Ethics is the set of moral principles or values that guides behavior. There is a general recognition that many, if not most, business decisions involve some ethical judgment.
Each party in a marketing transaction brings a set of expectations regarding how the business relationship will exist and how transactions should be conducted. For example, when you as a consumer wish to purchase something from a retailer, you bring the following expectations about the transaction: (a) you want to be treated fairly by the salesperson, (b) you want to pay a reasonable price, (c) you want the product to be available as advertised and in the indicated condition, and (d) you want it to perform as promised. Unfortunately, your expectations might not be in agreement with those of the retailer. The retail salesperson may not “have time for you,” or the retailer’s notion of a “reasonable” price may be higher than yours, or the advertising for the product may be misleading. These differences in expectations can lead to ethical questions that are sometimes difficult to analyze.
To create greater clarity for marketing professionals, the American Marketing Association has created a Statement of Ethics. It’s helpful to review this short document in order to understand the scope of issues that marketing professionals face. The preamble of the document defines a number of key terms and explains why ethics are of particular importance to marketers:
The American Marketing Association commits itself to promoting the highest standard of professional ethical norms and values for its members (practitioners, academics, and students). Norms are established standards of conduct that are expected and maintained by society and/or professional organizations. Values represent the collective conception of what communities find desirable, important, and morally proper. Values also serve as the criteria for evaluating our own personal actions and the actions of others. As marketers, we recognize that we not only serve our organizations but also act as stewards of society in creating, facilitating, and executing the transactions that are part of the greater economy. In this role, marketers are expected to embrace the highest professional ethical norms and the ethical values implied by our responsibility toward multiple stakeholders (e.g., customers, employees, investors, peers, channel members, regulators and the host community).[Emphasis added]
The exchange process between an organization and a customer is based on a relationship of trust. The Statement of Ethics aims to protect that trust.