Generally, ethics refer to the way in which people relate in a moral manner toward others in all of their various interactions. Marketing ethics refer specifically to the application of this basic morality in the conduct of business with their consumers and other related parties. Such a practice must necessarily include a conscious attempt by the businesses under consideration to apply moral principles when they are dealing with clients or other customers, especially when it comes to the production, pricing and promotion of their goods or services. Some ethical issues are universal, while some are derived from the culture and beliefs of various people. As such, various companies must necessarily incorporate this consideration in their marketing ethics.
An example of how marketing tactics can be derived from the cultural or societal values of the particular group of people in the environment that the business is operating can be explained by using the example of the practice of animal testing. Some cultures are more offended by the issue of animal testing than others due to the type of values in place in those societies. A cosmetics company in a less-developed country where poverty is still prevalent might not have the luxury of seeking alternative forms of testing for their products. In this case, the subject of the practice of animal testing might not be a big issue, and even the customers might not be too concerned about any such practice since they might not have too many alternatives. By contrast, a company in a developed country might face boycotting from consumers if they engage in the practice simply because their culture is one of affluence and they have a lot of alternatives to the product produced by this manufacturer.
Marketing ethics may also refer to the manner in which a business presents its products to consumers, such as engaging in double speak or deliberately misrepresenting information or facts in order to generate more sales and make more profit. For example, a company could deliberately package its product to look like that of another popular product even though it knows that its own version is substandard. This company might rely on the fact that not a lot of people will look too closely to tell the difference between the two products. Not only would such a misapplication of marketing ethics be morally reprehensible, it would also be basis for a lawsuit if the other company can prove that it is capitalizing on its product identity to generate sales. As such, the issue of the application of marketing ethics is one that helps ensure that consumers and clients do not get a raw deal from manufacturers.