In the first part of this series, we looked at the wider discipline of ‘marketing as match-making’ (read here) including what it is and how it works, followed by ‘marketing as a fair fight’ in the second part, which examined the outcomes of ethical versus unethical marketing. So, if marketing is the process of finding a market for win-win outcomes, where do ethics come into it? Well, everywhere.
So: what Is Ethical Marketing, what are ethical marketing principles, what is an ethical marketing approach, and what does it mean for behaviour around data and universal considerations of good/harm?
Let’s start with a simple statement:
“Ethical marketing is the process of finding a market for goods, services or ideas with a win/win outcome for all stakeholders”.
That’s simple – but it’s not easy.
“All stakeholders?” I hear you cry – “…how is that even possible!?”.
Let’s take a look at the BUD approach.
BUD: A basis for Ethical Marketing
Alright bud! There are a number of considerations when considering ethics and marketing and in the context of the “value chain” and where it ends. At the broadest level, these come under the acronym BUD:
- Behaviour – will the outcome you’re trying to influence affect the individual in a positive, neutral or negative way?
- Universal considerations – will the outcome you’re trying to influence be good for people, society, the planet? Is it socially responsible? Does the outcome “pay forward” in a positive way and where does the buck stop: who pays the price?
- Data – is the person you’re using your digital marketing strategy on aware that their data is being used in order for you to target them? If they were aware of what you know, would they consent that data being used to influence them?
These are big questions – but the answers are simple.
They’re simple because they revolve around an honest answer to a difficult question:
How do these topics make you feel?
Do they make you feel uncomfortable? Do you feel like you must make excuses, like you’re covering something up, Mr marketing manager?
If so, is just saying “no” an ethical response? If you refuse a client or job because of the potential negative impact, are you taking the higher ground and adhering to your own code of ethics? Might you be abdicating the responsibility and vacating a defensible position, thereby negating the potential you have to make a positive impact and guide that venture in a more positive direction? You could be the difference in encouraging more ethical businesses…
Ethical Marketers = Ethical Individuals
The fact of that matter is that you can’t be an ethical marketer with strong professional ethics and morals without being an ethical individual. So, what is an ethical individual? The Oxford Dictionary defines ethics as “moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity.”
So, if your moral principles consider “might is right”, then you can do whatever you want and damn the consequences. You might as well stop reading here and go do whatever it is people like you do.
However, if your moral principles include kindness, equality, equity and a belief that a better world is possible for all, then you might be an ethical marketer – or on your way to becoming one.
Stay ethical and check out what’s next in the series: The Ethical Marketer’s Conundrum – Ethical Marketing Part 4.