Ethics in Marketing

In addition to problems cited above, some critics also argue that the money-making motive of some marketers has encouraged many to cross the line in terms of ethical business behavior. Ethics is concerned with what is right and what is wrong. Many people assume that only actions that violate laws are considered unethical. While it is true that illegal activity is also unethical, a business activity can be unethical even though no laws are violated. For instance, some consider it unethical for marketing companies to aggressively promote unhealthy foods to children though such promotional practices are generally not viewed as illegal.

Sometimes the line between what is considered ethical and unethical is difficult to distinguish since what is right and wrong differs depending on such factors as nationality, culture, and even industry. For example, many websites offer users access at no monetary charge to their content (e.g., articles, videos, audio clips, etc.) but do so only if users register and provide contact information including email addresses. Some of these sites then automatically add registrants to promotional email mailing lists. Some view the practice of automatic “opt-in” to a mailing list as being unethical since customers do not request it and are forced to take additional action to be removed from the list (“opt-out”). However, many marketers see no ethical issue with this practice and simply view adding registered users to an email list as part of the “cost” to customers for accessing material.