Faculty Publications

Ethical Segmentation Of Consumers In Developing Countries: A Comparative Analysis

Document Type



Consumers, Developing countries, Ethics, Market segmentation, Persian Gulf States

Journal/Book/Conference Title

International Marketing Review





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Purpose - The purpose of this study is to segment the consumer Gulf market based on actionable and strategy yielding marketing variables (i.e. ethical orientations, trust, opportunisms and Machiavellianism). Design/methodology/ approach - Consumers from Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait were asked to complete a survey which incorporated scales to measure consumers' ethical beliefs, Machiavellianism, ethical orientation, opportunism, trust, as well as demographic classification questions. Specifically, every attempt was made to have a broad distribution across the demographic categories of gender, age and education. Participation in the study was restricted to citizens of their respective nations. Local "data captains" were selected in each nation and trained in data collection techniques by two of the study's authors. Of the 598 questionnaires distributed, a total of 365 usable surveys were yielding an overall response rate of 61 percent. A multistage clustering approach was incorporated in order to identify the unique ethical consumer segments. Findings - The analysis resulted in three distinct segments/clusters: "Principled Purchasers", "Suspicious Shoppers" and "Corrupt Consumers". Members of the Principled Purchasers segment tended to be less Machiavellianistic, less opportunistic, more trusting of others, less relativistic, more idealistic and perceived questionable actions in a negative light. Suspicious Shoppers were less trusting, tended to proceed with caution in their dealings, were somewhat opportunistic but placed a high emphasis on ethical behavior. Like the Suspicious Shoppers, the Corrupt Consumers were not trusting individuals. Unlike Suspicious Shoppers, however, Corrupt Consumers were Machiavellianistic, took advantage of opportunities, were not ethically oriented and were more likely to act in an unethical manner. Research limitations/implications - Future studies should attempt to obtain data from a more diverse sample in the Middle East. Social desirability bias may have been a factor in response to some of the questions resulting in respondents providing the socially desirable response in order to appear ethical. Future studies should examine the inclusion of measures for controlling such bias. Practical implications - Companies should alter their marketing approach depending upon the segment being targeted. Companies focusing on "Principled Purchasers" should emphasize customer satisfaction and honesty in their transactions. "Suspicious Shoppers" are best appealed to by companies who can create a mutually satisfying relationship in which both parties benefit. In conducting business with "Corrupt Consumers", international marketing managers must be aware of situations in which this group might try to exploit or deceive the firm, such as used or altered returns, product theft, illegal consumption or other immoral/illegal activities; all of which are costly to the organization and, ultimately, the general public at large. Originality/value - Despite the socio-economic similarities among Gulf countries (levels of income, market size, religion, language, etc.), important micro level differences exist and are often overlooked. Ignoring such differences may steer multinational firms towards the adoption of a simple and less expensive standardized marketing strategy across the region. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


Department of Marketing

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