Beyond Profit: Exploring the Fallout of Unethical Brand Behavior on Consumer Relations.

By: Phima Ruthia Dwikesumasari; Department of Business Administration, Asia Management College Asia University, Taiwan & Department of Business, Faculty of Vocational Studies Universitas Airlangga, Indonesia


This article explores the complex topic of unethical brand behavior, discussing its definitions, examples, and cases in business, as well as its impact on consumer response and behavior. This article explores the effects of unethical brand behavior in various businesses by utilizing insights from scholarly research and real-world examples. It focuses on the detrimental effects of unethical behavior on the brand-customer relationship which include consumer mistrust, discontent, and brand avoidance. The article also addresses the significance of ethical standards in reducing unethical brand behavior and building consumer trust. Businesses should take proactive steps to maintain ethical standards and protect their reputation and competitiveness in the market by being aware of the subtleties of unethical brand behavior and its consequences.


In today’s marketplace, brand behavior is under intense scrutiny, with consumers increasingly demanding ethical conduct. Unethical behavior by brands not only damages their reputation but also erodes consumer trust, leading to negative consequences for businesses. This article delves into the topic of unethical brand behavior, exploring its definitions, manifestations, cases in business, and impact on consumer behavior and responses.

Understanding the Unethical Brand Behavior

When we talk about unethical brand behavior in the context of brands, it means the activities that go against moral, ethical, or social values[1], and cause people to feel as though their trust has been betrayed[2]. It includes actions such as false promises, poor communication, and engaging in business misconduct, all of which contribute to the deception and discontent of customers[3]. Understanding ethics reveals three general themes: compliance, fairness/honesty, and caring. Compliance involves respecting laws and regulations, while fairness means treating stakeholders fairly and honestly. Caring emphasizes the preservation of living things and ecosystems, and loyalty focuses on devotion to family, friends, and society[4].

A diagram of a brand behavior

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Figure 1. Key Themes of Ethical Brand Behavior

In line with the general interpretations, brand-specific interpretations of compliance are when the companies or retailers adhere to the legal requirements as well as market-specific guidelines[4]. Fairness and honesty refer to the fair and honest treatment of brands, it involves building trustworthy relationships with stakeholders (e.g. customers and staff) while the latter involves telling trust and refraining from using any overstated or misleading information in marketing campaigns[5]. To be considered compassionate, businesses must take responsibility for their market, including the locals and surroundings. While retailers use resources and make money from operating the market, they should also be “caring” by (re)investing the money to improve the well-being of the locals and surroundings[6]. Ethics is mostly about following the law and acting in a socially responsible manner.

Business Cases of Unethical Brand Behavior and Its Impact on Consumer Responses and Behavior

Multiple sectors have had prominent cases of unethical brand behavior. There have been documented cases of marketing strategies that propagate ambiguous terms, make bombastic claims, and deceive consumers. Such immoral actions damage relationships between companies and customers in addition to losing revenues. Customers react negatively to perceived unethical behavior by demanding compensation and avoiding the brand[3].

Customers leave to avoid companies they think are dishonest, but they also demand that companies make amends. Consumers who perceive corporate misconduct, which can involve deceptive advertising and unethical behavior, experience unpleasant feelings and they demand that companies have to be punished. Consideration of a company’s wrongdoing increases these unpleasant emotional effects, enhancing the discontent and hatred of customers[2].

Mitigating Unethical Brand Behavior and Building Trust

To deal with unethical brand behavior, managers need to develop and communicate ethical guidelines to involved parties, ensuring that company activities are consistent with declared principles. In addition to fulfilling promises, brands are obligated to demonstrate that they are truly dedicated to ethical business practices. Customers who interact with ethical brands feel good about themselves, which encourages engagement and loyalty. To preserve customer loyalty and trust, businesses need to strive to maintain ethical standards. This is essential to their long-term success in the competitive marketplace[7].

In navigating the intricate landscape where technological advances meet consumer expectations, it becomes evident that the integrity of digital interactions plays a pivotal role in shaping perceptions and trust. The exploration by [8] into AI’s role in securing big data applications underscores the criticality of robust security measures in maintaining consumer confidence. Similarly,[9] delve into the paramount importance of multimedia cyber security, a fundamental aspect in preventing the misuse of consumer data and thereby averting potential brand estrangement. [10] contribute to this dialogue by highlighting the essential alignment of safety, security, and ethical deployment in robotic systems, reflecting the broader necessity for ethical considerations in technology use. [11] expand this discussion to the realm of online learning, suggesting that secure and ethical data management practices are key to sustaining trust and positive relations in digital environments. These contributions collectively illuminate the interconnectedness of digital security, ethical technology use, and their influence on consumer-brand dynamics.


In summary, unethical brand behavior affects consumer trust, loyalty, and eventually financial performance, which has profound implications for brands and companies. Brands can protect their reputation and competitiveness in the market by taking proactive steps to reduce risks and foster consumer trust by being aware of the effects of unethical behavior.


  1. Ittefaq, H., et al., The betrayal puzzle: Unraveling the connection between inauthenticity, corporate wrongdoing and brand betrayal with avoidance and reparation. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 2024. 76: p. 103597.
  2. Barta, S., R. Gurrea, and C. Flavián, Consequences of consumer regret with online shopping. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 2023. 73: p. 103332.
  3. Akhtar, N., et al., COVID-19 restrictions and consumers’ psychological reactance toward offline shopping freedom restoration. The Service Industries Journal, 2020. 40(13-14): p. 891-913.
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  8. Raj, B., et al. (Eds.). (2023). AI for big data-based engineering applications from security perspectives. CRC Press. 
  9. Gupta, B. B., & Gupta, D. (Eds.). (2020). Handbook of Research on Multimedia Cyber Security. IGI Global. 
  10. Gupta, B. B., & Nedjah, N. (Eds.). (2020). Safety, Security, and Reliability of Robotic Systems: Algorithms, Applications, and Technologies. CRC Press. 
  11. Deborah, L. et al. (Eds.). (2023). Secure Data Management for Online Learning Applications. CRC Press. 

Cite As

Dwikesumasari P R (2024) Beyond Profit: Exploring the Fallout of Unethical Brand Behavior on Consumer Relations, Insights2Techinfo, pp.1

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