Ethical Marketing: future marketing philosophy and benefits

The aim of any business is to generate profit, but considering the impact companies have on society and the environment, making choices becomes inevitable. Embracing an ethical marketing plan involves adopting a philosophy that leaves a positive footprint in the world, with an eye on revenue while respecting others and noble values.

In this article, we will explore the implications of certain corporate decisions on socially significant issues, the pitfalls to avoid, and the benefits of implementing an ethical marketing strategy.

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Ethical Marketing manifesto: principles and philosophy

To understand ethical marketing, we must start with the definitions provided by philosophy and sociology for ethics. Although ethics remain subjective and tied to individual values, principles, and cultural affiliations, it ultimately pertains to distinguishing right from wrong in a social context. Emphasis is placed on a company’s responsibility within society. In this context, scholar Emmanuele Macaluso has formulated the ethical marketing manifesto, intended as a guide for anyone working in marketing. The manifesto urges to refrain from creating secondary needs in the collective unconscious and subconscious that are perceived as genuine necessities by the market.

Specifically, marketing professionals are encouraged to:

  • Respect buyers.
  • Maintain truthfulness.
  • Clearly differentiate between advertising content and entertainment.
  • Protect consumer privacy.

All of this aims to elevate marketing to a level of excellence that benefits customers, society, and ideally, businesses as well.

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Why is Ethical Marketing of significance?

The significance of a company’s ethical marketing practices cannot be overstated, as they serve as a cornerstone for upholding consumer rights and enhancing their lives. Embracing ethical principles not only aligns with moral standards but also plays a pivotal role in achieving both short-term and long-term marketing objectives. For instance, when businesses adopt ethical marketing, they can forge connections with potential customers founded on trustworthiness, foster customer loyalty, secure a substantial market share, and ultimately drive improved revenues. Here are several advantages associated with ethics-based marketing:

  • Elevates Consumer Well-being: ethical marketing encompasses initiatives aimed at educating consumers about potential risks tied to a company’s products and services. Consider, for instance, companies that manufacture cleaning supplies providing guidance to consumers on the safe handling of their products.
  • Sets an Exemplary Precedent: by cultivating a positive work environment for employees and prioritizing consumer welfare, businesses can cultivate a sterling reputation and serve as inspirational role models for other enterprises to embrace ethics-based marketing. This collective effort can lead to collaborative solutions for societal issues on a global scale.
  • Enhances Employee Welfare: marketing strategies that champion consumer well-being can also extend to the betterment of employee conditions. For example, companies may implement equitable work schedules and fair compensation practices, thus fostering a harmonious workplace environment.
  • Bolsters Customer Retention: marketing initiatives that underscore a commitment to quality and value play a pivotal role in building trust among consumers. Consequently, companies can elevate customer satisfaction and loyalty, attracting and retaining new customers while securing essential revenue streams.

Difference between Ethical Marketing and Unethical Marketing

First and foremost, it’s crucial to clarify that being unethical isn’t the same as being illegal. Operating within the boundaries of the law doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding immorality. Each company must differentiate between perfect duties—non-negotiable obligations like obeying the law—and imperfect duties—vague and undefined obligations that present ethical dilemmas. A pragmatic, capitalist view often prioritizes a company’s economic interests, leaving consumer interests secondary.

ethical marketing in business

This happens when companies, driven by persuasive promotion and sales efforts, attempt to impose products with maximum profit potential on the market. To achieve this, companies might use marketing channels to stereotype or exaggerate product qualities, inflating claims and slogans that can’t be objectively verified. False or misleading comparisons with rival products could also occur. Another unethical practice involves creating fake reviews or testimonials to deceive consumers.


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Kotler’s definition and key points

According to Philip Kotler, an expert in strategic marketing, the main objectives of ethical marketing are to satisfy the consumer, promote societal well-being, and ultimately ensure profitability for the company. Kotler has attempted to describe what the marketing of the future should be, envisioning marketing 3.0 as socially responsible, grounded in the noblest aspects of humanism, and placing the customer as a whole being with not only material but also spiritual needs.

