Ethics in marketing is a field of study that is under increasing scrutiny as more business strive to achieve Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in all that they do. According to the authors of Ethics in Marketing: International Cases and Perspectives, there are four types of ethical marketers.
1. Egotistic or relativistic marketers. These marketers base their decisions and actions on their personal interests – what will best serve them. They may rationalize questionable activities with statements like “Everyone else is doing it;” “We’re not breaking the law;” We just followed orders;” or even, “We were just having fun!”
2. Legalist marketers. These marketers are guided primarily by the law. In their mind, the law is morality. According to authors Murphy et al, this group is growing, as more marketers take a “financial and… …minimalistic perspective toward their management responsibilities.” The authors specifically point out that an increasing number of MBA grads is contributing to this type – ouch! In my opinion, we probably see a lot of these marketers in the financial services industry and perhaps in manufacturing.
3. Moral strivers. This type makes up the largest group of marketers. These are the marketers who want to do what is right, but lacking knowledge or a framework for decision-making, are often swayed to the path of least resistance. If their company does not have an ethical culture, they may not be able to stand up for what is right according to their personal standards.
4. Principled marketers. These are the folks that have reached a high level of moral development and are able to act upon it. They regularly apply prevailing ethical norms and laws and also have moral imagination – the ability to imagine the effects and ramifications of certain marketing actions. Unfortunately, at present, few managers reach this level.
CMOs – what type of marketer are you? What were you before / what do you strive to be? Please comment below.
Blog author Jennifer Beever follows the Institute of Management Consultants’ Code of Ethics and teaches Ethics in Marketing and Advertising at UCLA Extension in Westwood, California.