Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Marketing Ethics: A Review of the Field

SMITH N. Craig, MURPHY Patrick E.
Read the working paper
INSEAD Working Paper 2013/08/AL/ISIC


This review focuses on the ninety articles assembled for Marketing Ethics, a five-volume compilation in the Sage “Major Works” series (edited by Smith and Murphy).  It offers observations on how the articles came to be included as well as their contribution and follows the organization of the volumes.  It starts with the foundations of marketing ethics, some of the earliest writings on the topic and what these foundational articles say in response to the question: what is marketing ethics?  Next it considers positive (or descriptive) marketing ethics, primarily articles reporting empirical research on marketing ethics, including research on ethical decision making in marketing—especially how marketers make decisions with ethical content—as well as surveys of marketer and others’ perceptions of ethical issues.  Here the central question is: how does empirical research inform our understanding of marketing ethics?  The review then turns to normative marketing ethics.  These articles are primarily concerned with the prescriptive considerations of how marketers should make decisions with ethical content.  This literature ranges from the anecdotal through to articles based on ethical theory from moral philosophy.  It asks: what constitutes ethical marketing practice?  Finally, the review examines articles on specific issues in marketing, from classic articles on truth in advertising through to articles on new and emerging issues.  The central question in these articles is: what are the effects and possible solutions to the major ethical issues arising in the practice of marketing?  The review concludes with some observations on future directions in the field, drawing in particular on some of the more recent literature to highlight how marketing scholars publishing in the leading journals in the field are increasingly addressing marketing ethics topics (e.g., deception), though often with a consumer psychology starting point.  This is suggestive of a broadening of the field of marketing ethics.