Ethics in Marketing

Marketing Ethics Defined

Ethics are about moral evaluations of decisions as to whether they are right or wrong on the basis of socially/culturally accepted principles of behaviour.   Marketing ethics are moral principles that define appropriate behaviour in marketing.

The most basic and common ethical issues have been formalised through laws and regulations to ensure conformity to the standards of society.   At the most basic level, marketers are expected to conform to these laws and regulations.

However, it is important to realise that marketing ethics go beyond legal issues.

Organisations need to operate in accordance with sound moral principles based on ideals such as fairness, justice, and trust.  Consumers will generally regard unethical marketing activities as unacceptable and often refuse to do business with marketers that engage in such practices.  Thus when marketers deviate from accepted moral principles to further their own interests at the expense of others, continued marketing exchanges become difficult, if not impossible.  Good ethical marketing decisions make good business sense as they foster mutual trust between customers (as well as other stakeholders) and build good marketing relationships.

When an organisation engages in unethical marketing activities, it may not only lose sales as dissatisfied consumers refuse to deal with it, but it may also face lawsuits, fines, and even prison for its executives

Regardless of how a person or an organisation views the acceptability of a particular activity, if society judges that activity to be wrong or unethical, then this view directly affects the organisations ability to achieve its goals.  Although not all activities seen as unethical by society may be illegal, consumer may see it as unethical.  Their protests against a particular activity may result in legislation that restricts or bans it.

Ethics are individually understood and vary from one person to another.  Although individual marketers often work within their own concepts of ethical standards, there needs to be shared standards of acceptable behaviour to guide all marketing decisions.

Brian Monger – MArketing in Black and White – Pearsons


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