Business ethics is one of the most complicated and contentious subjects in human history. The relationship between doing the right thing and making money has been studied by academics and business leaders for years with little consensus reached.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis assists in the measuring of vast disparity between corporations and their customers. Ethical business practices are extremely relevant issues as the world continues to struggle through a weak economic made worse by unscrupulous businesses.
However, we see less of today’s leaders viewing ethical behavior as an obstacle; making shallow endeavors incorporating ethical strategies within daily business practices.
Company leaders realize the importance of acting under ethical values. Smarter company leaders go further by way of broadcasting ethical transformations to their customers. One of the easiest ways a business achieves social rewards is through their marketing practices. If a company makes an effort to advertise more ethically, it reflects positively on every area of that business.
So what is Ethical Marketing: Ethical marketing is less of a marketing strategy and more of a philosophy that informs, directs and shapes all marketing efforts. Ethical marketers seek to promote honesty, fairness and responsibility across all advertising channels. Yet again, ethics is a notoriously difficult subject because everyone holds subjective judgments about what is “right” and what is “wrong”.
For this reason, ethical marketing is not a hard and fast list of rules; rather ethical marketing, and ethical marketers create general guidelines to assist their counterparts as companies evaluate new marketing strategies.
Dove soap, for instance, ran a widely seen ad campaign featuring “real” models. The ad was meant to promote realistic body images and encourage girls to love the way they looked even if they were not supermodels.
However, other Dove ads both during and since featured stereotypical beautiful models whose images have been altered to hide imperfections. Dove marketed ethically in one campaign and unethically in another. This illustrates how difficult it is to do the right thing in all circumstances. What is most important for any company that claims to practice ethical advertising is to make it a fundamental feature of near all marketing processes. With each step ask “will this sell” AND “is this the ethical way to sell it?”
I recall a recent episode of ABC’s Shark Tank confronted with an entrepreneur pitching a food substitute pill (Mr. Daryl Stevenett, Episode 518).
Most reasonable people buy diet pills even though they are rarely, if ever, effective. This is because there continues to be a market wanting to believe in an existence of a safe supplement in place of boring diets and arduous exercises. Thus, some diet pill companies use exaggerated and manipulative claims to essentially trick customers into buying their product. If that same company committed to using ethical advertising, they would probably go out of business. However, sneaky as their business model may be, it is not illegal and it does keep doors open.
There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to ethical marketing. Unethical advertising is often just as effective as it is unethical. Since unethical behavior is not necessarily against the law, many companies use unethical advertising to gain a competitive advantage.
Leading to this tip: Make thoughtful and meaningful decisions about the ethics behind marketing strategies currently at play.