Marketing Code of Ethics

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

A company marketing code of ethics includes extensive coverage of how business is conducted by members of an organization. For instance, Google’s code of ethics, titled Code of Conduct and posted on their parent company’s website, lays out an extensive list of what is expected of their employees. Among the issues covered are:

  • Offering Gifts – “We want to avoid the possibility that the gift, entertainment, or other business courtesy could be perceived as a bribe, so it’s always best to provide such business courtesies infrequently and, when we do, to keep their value moderate.”
  • Receiving Gifts – “Google’s Non-Government Related Gifts & Client Entertainment Policy provides specific guidance on when it is appropriate for Googlers to accept gifts, entertainment, or any other business courtesy (including discounts or benefits that are not made available to all Googlers) from any of our competitors or business partners.”
  • Competitor Information – “If an opportunity arises to take advantage of a competitor’s or former employer’s confidential information, don’t do it.”
  • Friends and Relatives – “Don’t tell your significant other or family members anything confidential, and don’t solicit confidential information from them about their company.”

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 – “Marketers must not misrepresent a product, service, marketing program or make any other misleading representation, even if not directly related to the product or service, and must not mislead by statement or manner of demonstration or comparison.”
  • Support of Claims – “Marketers must be able to substantiate the basis for any performance, efficacy or length of life claim or comparison and must not imply a scientific, factual or statistical basis where none exists.”
  • Use the Word “Free” – “Products or services offered without cost or obligation on the part of the consumer or business may be described as “free”, or similar.”
  • Comparative Advertising – “Comparisons included in marketing communications must be factual, verifiable and not misleading. They must compare similar aspects of the products or services being assessed.”