Marketing ethics is one of the most effective long-term branding, word-of-mouth, and trust-building strategies for optimizing the presence, leads, sales, and conversions of a product or service. Marketing ethics revolves around those principles of ethical marketing and standards that guide acceptable marketing conduct.
Ethical marketing is an integral part of the marketing definition that the American Marketing Association suggests, which is-
Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
Here, offering value to customers, partners, clients, and society is the core essence of an ethical marketing campaign.
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What is Marketing Ethics?
Marketing ethics are the marketing practices of promoting fairness, social responsibility, empathy, and honesty by following ethical standards. From marketing tactics to marketing decisions and advertising of products and services, all the ethical marketing practices focus not only on how products would benefit users but also on how they fulfill social responsibility and handle different ethical issues.
A few general examples of marketing ethics include
- Honesty is key when it comes to marketing – make sure you don’t deceive your audience with false or overstated claims.
- By providing customers with comprehensive and accurate information, they can make an informed decision that suits their needs.
- Safeguarding customer data and upholding their privacy is of utmost importance.
- Refraining from pressuring consumers into buying something they don’t need or want is essential for a successful business.
- Respecting vulnerable audiences such as minors and those struggling financially by refraining from marketing to them.
- While making marketing communications and strategies, pay heed to environmental and social responsibility and business ethics.
Consumers reap numerous advantages from this philosophy, whether it be environmental or social. It does more than merely provide a strategy; it is an instrumental part of the company’s success as well as its consumers.
Through ethical marketing, organizations deliberately apply different sets of moral rights and fairness standards when marketing their products and services, practices, and behavior in the overall structure. These organizations can then develop a competitive advantage over time, thereby satisfying the organization’s needs and customers.
Two Types of Marketing Ethics
The ethical principles of marketing share striking parallels with those of business, yet they can be divided into two distinct categories –
- Positive marketing ethics – When evaluating marketing tactics, positive marketing ethics centers on the notion of “what is” and requires that one vigilantly research any fraudulent or dubious advertising they come across. Keeping a log of all violations must be part of this investigation process to ensure ethical standards are met.
- Normative marketing ethics – Normative marketing ethics is the field of study that evaluates whether moral standards are being properly met when it comes to selling products and services. The same principles used in business ethics, such as duty-based theories as well as virtue ethics, and utilitarianism can help determine if ethical practices are being followed or not. By taking a closer look at how these principles affect marketing decisions and strategies, we can ensure that our approach to promoting businesses remains on firm moral ground.
Why is Marketing Ethics Important?
As per stats, 90+% of millennial consumers prefer buying products from ethical companies. Also, more than 80% of those users think that ethical brands outperform other market players that do follow ethical marketing.
Ethical marketing communications and strategies are essential to the overall growth and development of an organization over time. The applied set of guidelines and rules paves the way for a morally good, organized roadmap for everyone to follow. These sometimes overlap with media ethics since they are closely related in terms of definition and functioning.
The following are the reasons why ethical marketing is an integral part of the life of an organization:
1. Long-term gains
The foundation of a company or organization is not just based on its ability to survive the present, but to plan a bright future.
With the adoption of proper marketing ethics, brands can employ prospects with high credibility, loyalty to customers, significant market share, increased brand value, better sales, and better revenue.
These ethical practices will put their right on their way towards the accomplishment of both short-term and long-term goals with perfection.
2. Customer Loyalty
This is one of the most important factors in ethical marketing.
With the proper adoption of ethics in terms of business and operation, ethical marketing teams can win the loyalty, trust, and confidence of their consumers which can go a long way into the future.
The natural human tendency to go after the genuine brand surely gives them promising gains, both in the present and in the future.
3. Increased credibility
When the organization looks forward to keeping its promises surrounding its services and products on a continuous and consistent basis, it slowly and steadily goes towards the path of carving itself into an authentic and genuine brand in the market and customers’ minds.
This is not just limited to these two, and a good process can even build good respect in front of investors, peers, competitors, stakeholders, etc.
4. Increased Leadership qualities
When a company follows ethical practices of ethics for an extended period, it gradually stations itself as a leader, one who can benchmark its policies and strategies that surround the company’s structure and functioning.
This eventually gives rise to numerous benefits like increased share in the market, higher sales, inspiration for others, respect, mutual benefits, etc.
5. The satisfaction of basic human wants and needs
Once an organization is on course for the proper marketing ethics, it solves the basic needs and wants of its consumers in the form of integrity, trust, and honesty.
When this is displayed for a long time, various other benefits follow.
6. Display of a rich culture
Not only does such a structure give a positive outlook when seen from the outside, but it also paves the way for a good structure and environment within the hierarchy internally.
This gives rise to higher production owing to a confident and highly motivated staff.
7. The attraction of the right talent at the right place
Once the company can create brand value in the market, it becomes a beacon for prominent individuals for the association.
Various people like prospective employees, consultants, vendors, etc. look forward to associating and working with ethical brands that boost them exponentially. This further helps them in achieving their goals in a short period successfully.
8. Reaching financial goals
To function smoothly for more extended periods, the company has to have good financial partners who can help them grow and make significant strides in the market.
Once the brand follows a proper set of rules and ethical guidelines, it helps them earn the moral ground necessary to attract such people.
