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Code of Ethics in Marketing

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Though it includes numerous activities, marketing is basically meeting the needs of customers in return for appropriate payment from them. According to Management Help, marketing discovers the needs of clients and then determines how to meet those needs. It involves analyzing potential customers and competitors, evaluating what clients will be willing to pay or invest, and deciding how to present products or services to the public.

Ethical Norms

Adhering to a code of ethics is vital for successful marketing. The American Marketing Association (AMA) offers a concise ethical code to be embraced by the marketing community. Ethical norms, the first part of the code, are established standards of conduct that provide guidelines for how to behave. These norms include careful adherence to laws and responsible decision making, which will protect marketers from harming those they work with or for. Marketers must build trust between the marketing community and its clients. Finally, marketers need to embrace ethical values that will build consumer confidence.


According to the AMA, there are six core ethical values to be practiced by members of the marketing system. They include honesty, responsibility, fairness, respect, transparency and citizenship. Though some of these values may seem obvious, it is important to emphasize how they affect the everyday actions of marketers. Transparency is the need to create a spirit of openness in marketing operations, and it involves communicating clearly, stating risks and listening to constructive criticism. Ethical citizenship is making decisions that will positively benefit society and the world.


Abstract ethical ideas sound good on paper, but it can be difficult to put these ethical codes into practice. Marketers have numerous job descriptions in varied sectors of society ranging from technology to industry. Thus, marketers face diverse ethical issues that need to be addressed proactively by the marketing industry they are a part of. Marketing organizations should encourage the discussion of ethics and reward the ethical behavior of their members.


The Business Marketing Association (BMA) also lists a code of ethics for its members. In summary, marketers must fairly represent whatever they are advertising. Though this is ethically right, it is also a practical measure because it will build a healthy relationship between marketer and stakeholder. Marketing goods or services that do not exist is completely unethical, along with deceitful methods of gaining favor such as bribes or kickbacks. Claims or business communication made by the marketers should be accurate and trustworthy, and any misleading information should be avoided.


Competition with other companies can be one of the most difficult situations in which to adhere to an ethical code. The BMA demands that members avoid disparaging attacks or unfairly attacking a competitor. However, it is possible to ethically compare the services of a competitor and to illustrate how one company or product would be a better choice for a consumer. As long as comparisons remain fair, are not misleading and accurately represent all parties, unethical treatment of competitors can be avoided.


Currently working from Charlottesville, Va., Catharine Pent has been writing around the world on a variety of topics for the past four years. From Seoul, South Korea to Washington, D.C., to Orlando, Fla., Pent has researched and presented topics ranging from international travel to agricultural development to organizational communication. Graduating summa cum laude, Pent holds a B.A. from the University of Central Florida.

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