Marketing Ethics

Marketing Ethics

Is a standard by which moral principles are considered within the marketing profession and execution of an advertising campaign or overall strategy for a business and/or organizations. Some areas of advertising and promotion overlap with the standards of media ethics.

Over the many years that businesses have advertised products and services, advertising has gained the general reputation of being dishonest or in some cases adversarial. However, all marketing is not adversarial or stacked in favor of the marketer. In many cases the relationship between producer/consumer and the buyer/seller is cooperative.

Ethical Danger Points

A very popular view of marketing in general is that it is inherently evil, with little truth or outrageous claims that are designed to generate sales. One of the best examples of this are the products promoted on late night television in infomercials. Products that claim overnight wrinkle reduction, hair growth for those experiencing early pattern baldness, or instant weight loss are commonly viewed as unreliable at best and a total scam at their worst.

Other ethical danger points often include excluding potential customers from a product or service or target easily manipulated targets like children or the elderly.  Examples of unethical market exclusion or selective marketing are industry attitudes toward ethnic minorities or lifestyles. Some examples of unethical marketing aimed at the elderly are living trusts, time share fraud, and other mass marketing schemes. This is due, in a large part to the fact that many elderly citizens hold a disproportionate amount of the world’s wealth and are therefore the target of financial exploitation. In the case of children, the main products being misrepresented and packaged to entice them to ask for  are unhealthy food, fashion, toys, and other types of entertainment goods. Children are a lucrative market, especially children 12 and under spend as they influence more than $11 billion of family spending decisions.

Direct marketing is the most controversial of advertising channels, particularly when unsolicited, which include television commercials and well-placed product placement. And in the age of Internet savvy young ones, email spam has pushed the borders of ethics and legality.

In the last couple of decades, business ethics has been an increasing concern and among major corporations the fear of damage to their brand reputation with media scrutiny and revelations of unethical practices. This has resulted in ethics itself as a selling point or a major component of a corporate or brand image.

“Liberation marketing takes the old mass culture critique — consumerism as conformity — fully into account, acknowledges it, addresses it, and solves it. Liberation marketing imagines consumers breaking free from the old enforcers of order, tearing loose from the shackles with which capitalism has bound us, escaping the routine of bureaucracy and hierarchy, getting in touch with our true selves, and finally, finding authenticity, that holiest of consumer grails.” Thomas Frank.

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