What Is Ethical Marketing?

Malcolm Tatum

Ethical marketing is an approach to the marketing process that requires the establishment of specific ethical guidelines considered to be proper moral or ethical standards for the operation by the owner of the business. The idea behind this approach is to introduce a degree of morality into the development of business practices that allow the company to pursue business opportunities and connect with consumers via its marketing and sales strategies, while still remaining within a self-prescribed standard of behavior. The structuring of an ethical marketing approach may be influenced by factors such as community or industry standards, cultural aspects such as the nationality and religious or ideological beliefs of the owners, and even the sector of the consumer market that the company wishes to engage as customers.

Some companies adopt ethical or environmentally friendly policies as a strategic marketing objective.
Some companies adopt ethical or environmentally friendly policies as a strategic marketing objective.

The development of an ethical marketing plan usually begins with the owners and managers of a company determining what they consider to be a moral and ethical standard that can reasonably be applied to the business model. From there, the integration of those ethics and standards into the day to day operation of the company is often necessary in order to create a mindset that helps define the mission of the company for all the employees. From that point, those same principals are implemented into the marketing and advertising practices of the business, making it possible to attract the attention of consumers who hold beliefs and standards that are in harmony with the way the company chooses to conduct its business operations.

With ethical marketing, the idea is to make value decisions regarding what is and is not right for the company to use in the way of marketing tools. For example, a company may choose to not utilize advertising copy that is somewhat vague and misleading in terms of the quality of its products. The approach may call for full disclosure of the ingredients used in the goods offered by the company, even if that disclosure goes beyond that which is required by law. The company may set specific guidelines for the content that may be used in online advertising, television and radio commercials, print publications, and even the layout of business cards prepared for use by employees.

The overall process of ethical marketing is about establishing behavioral standards that serve to guide the company in its dealings with consumers and in creating the type of public image that will aid the business in connecting with its target audience. When successful, this approach to the marketing process can allow a business to build and maintain a loyal client base that provides a steady flow of income, even as it uses various strategies that are within the scope of the company moral codes to reach out to even more consumers. It is important to note that companies with internal operations that mirror the morals and ethics exemplified in the media campaigns are more likely to hold onto customers for a number of years, while those companies that are found to operate with a different set of standards than those presented to the buying public are likely to lose consumer confidence and find staying in business a harder task.

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