Marketing ethics are ethical standards which pertain to marketing. Marketing is a field which is often viewed as inherently unethical, but it is in fact governed by law and standards of conduct just like any other field. People who actively work in the marketing field are expected to study and abide by the ethical standards of the industry, and academics interested in the study of marketing also look at how ethics are applied. Awareness of ethical standards is heavily promoted at many colleges and universities which teach marketing practices, and some institutions even have student associations dedicated to the development and promotion of ethical practices in business, including the marketing field.
There are a number of areas of ethical concern in marketing. The purpose of marketing is to sell products, services, and ideas to people, and this can be done in a variety of ways, not all of which are ethical. Marketers have to be careful about how they run campaigns to avoid running afoul of the law, and to address ethical gray areas which may not be covered by the law.
For example, there are strict laws in place about marketing to children in many regions of the world. Such laws are not in place to cover marketing to minorities, some of whom can be very vulnerable to certain types of marketing campaigns. Ethical marketers consider issues specific to the populations they are marketing to in order to avoid misleading people. Professional organizations remind members that they must incorporate concepts like transparency, respect, fairness, and responsibility into their campaigns.
Many consumers are aware that the ethics of marketing have shifted radically. In the mid-20th century, for example, advertisers made claims which simply were not true about the products they sold. Marketing ethics today frowns upon this practice, as does the law. Marketers are encouraged to find ways to promote products and services in a way which makes them appeal without being deceptive or coercive, and marketing ethics also includes professional relationships such as those between marketers and their clients.
Marketing ethics plays into corporate ethics and media ethics, both of which connect with marketing on many levels. Ethical business practices are an increasing cause for concern in many areas of the world as consumers become more active about identifying and pushing back against practices which they feel cross ethical lines. As a result, marketing ethics started to become more clearly defined at the close of the 20th century, and marketers began devising ethical standards which they could utilize as guidelines for the industry.