The Ethical Marketing Initiative

by | Dec 13, 2018

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ethics and the role they play in business and our lives. The more I’ve studied and looked at the world around us, the more I see a problem with ethics in marketing.

And I don’t just mean “conventional” marketing. Recruitment practices, sales, and customer service all fall into the same realm of recipient focused messaging.

When many people think about ethics, they first think about major scandals like Enron or HealthSouth. While these were serious examples of ethical misconduct, they were primarily internal. 

What’s really been sticking in my mind is the amount of unethical externally focused messages. It is so common, and we just allow it. And it gives marketing a bad name.

Marketing’s Bad Reputation

Unfortunately, marketing has developed a bit of a bad reputation among a lot of people over the years. There are those that think the majority of marketing and sales is scummy, unethical, or even evil.

And I’ll agree that unethical marketing is all those things. And most people would also agree that unethical marketing is entirely too prevalent. The restrictions put on marketing and sales are significantly lighter than those put on, say, accounting. And because of that, there are significantly too many instances of what I consider unethical marketing practices.

If we ever want to get to the point where marketing is seen for the good it does, we need to clean up its reputation and root out unethical practices.

What Can We Do About It?

Now you may be thinking:

“How much can one person really do to change the culture of marketing?”

And unfortunately, one person acting alone may not make much of a difference. But if many individuals come together, call bad marketing out, and reward ethical marketing, it can make a difference.

We all have to do our part, and because of that I’m launching The Ethical Marketing Initiative. The goal will be to educate consumers, call out unethical behavior, and provide certification for companies that follow ethical marketing, sales, and recruitment practices.

And if you want your voice to be heard as a consumer, there’s really only one way to do it:

Vote with your wallet.

If people stop buying products from unethical companies, the companies will really only have two options:

1. They can start being ethical

2. They can stop making sales and eventually die

If we all stuck to our collective guns, something tells me they would probably choose number 1. Maybe then marketing can be seen for all the good it does.

How Do We Start?

Here’s the game plan:

I’ll keep speaking about marketing ethics, making videos, writing articles, and doing company trainings. Some of those articles will call out ethical issues and some will praise companies that are doing good things.

You can keep following my content if you want updates, and you can send me stories (positive or negative) about ethical marketing you’ve noticed. Make sure you’re informed, and then vote with your wallet. If you hate what a company is doing, you don’t have to keep throwing your money at them.

You can, but you don’t have to.

But there can be a hang up there:

What do you do if a company is engaging in unethical marketing that you don’t approve of, but you need their product? Or even if the product isn’t a need, it may make your life way easier. It is possible to have a great product/service and sketchy marketing. 

In those cases, you can still have a voice. Submitting customer support requests, talking to them on social media, and having others spread the message can grab a company’s attention fairly quickly. If they know enough people are upset about it, it can lead to change. And if it’s really bad (like blatant false advertising) you can always file an FCC complaint.

More than anything else, just remember to care. Talk about these things, get others informed, hold companies accountable. As the saying goes “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.