. I would agree with this assertion because the company ought to conform to the preferences of the public. In addition, since the children are vulnerable, it would be wrong to advertise continually to them, products that may harm their health just for profits. The industry should demonstrate corporate social responsibility to influence the public and gain its confidence.