Marketing Code of Ethics

The call for marketers to become more responsible for their actions has led to the development of a code of ethics by many companies and professional organizations.

A company code of ethics includes extensive coverage of how business is conducted by members of an organization. For instance, Yahoo! lays out an extensive list of what is expected of their employees in their Code of Ethics document. Among the issues covered are:

  • Business Relationships (“must never take unfair advantage of others through manipulation, concealment, abuse of privileged information, misrepresentation of material facts or any other unfair dealing practice”)
  • Offering Gifts to Clients (“may not furnish or offer to furnish any gift that is of more than token value or that goes beyond the common courtesies”)
  • Receiving Gifts From Clients (“must never request or ask for gifts, entertainment or any other business courtesies”)
  • Business Communication (“should take care to avoid exaggeration, colorful language, guesswork, legal conclusions and derogatory remarks or characterizations of people and other companies”)

Marketers often join professional organizations for the purpose of associating with others who share similar interests. These organizations include industry associations, whose membership is mostly limited to those who work within a particular industry, and professional services associations, whose membership consists of those who share similar job responsibilities. Marketers joining these organizations often find that a code of ethics has been developed that is intended to be followed by all organization members. For example, the Canadian Marketing Association lays out rules for its membership, which includes marketers from many for-profits and not-for-profit organizations, in its Code of Ethics and Standards and Practices. The Code discusses such issues as:

  • Accuracy of Representation of Products (“must accurately and fairly describe the product or service offered”)
  • Support of Claims Made About Products (“must be able to substantiate the basis for any performance claim or comparison“)
  • Acceptability for Using the Word “Free” (“Products or services offered without cost or obligation”)
  • Guidelines for Advertising Which Compares One Product to Another (“must be factual, verifiable and not misleading”)
Ethics in Marketing
Social Responsibility in Marketing