3 points about ethical marketing

You only have to watch an episode of THE CHECHOUT on ABC to appreciate why many people view marketing as an unethical practice.

Ask yourself, as indeed the viewers of THE CHECKOUT are asked to do:

  • Is it ethical to sell fast food with no food value but very high calories to fat children?
  • Is it ethical to sell vitamins that do nothing at all except enrich urine?
  • Is it ethical to suggest that bacon is GLUTEN FREE when there is no gluten in bacon?

Certainly it is ethical to make fast food available to kids, but should we promote it?

It is surely fair enough to sell vitamins but is it unethical to claim non-existent benefits

It is for most ethical to sell and consume bacon, but is it ethical to claim that the bacon has an added benefit that is not relevant since no bacon has gluten in it

These are just three of the thousands of ethical questions that are being asked every day by more and more people

For marketers I see three bigger ethical questions:

  • How do unethical practises impact on your business?
  • Is the reality of unethical practise really important?
  • Is there an opportunity in being seen as ethical?

Some unethical practises do not impact on a product or business. Very often however they do and we rarely know the impact. What we do know however is that one unethical act can have broad ramifications and with social media the likelihood of unethical practices being identified are increasing daily

Unethical practices are most often not the danger. The danger lies in the perception of unethical practices. Perception is all that really matters. So even if you have behaved ethically, coverage on programmes like THE CHECKOUT can still have an impact and that impact can spread quickly on social media

I would argue that the market for ‘ethical’ products marketed by ‘ethical’ businesses that are marketed ‘ethically’ is large and growing at a staggering rate. There is a real opportunity here, but that opportunity will only be realised if the your are authentic and address perception

I would argue that investing in ethical practices is more important and more powerful than any amount of CSR

What do you think?

This issue will be discussed in more detail on THE D. JOHN CARLSON NETWORK –

D. John Carlson is a behavioural scientist, strategic planner and lateral thinker focusing on branding, marketing and communication. Visit his blog –

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