Should Marketers Have Principles? The Crowd Weighs In on the Line Between Capitalism and Doing the “Right Thing”

The tenuous issue of whether or not marketers should have principles is a hotly debated one in today’s society. Between selling baby formula in Africa, where potable water is a problem and a large percentage of the nation struggles with literacy, to packing and shipping out padded bikini tops for Tweens, the argument over who carries the ethical responsibility in these cases rages one.

In one camp are those that argue that a company’s ethics establish their position in today’s market. What you’re marketing represents who you are and what kind of identity you’re creating for yourself. It’s your coda, the way your customers will remember you. Do you want to be the

kitty, fish, marketing, gobble up the fishbowl
Are marketers the hungry predators preying on the innocent?

company that walked the straight and narrow, or the company that had parents talking about you with disgust while secretly spending a fortune on your products?

In the other camp is the group that argues that no matter what you’re selling, people always have the option not to buy. Consumers should be held personally accountable for their own purchases, leaving companies free to capitalize on whatever great opportunities come their way.

Most marketing professionals seem to agree that the answer lies somewhere between these two extremes. Customers have the responsibility to ensure that their purchases are appropriately aligned with their personal vision, their morals and their goals for their family. On the other hand, marketing teams are responsible for making sure customers are fully informed, for not deliberately marketing products that they know will harm their audience and for staying on this side of the legal line (i.e. not marketing products as gluten-free when they’re not, as one man now knows all too well).

Where do you, as a company, as a marketing professional, and as a person, stand on the great marketing debate?