Marketing and Ethics. In this report, we will see the main issues between marketing and ethics, two fields that do not sound to work together, but have to though. We will see the consequences that non-ethical decisons can have on peoples life or on t

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In this report, we will see the main issues between marketing and ethics, two fields that do not sound to work together, but have to though.

We will see the consequences that non-ethical decisons can have on people’s life or on the company when marketers do not care about ethics.

Then, we will see what can be done to avoid these bad consequences.

Ethics seems to be “trendy” nowadays,

why not try to jump all in the bangwagon when we do business then ?

NB : Sorry for the lengh of my report. Regardless, we have not got this subject in France so that it was very interesting for me to express myself on this matter as a first.


« Making money, results, results and results »: Here is the first objective in most of the companies, and the way of making it does not really matter any more. But what about ethics? Indeed, with the very competitive environment that exists today between the firms, companies have less and less limits to achieve their objectives so that they can stay in the race and compete; As a result, they tend to forget some ethical rules.

These limits can sometimes go too far and contravene the common ethic norms we all know as we will see in a few examples later with the case of a famous pharmaceutical industry and other companies.

By the way, it seems like Business/Marketing and Ethics/Moral cannot really work together. Business Ethics; Isn’t it a oxymoron ? Indeed, according to the definition of the Contemporary ethical issues by John W Dienhart and Jordan Curnutt, business is concerned with promoting self-interest and ethics is concerned with promoting the interests of others. So Business and Ethics do not advocate the same values.

Moreover, how can you stack up money (business) and moral(ethics) ? Because as you know, even if religion values and moral/ethics values are not the same, they can somehow be linked if we refer to the “Divine Command theory of ethics”. And here is an important  point that has to be developed. (cf list of references, french website) Indeed, money is not bad or good on a moral aspect.  Money itself is a real material that was created by God so that it is in fact a good thing. It is a means of exchange whose value is conventionnally set in a society. However, it is when money refers to a person that it can become morally good or bad. It actually depends on the way you get it (honestly? by stealing? cheating?) and the way you are linked to money. Indeed, money has a big value and plays an important role in human being life but it must not become the main and unique value in your life. You have to avoid being dependant on it in any way. Everyone knows the famous excerpt of the Bible, when Timothee says [Bible, Timothy 6:10 () )]: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows”. Often misquoted as 'money is the root of all evil' that is quite similar though.

So money can basically become immoral if it becomes as we said before. (CF VIOXX later)

Is also becomes immoral when profit is the only rule and goal of an economic activity. And when you idolize money so that it leads to atheism. And you cannot serve both God AND money. [Bible - Matthew 6:24 (New International Version)]

Overall, money has always been considered as something that tends to corrupt you in the catholic religion and even if some other religions and cultures tend to de-evilized money (ex: the protestant in the US), making money will never have a great conotation anyway on a moral aspect.

Therefore, it seems very difficult to associate business and ethics, but may it work somehow?

Indeed, even if these 2 words do not seem to work together, men make business, don’t they? And men are supposed to be instilled ethic norms and values and have some naturally innate ethic norms according to Aquinas who holds a naturalistic view of morality (known as the Natural Law Theory). [Journal title: The Thomist, Source: ISSN 0040-6325 ,1997, vol. 61, no2, pp. 189-218 Editeur / Publisher Thomist Press, Washington; Author:


So that Business and Ethics do not seem impossible. And it is actually a necessity for the business world and people, that they have a link so that everything can keep going the right way. What’s more, by listenning to and working with business people, business ethicists discovered that not all business behaviour is purely self-interested. Indeed business people want to make money and be promoted, to be sure, but most of them also want to be good to their families & friends, to be loyal to their country, and be fair. Given these considerations, we can finally modify the first assumption as follows:  business & ethics could work together [(Contemporary ethical issues by John W Dienhart and Jordan Curnutt).]

But why respecting the ethic rules ? Even if the relativism theory lies that moral can change from one person to another, the agreements between beliefs and practises of societies are significant as all societies value courage and trusthfulness for example; So that means that a universal moral can be claimed. So in business, most people know what ethic norms are and what are not and it is very important. Indeed Look behind successful, honest businesses and you will see a set of values that have stood the test of time. The nice guy is not always the last one nowadays. Things have changed.

Yet, even if it is very important that it works together, some business men do not seem to care about these ethic rules and norms they should respect and their behaviour can have negative impacts.

But what kinds of impacts can a non-ethical marketer behaviour have ?

And is there any measures to take to avoid it ?





  1. The impacts that a non-ethical marketer behavior can have

  1. Bad impact on people’s life/health and safety

To start, let’s talk about one of the most outrageous cases of the pharmaceutical industry : the VIOXX case. VIOXX, this blockbuster that had been on the market from 1999 to 2004, withdrawn after it had been proved that it increased strongly the risk of heart attack et stroke for thos patient taking the drug for tlonger than 18 months. This medecine, produced by Merck and co. had, even before been lauched on the market, already shown some unsafe warning signals. Indeed, in 1998, an internal trial (study 090) revealed a higher number of cardiovascular problems in patients taking the drug compared to those not taking VIOXX. Everyone wonders at this stage: why was it launched so ? Merck answered that this test was too small (978 patients) and not statiscally significative. Ok, let’s say the company was right if we were in 1999. Point is, after a 2nd trial in 1999 (VIGOR) the conclusion was similar : taking VIOXX increases five times your chances to suffer a heart attack ! At this point, the harm could have been prevented, but no. Actually this 2nd test was to determine if VIOXX was less damage on the stomack than another drug and the result was yes. As a result of that comparaison, the company stated that the result concerning the fact that VIOXX could increased the heart’s disease was due to the fact that the other drug had the ability to protect the heart so that there was not any specific issue with VIOXX.

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So this is at this point we can say that this is scandalous. Indeed, everyone in the company knew VIOXX could have unsafe effects and they kept denying everything. Worst thing is that, they kept learning a lot of money as they invested a lot in their “killing”advertising untill 2003 so that they generated more that 2.3 billion dollars in sales.In their advert, they of course omited to tell about the risks (untill 2001, much time later, when the FDA forced the company to communicate about the risks finally) They just did not care about people, they just wanted to ...

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