Marketing Ethics

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary online, marketing is “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or a service.” (“Marketing”). Marketing, then, is vital to the success of every business. Marketing comes in many forms, from mouth-to-mouth promotions to coupons and commercials. Being so necessary, marketing is unavoidable for businesses, and since businesses are necessary themselves, marketing is an unavoidable and helpful process.

Given that many mediums can be used for marketing, many different approaches also exist. The goal of marketing is to create a desire, that desire hopefully creating a purchase of goods, services, or, in the case of a charity or non-profit organization, a donation. There are many different businesses and so there are many different products and services, not all of which can be successfully advertised the same way. Some would argue that unethical tactics are used in some cases, like using photoshop on models’ bodies, which generally causes social desire to be skinnier and prettier than the average person. Marketing does not have inherent social responsibility, though. Especially now, it should be common knowledge that the faces of many and most brands have been thickly “helped” appearance-wise. Individuals should know that “sex sells,” and they don’t have to believe every advertisement that is trying to sell them something. They know that selling is what ads try to do; that’s the point of marketing. We know that.

Besides any random beer ad with an attractive woman drinking at a party or a certain year-long campaign from Mike and Ike, where the company targeted teenagers with gossipy ‘relationship trouble’ between fictitious Mike and fictitious Ike, there are marketing promos that are ethical by design. “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty” started in 2004, its mission created because of the company’s “vision to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety” (“Dove Self-Esteem Project”). Dove has used a wide range of marketing platforms for this promotion, including ads, videos, workshops, various events, books, and plays. The company is trying to spark a self-esteem boost, mainly targeted at females, which makes sense because for a beauty business, women are most likely the majority of Dove’s customers. Even though there could look to be no strings attached but pure goodwill, this campaign is still trying to create business. “Each time you buy Dove, you help us and our charitable partners provide inspiring self-esteem programing for girls,” (“Dove Self-Esteem Project”) the website reads. No matter how ethical a marketing choice may appear, it is still marketing. It is possible a pitch may not be mentioned obviously like this, but even if not, the company’s name is receiving a boost from the campaign. Everyone loves a company that gives back or goes green, etc.

Marketing is a part of business. All products and services don’t sell the same, and so different marketing strategies must be tested to find the one most effective. This does not mean that businesses should avoid consideration of promoting themselves in a way that can perceived as ethical, but in and of itself, marketing is ethical. Marketing is necessary. Marketing is a right. Even if one was against marketing, thinking it an unethical evil, how would the word get out? He’d find he needs to promote his cause. Either he doesn’t and fails to attain advocates or he does and contradicts himself and his message.


“Dove Self-Esteem Project.” Dove, Accessed 12 Oct. 2014.

“Marketing.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Accessed 12 Oct. 2014.


[Cited in 7th edition MLA format]

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