Remaining ethical in your marketing requires a workable strategy. You can’t afford to wait until ethical issues arise to address them, because your company reputation and future profits are at stake. Create a strategy for embedding ethics in your marketing so that you can stay on an ethical course as your company grows.

Market Research

You often need to gauge the mood of the market you sell to, but you should avoid invading anyone’s privacy. This occurs when you buy purchasing information form sources that don’t have permission to disseminate it, or when you spy on your customers online by following them to the websites they visit. Establish a policy that makes it clear you won’t tolerate crossing ethical lines in your research practices.

Target Marketing

You can and should determine what segment of the market to focus on in your marketing, but you must avoid using stereotypes. Using stereotypes in your marketing can insult your target market and also can alienate additional market segments who find such efforts distasteful. In addition, you must avoid taking advantage of vulnerable consumers such as children and the underprivileged. If you emphasize impulse buying that encourages the vulnerable to spend money without thinking, you have an ethics problem in your marketing strategy. Communicate to your marketing department that respect for your target market is the life blood of your business.


Make sure your marketing messages offer straightforward pricing. Laws exist to protect consumers from advertisers who present a low-priced product they don’t have in stock. When customers arrive, such unscrupulous businesses offer a higher-priced version of the product. Indicate whether your product or service requires you to charge additional fees such as delivery charges, restocking charges for returns, cancellation fees or extra charges for services a customer might assume are included in the original price. Establish guidelines that your marketing personnel can follow to be fair in advertising prices.

Environmental Friendliness

Many consumers seek out companies that have “gone green.” Don’t claim your packaging, product or practices protect the environment if they don’t. You can publicize your efforts to recycle or use recycled materials, but don’t claim your company uses environmentally friendly practices if you actually make no special effort in this area. Tell your marketing department you must have evidence before making claims of being green in your practices.


You can make a good living offering quality at a fair price, but you can go out of business if consumers discover your products or services don’t live up to your claims. Make a conscious effort to implement quality-control standards and evaluation methods. This will protect your company reputation and fulfill your ethical obligation to provide the quality you claim to provide. Communicate this concern for quality to all department managers but especially to your marketing personnel.