A hardly discussed and controversial subject, ethical marketing took an important role in the corporate culture in recent business environment, for small to big corporations. It takes the shape of a fair, responsible and honest way of doing business.
But it is not always easy to gain market share, compete with numerous competitors, and increase the customer base to be profitable and at the same time do the correct things. Therefore, companies encounter themselves in the difficult position of crossing a barrier between wanting to be successful and wanting to be fair. What few people realize is that with the right skills, knowledge and experience, companies can have both, without compromising their business behavior. Thus, ethical marketing can be applied and should be applied by every company.
A survey by the Ethics Resource Center found out that 43% of the respondents believed that their supervisor lack ethical integrity. With an increase in the focus for corporate social responsibility perspective, more and more companies start focusing on ethical marketing strategies and try somehow to involve them in their strategies.
Used to gain competitive advantage and not considered as outside the law, ethical marketing has both advantages and disadvantages. However, I strongly believe that It varies from country to country, and especially with the culture that the company is operating with.
As an example, companies operating in Denmark have a very good knowledge of what ethical marketing means and how to apply it in their business, while companies operating in some of the African countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, etc. are far more reluctant to apply it in their strategies.
This can be explained by the fact that the general culture is surrounded by corruption and that most of these countries are emerging markets, where it is well known that managers can obtain cheaper labor, supplies, etc. In these kinds of countries it is like a non-written rule, that if you want to be successful you cannot be completely fair. Thus, bribing, and using wrong selling are some unethical practices, common in these companies. Those who want to stick by their principles usually don’t last long in the business in these countries and in such environment.
But there are some of them who manage to survive also by taking into consideration their principles. Most of the companies which manage to stick to ethical marketing succeed in doing it as they manage to incorporate the ethical perspective in their marketing practices and they don’t see it as a complete strategy but rather more like a philosophy that is meant to guide their business.
This kind of philosophy is related to one’s personal background, values and experiences and it is a highly subjective side of the business. Incorporating the ethical strategies in the company’s development strategies can take various forms, including sourcing of raw materials, staff employment, product advertising and pricing.
For example, is it morally wrong to negotiate tough contracts with suppliers to reduce production costs when it is well-known that it will reduce the suppliers quality and the quality of the end products? I believe that the answer is obvious; however, many companies are doing it. They are dropping the quality of products regularly just to gain market share.
The companies which have decided not to get involved in this kind of business, have taken a fair-trade approach, in which they give their suppliers the earnings that they deserve, and therefore get the quality that they want. Most of the fair-trade companies are being supplied with chocolate, cotton, sugar, tea, bananas and honey. These ethical companies have taken the marketing route to stand apart from their competitors and maintain market share.
But in order to understand the concept of ethical marketing, let’s think about some examples of what is considered unethical marketing and there are plenty of those on the markets nowadays that we encounter on a daily basis, such as: surrogate advertising, unverified claims, stereotyping women and even cultural marketing, false brand comparison and the biggest of all I would say, exaggeration.
We can say that ethical marketing is connected with customer behavior. Once you make a bad impression to the customers you risk losing them for good. Therefore, one of the biggest advantages of ethical marketing is that it can be used as a tool for creating long lasting relationship with your customers, as it will boost the customer’s credibility in the company.