“Marketing speaks to a larger drama in our lives of the conflicts between different sets of norms and values – between those related to the role of competition, identity, desire, greed, and fear in our society, but also those involving certainty, dependable quality, consumer-friendly service, trust and inexpensive products and services. In short, to talk about marketing is to address an ongoing ethical conflict”
“Marketing Ethics” by George Brenkert is the book every marketer should have read in their twenties – when they were idealistic, shaping their worldviews – before they began their conquest of the market. Brenkert provides concise definitions of marketing that strip away the salesy-jargon, framing marketing simply as exchange relationships imbued with traditional, societal, and ethical concepts. Marketers face a host of ethical problems – which can only be responded to once we understand that marketing is itself a practical, value-laden activity, which falls within the moral arena.
Brenkert believes marketers need to ask themselves deeper questions connected to the virtue in marketing –
“What kind of society do we want to live in?”
“What’s the marketers role in promoting/fostering the “good life?”
“What kind of person do we wish to be?”
“What kind of person are we in the midst of creating?”
The books main focus is to describe The Ethically Integrated Marketing Concept
This approach to marketing embeds six principles within all aspects of a business’s approach to marketing –
Autonomy – Freedom – Justice – Trust – Truth – Well-Being
It is the marketers responsibility to ensure that these principles are upheld through the entire product or service life cycle – development, packaging, advertising, market research, distribution, and disposal. Most marketers use the law and good judgment as the final tools to guide ethical decisions. This is faulty. An obstacle facing ethics in marketing is it’s considered a matter of opinion. Different people have different moral opinions – there’s nothing we can do. WRONG! -> Some beliefs are in fact not moral, but religious, aesthetic, or self-interested. Our moral systems are deep and connect us so we can trust one another, experience love, exhibit courage, expect honest answers. If public and collective discussion of general principles and values is unavailable, individuals will experience greater moral stress since they find it difficult, as isolated moral decision-makers, to know what they morally ought to do.
Morality refers to those basic constitutive features of the lives of reason-giving beings that provide action-guidance with regard to the well-being of sentient life and the integrity of their world.
In the last few chapters of the book, Brenkert outlines the expanding importance of understanding the ethical implications of marketing in a globalized society. He warns of the “productization” of social and political movements, which reduce complexity into slogans, ply on emotions rather than logic, and can overturn and confuse different kinds of relationships, transforming them all into one kind. Marketers have a special responsibility to monitor and restrict forms of marketing that ethically cheapen current social or political processes.
The sobering realization that our current political and social situation has been created in part by the lack of ethical application of marketing principles should kick any marketer directly in the head. I believe there is a HUGE chunk of market-share out there for the values-based company to scoop up. There is a giant hole in the ethical heart of our world, we have eroding trust in our leaders or institutions, and we are all thirsting for something to genuinely believe in. The business that will succeed in the dimming light of trust and faith will be the business that can integrate ethics in a just manner, that promotes the well-being of its employees and the society it operates within, that respects the freedom and autonomy of it’s customers, and that stands for justice and always for doing what is right.
GET THE BOOK –> Marketing Ethics