The Ethical Half of Marketing

There’s a fine line when it comes to marketing and ethics. What makes it okay to market and advertise products that are known to be harmful to people, such as cigarettes and caffeinated energy alcoholic drinks such as FourLoko? Who makes the judgment that it’s okay to promote products that have led to deaths and injuries these to the target audience without any ethical implications? Is there a line between making the right choice and making a sale?

The quality of products and services has been debated upon for years and years regarding ethics in marketing. These issues arise from unsafe products, recalls, misrepresentation and attacking competitors. Questions such as ‘Is it actually going to do that?’, ‘Is that really not in there?’ and ‘Is that as safe as you say it is for me?’ are just some of the ones that marketers need to take into account before putting a marketing campaign into affect.

One example of this debate is the marketing and advertising  done by tobacco companies. It is generally unethical to promote cigarettes after it’s been found to cause cancer. Yet, tobacco is one of the most successful and profitable industry in the business world. Is it okay that the cigarette box has a small warning that says, “Surgeon General’s Warning: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy,” yet we’re surround with ads where smoking is perceive as cool and hip. Is that ethical? It’s a hard question to answer. It depends on each person’s moral compass and their definitions of what’s wrong and what’s right.

I believe in order to be successful at marketing, one needs to be ethical. To me ethical is also synonymous with honesty, which entails ensuring that your marketing efforts are isolated to your target market and making sure that you aren’t marketing something dangerous to the wrong target audience, such as cigarettes to teenagers. The point of marketing is to develop a long term relationship with your customers in terms of quality, reputation and branding. In order to effectively do that, I think marketing calls for being ethical. One unmoral decision can turn the company upside down, eventually losing its’ consumers’ trust and the company’s reputation.  

The American Marketing Association (AMA) has it’s own set of ethical principles for marketers which encompass that “marketers must do no harm, must foster trust in the marketing system, and must embrace, communicate and practice the fundamental ethical values that will improve consumer confidence in the integrity of the marketing exchange system.” This guideline was created for all marketers out there in the business world to hopefully adhere to.

Marketing isn’t about making a sale, it is showing your customers that you care, all stakeholders including employees and the community, while having fun. In the long run it is the successful relationship that survives not that extra million you got after one deceptive practice. As a guidelines, I think marketers should be honest in telling what their product does, in it’s choosing of pricing, its safety, and weighing the pros and cons of their product or service. Ethical Marketing is putting the customers above the company, which makes senses considering without the customers there wouldn’t be a company to begin with.

-Alex Chong

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