9. Enhancement of brand value in the market
Once a proper code concerning ethical marketing is followed by the organization, the public in the form of customers, competitors, stakeholders, etc. look up to such organizations. They follow such brands with religious dedication, giving them a sufficient boost to mark the market.
Here is a video by Marketing91 on Marketing Ethics.
Principles of Ethical Marketing
When it comes to ethical marketing, the rules may vary depending on a business’s values and overall objectives. Here are some of the most common ethical marketing principles you should be aware of –
Honesty is paramount in ethical marketing, and it is the responsibility of company leaders and marketers to ensure they are being forthright when communicating about their products or services. As one of the core ethical principles, it protects consumers by safeguarding their health, well-being, and rights.
Transparency is an integral part of marketing ethics, especially the notion of disclosing the elements behind company activities and practices. Furthermore, it necessitates maintaining frank conversations about ethical behavior.
3) Health and Safety
Consumer safety is paramount for any ethical marketing team. As marketers, we must take it upon ourselves to not only educate and inform customers about their rights and privacy but also demonstrate respect towards them to uphold this principle.
Adhering to environmental regulations, industry standards, and governmental laws is an integral part of ethical marketing; it shows customers that a company is committed to cultivating the highest quality products and services.
5) Conscious practices
Companies can choose to make conscious decisions that benefit both the surrounding community and the environment. Popular initiatives include fair wages, as well as eco-friendly production processes.
6) Personal behavior
Each member of a marketing team must adhere to strong moral principles. Although these may be somewhat subjective, companies must establish stringent guidelines mandating respect for the rights and autonomy of others. Such standards represent an integral part of ethical marketing practices.
Role of Ethics in Marketing
With time, our economic system has become sufficient for providing the wants and needs of the public.
This has shifted the main focus of the market with an inclination towards ethical values while serving the needs of customers. This is primarily due to two reasons:
When there is ethical behavior from the organization’s side, there is a more significant positive public attitude to the variety of services and goods they offer. They have to adhere to specific marketing standards to render their efforts valid to the general public.
In addition to this, ethical bodies and organizations tend to pressurize and hold organizations and companies accountable for their actions. There is a lot of questioning and sets of guidelines, which have to be strictly followed.
An ethical marketing strategy is responsible for paying heed to different factors such as
- Organizational factors such as culture, norms, values, and opportunity
- Individual factors such as moral philosophies and values
- Stakeholder interests and concerns
- The intensity of ethical issues in marketing and organization setup
- Ethical decision making
- Evaluation of ethical outcomes
Ethical Marketing Examples
Over the years, companies have been adopting different marketing practices that ethically and morally appeal to the general public. These are a few examples of the same:
1. Dr. Bronner’s Activist Soap
Dr. Bronner’s marketing strategy is sort of activist marketing, as they are involved in ethical marketing campaigns associated with income equality, regenerative organic agriculture, drug policy reform, and animal advocacy.
2. People Tree’s ‘Our Blue Planet’ Collection
People Tree’s ‘Our Blue Planet’ collection is one of the best examples of ethical marketing campaigns in which two companies collaborated for an ethical cause. People Tree collaborated with BBC Earth for emphasizing the importance of our oceans and marine conservation.
3. Lucy & Yak’s Transparent Supply Chain
As a bespoke fashion company, Lucy & Yak’s Transparent Supply Chain is fully dedicated to fighting the ethical issues caused by fast fashion. They let users see their whole production process which makes them fully transparent with their product or service.
Issues in Marketing Ethics
There are some disagreements and conflicts that give rise to ethical issues in many companies concerning marketing.
There is a fixed set of expectations regarding the business and its transactions and how they have to be carried out. The following domains have ethical issues concerning their functioning:
1. Market Research
It revolves around the collection and analysis of information about consumers as well as competitors and the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Ethical issues that might arise during the process are an invasion of privacy and stereotyping.
2. Market Audience
Excluding potential market sectors like LGBTs, ethnic minorities, etc. are some of the ethical marketing issues associated with the market audience. Also targeting vulnerable audiences with a marketing campaign is also an ethical marketing issue.
3. Advertising and Promotion
Shaming rivals’ products or services are considered unethical in advertising and promotion. Other ethical issues in advertising and marketing campaigns may be the mistreatment of women or any human being, misleading advertising, issues related to trust, honesty, violence, profanity, sex, taste, and controversy that may lead to the ethical decline of society.
4. Pricing Ethics
Different unethical pricing strategies that are considered issues in ethical marketing campaigns are-
- Bid rigging
- Dumping (pricing policy)
- Predatory pricing
- Price gouging
- Price fixing
- Supra competitive pricing
- Price discrimination
- Price skimming
- Price war
- Variable pricing
On a concluding note, we can define marketing ethics as an area of applied ethics that is associated with moral principles behind the operation and regulation of marketing that ethical companies use to differentiate between right and wrong marketing decisions and their implementations.
Many companies that use unethical marketing strategies do not care what is right and wrong on ethical grounds, and ultimately lose the trust of their audiences. Therefore, opting for unethical practices is never suggested by market leaders.
How would you differentiate ethical and unethical marketing practices?
What kind of marketing strategies would you prefer in your ethical marketing campaign?
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