In my last post, “Can Marketing Be Ethical?” I left off by asking how we can give marketing ethics a seat at the table. By table, I was referring to the symbolic table where important business decisions are made. In a small business, this might be the business owner’s desk in the back room of the shop. In a large corporation, it’s the C-Suite conference room. No matter where the significant discussions are happening, the topic of marketing ethics should have a permanent seat.

Why Marketing Ethics Should Inform Business Decisions

I would love to believe that the world is altruistic. That business owners went into business for the primary purpose of helping their customers. But I know that this isn’t true. Money is the most common motivator for any person to take the risk of starting a business. It’s the reward they are after. This is a global truth, though not a heartwarming notion.

Thankfully, marketing ethics is good business. It has the power to drive purchases that customers won’t regret later. It inspires loyalty through trust. It honors the Golden Rule. It leads to genuine innovation because it builds honest relationships with our customers.

Know, Like, and Trust

That people will do business with those who they know, like, and trust is a popular adage from the book, The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg and John David Mann. I believe in the power of “know, like, and trust” to drive customer loyalty. However, I think Burg and Mann got the order wrong.

Trust is the all-important factor among the three qualities. You can trust a brand without really knowing it. After all, what we know about a brand is often limited to what’s included in the company About page. You can also trust a brand without really liking it. This is how I feel about my bank. I don’t particularly like my bank’s brand, the user interface of its web application, or the limitations of its mobile app. I do, however, trust it to safeguard my money.

Marketing Ethics Builds Trust

Marketing ethics (as defined in this blog) is the application of moral principles, which prioritize the well-being of the person receiving the message, to the content and design of promotional and sales messages. Simply put, marketing ethics is about putting your customer first.

When we, as marketers and business owners, prioritize the wellbeing of our customers, we earn their trust. When we earn their trust, we become more likable. We inspire repeat purchases, referrals, and loyalty. We encourage our customers to get to know us without fear of what lies behind the curtain.

Bring Marketing Ethics to the Table

Giving marketing ethics a seat at the table is up to us. Once we realize the power it holds to improve our business—whether by benefitting our customers or making us more money (or both!)—we can help others see its significance, too.

I would love to hear your experience with marketing ethics. Comment below to share how you would bring marketing ethics to the table at your organization. How can you help the decision-makers in your company see the value of marketing ethics?

Join the Conversation


  1. I enjoyed the ideas in ‘The Go-Giver’, and think that this is a good continuation of that idea. If we treat our clients like we want companies to treat us, they’ll return with their trust and business.

    1. Thanks for your comment, David! Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship, including the relationship between business owners/marketers and their customers. It’s always nice to come across another business owner who shares these beliefs 🙂

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