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Examples of Ethical Marketing

Several examples of ethical campaigns have made a significant impact, going viral and conveying positive messages. For instance, the brand Dove created the “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign, where women described themselves to an artist who couldn’t see them. The artist then drew their portraits based on these descriptions. Subsequently, an impartial observer described the same women to the artist, and the two portraits were compared. The portrait described to the artist by the impartial observer consistently appeared more beautiful, highlighting the excessive self-criticism women often subject themselves to. Only 4% of women perceive themselves as beautiful. The campaign was highly successful, garnering over 6 million views on YouTube.

On another occasion, Dove was at the center of a storm in 2008 when Greenpeace launched an emotionally charged campaign against the company, which the NGO claimed was responsible for promoting deforestation and the deaths of thousands of protected species such as rhinos, orangutans, and tigers due to the high demand for palm oil used in various personal care products. The campaign titled “Talk to Dove before it’s too late” gained significant media attention, leading to no company using vegetable oils being able to avoid taking a public stance. Most companies openly declared the abandonment of palm oil or, like Ferrero, stated their intention to continue using palm oil but only from sustainable plantations. Would you like to boost your company’s visibility by publishing and managing content on YouTube? Discover the YouTube and online Video Marketing Course!


Another famous example of an ethical marketing campaign that many surely remember is the “Ice Bucket Challenge” campaign. Its goal was to raise awareness about ALS, a degenerative disease known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and to raise funds for research. The challenge involved pouring a bucket of ice water over oneself, naming three other people to do the same, recording and sharing the video. In a short time, the challenge that started in Boston went viral, involving famous figures like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Beyoncé, Cristiano Ronaldo, and many other celebrities. There were 142 million search results on Google, and 2.4 million videos were shared on Facebook in just one week. In only two weeks, $31.5 million was raised for research.

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Can marketing and ethics truly coexist?

Recognizing their social relevance, companies will face decisions in the realm of marketing planning that involve adopting proper organizational behaviors and combining ethical, environmental, and economic criteria. The goal should be to balance the interests of different stakeholders while protecting the interests of the most vulnerable.

importance of ethical marketing

Fiorentina has sponsored the Save The Children Association free of charge since 2010

Typically, business choices can be made in two ways: empirically based on subjective experiences or through rational objective processes using established structures and based on company experiences. According to scholars in business ethics, the decision-making process involves three stages:

  • Identification of a dilemma
  • Identification of an ethical reference standard
  • Application of the identified standard in the decision-making process

While the importance of the final decision-maker is evident, it’s clear that much is tied to the human values of managers and how much they broaden the decision-making field on a moral level. Nevertheless, as we’ve seen, marketing and ethics can coexist.

Developing an Ethical Marketing plan for your company

An ethical marketing strategy will be more easily practicable when there is a greater sharing of values with other competing companies. With greater consistency in responses regarding undefined duties, a cooperative effort can be achieved through voluntary agreements among multiple companies to contain free rider phenomena and moral uncertainty.

The steps to follow in building a new Ethical Brand identity are:

  • Analyze the starting situation.
  • Identify the ethical principles to reference for the new Brand identity.
  • Build an adequate level of awareness.
  • Consolidate the reputation.

It’s important to note that this is not a short-term process. A course of action must be prepared at all company levels in order to achieve solid and lasting results over time.

Use Storytelling to convey your company’s vision

Making ethical choices for your company offers numerous advantages for the society we operate in, for consumers, and not least for ourselves and our company. Drawing inspiration from the campaigns analyzed, we can use storytelling to communicate with our stakeholders, conveying our company vision, what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. By revealing the values and ideals that guide us, we have the power to attract the interest of new customers and to retain those we already have, presenting them with a problem and offering them a solution.

Are you ready to create an Ethical Marketing plan for your company?

As we’ve seen, consumers today are no longer passive subjects; it’s crucial to involve them not only in fulfilling their primary needs but also in understanding and possibly sharing marketing principles to enhance our public reputation by connecting with them. It’s socially important to create a marketing plan that aligns with the ethical guidelines we choose to adopt, preferably shared with other market players. The benefits will be for consumers, society, the environment, and our company. To achieve this, consider engaging in activities of Corporate Social Responsibility Marketing to influence users’ perception of your company.

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1 Comment

  1. Rumaisa tanaaz

    very fabulous article

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