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10 Examples of Unethical Marketing Practices

Are you on a quest to build a brand? If YES, here are 10 examples of unethical marketing practices you must avoid that can ruin your business reputation overnight. Whether you are playing the salesman role for your own business or you are hired to market an employer’s products or services, you need to understand the thin line between ethical and unethical marketing practices.

What is Ethical and Unethical Marketing?

Ethical marketing entails making honest claims and satisfying the needs of potential and existing customers. It boosts credibility and trust, develops brand loyalty, increases customer retention, and prompts customers to spread word about the products or services you’re marketing.

Unethical marketing, on the other hand, can send wrong signals about your products and services, destroy your brand’s reputation, and possibly lead to legal problems. This explains why you should avoid them like a plague.

Your first step towards ensuring that you avoid unethical marketing practices is to recognize those practices. Of course, you can only avoid something when you can identify it. Many business owners and sales personnel have erroneously engaged in unethical marketing practices just because they never knew what these practices are in the first place.

Here are ten common examples of unethical marketing practices that you must always avoid when promoting your products or services.

Unethical Marketing Practices That Can Destroy your Reputation

1. Making false, exaggerated, or unverified claims

In a desperate bid to compel potential and existing customers to buy their products or services, some marketers use false statements, exaggerated benefits, or make unverifiable claims about their offers. This is common in the weight loss industry, where marketers convince potential buyers that a particular product can help them shed so-and-so pounds within two weeks without exercise or dieting!

2. Distortion of facts to mislead or confuse potential buyers

This is another common unethical marketing practice. A typical example is when a food processing company claims that its products are sugar-free or calorie-free when indeed they contain sugar or calories. Such a company is only trying to mislead potential buyers, since they are unlikely to buy the products if it is made known that they contain sugar or calories.

3. Concealing dark sides or side effects of products or services

This unethical marketing practice is rife in the natural remedies industry, where most manufacturers deceive potential buyers that their products have no side effects because they are “made from natural products”.

But in reality, most of these products have been found to have side effects, especially when used over a long period. In fact, there’s no product without side effects—it’s just that the side effects might be unknown. It’s better to say, “There are no known side effects” than to say “there are no side effects“.

4. Bad-mouthing rival products

Emphasizing the dark sides of your rival’s products in a bid to turn potential customers towards your own products is another common but unethical marketing practice. Rather than resort to this bad strategy, you should emphasize on those aspects that make your offer stand out from the rest of the pack. That’s professional and ethical.

5. Using women as sex symbols for advertising

The rate at which even reputable brands are resorting to this unethical marketing practice is quite alarming. If you observe TV, billboard, and magazine adverts, there’s something common to most of them; a half-naked lady is used to attract attention to the product or service being advertised.

While it might be intuitive to use models in adverts for beauty products and cosmetics, having half-naked models in adverts for generators, heavy machinery, smartphones, and other products not strongly related to women is both nonsensical and unethical.

5. Using fear tactics

This is another common unethical marketing practice among snake oil salespersons. You will hear them saying something like: “This price is a limited-time offer. If you don’t buy now, you might have to pay much more to buy it later because the offer will end up in two days time, and the price will go up.”

The only motive behind those statements is to prompt the potential buyer to make a decision on the spot. And that’s wrong. Why subject someone to undue pressure because you want to make money off him or her?

7. Plagiarism of marketing messages

Though uncommon, some business owners and salespersons engage in using the exact marketing messages of their competitors to market their own products or services. Creativity is a huge part of marketing, and using other businesses’ marketing messages just passes you off as being creatively bankrupt and fraudulent.

8. Exploitation

This is charging for much more than the actual value of a product or service. For marketing efforts to remain with ethical limits; the prices of your offers must be equal to or less than the value they give the buyer. If the value is less than the cost, it’s unethical.

9. Demeaning references to races, age, sex, or religion

Ethical marketing must be devoid of all forms of discrimination. If your marketing messages contain lines that place people of certain age range, sex, religion, nationality, or race at a higher level than others, then you are crossing the bounds of ethical marketing.

10. Spamming

Spamming is when you send unsolicited emails to potential customers, encouraging them to buy your products or services. This is the commonest unethical marketing practice done online. The number of time you send such emails doesn’t matter. Whether you send them once, or on occasions, or frequently, you remain a spammer.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What Is Unethical In Advertising?

Unethical advertising is the misrepresentation of a product/service in some way or the use of subliminal messaging to fit a hidden agenda. This form of advertising uses deceptive ways to manipulate or convince the consumer to buy the product or service.

2. What Is An Unethical Marketing Practice?

Unethical marketing practice may include intentionally evoking rage or sadness to manipulate consumer decisions, using fear tactics, targeting disadvantaged people or tricking customers into buying a product or service.

Unethical Marketing include;

  • Misleading advertising, also known as “false advertising”
  • Black-hat link building
  • Contacting people without consent
  • Insensitive controversy
  • Emotional exploitation
3. When is Advertising Considered Unethical?

Advertising is considered unethical when a product or service is misrepresented. Some advertisers use false claims about a product’s quality or popularity. A Slogan like “get coverage everywhere on earth” advertises features that cannot be delivered. When an advertiser relies on subjective rather than objective claims, they are puffing up their products.

4. Is The Marketing Of Unsought Products Unethical?

Unsought products refers to that segment of products which exists almost hidden in the market. The public is aware of such products but is not actively seeking them. The marketing of such products is not ethical.

The marketing of unsought goods is unethical if the target consumers have expressed disinterest in the product, but the owner continues to force the product on them, for example, through spam. Spamming is an aggressive marketing technique where one sends unsolicited emails to target consumers.

5. What Are The Examples Of Unethical Marketing Behavior?
  • Making false, exaggerated, or unverified claims
  • Distortion of facts to mislead or confuse potential buyers
  • Concealing dark sides or side effects of products or services
  • Bad-mouthing rival products
  • Using women as sex symbols for advertising
  • Using fear tactics
  • Plagiarism of marketing messages
  • Exploitation
  • Demeaning references to races, age, sex, or religion
  • Spamming
6. What Is Ethical And Unethical Marketing?

Ethical marketing is when marketers sympathize with emotions, while unethical marketing is when marketers exploit people’s emotions. This unethical marketing practice may include intentionally evoking rage or sadness to manipulate consumer decisions, using fear tactics, targeting disadvantaged people or tricking customers into buying a product or service.

7. What Is Ethical And Unethical Behavior?

Unethical behavior can be defined as actions that are against social norms or acts that are considered unacceptable to the public. Ethical behavior is the complete opposite of unethical behavior. Ethical behavior follows the majority of social norms and such actions are acceptable to the public.

8. What Is An Example Of Unethical Behaviour?

Examples of unethical behaviour include, lying to your spouse about how much money you spent. Lying to your parents about where you were for the evening. Stealing money from the petty cash drawer at work. Lying on your resume in order to get a job.

9. What Are The Unethical Issues In Promotional Marketing?
  • The use of sex, especially the use of women as sex objects
  • Alcohol Advertising
  • Tobacco Advertising
  • False Claims
  • Exaggerated Claims
  • Unverified claims
10. What Is Unethical Behavior In Counselling?

Unethical behaviour from a counselor can include, incompetence, that is, inadequate knowledge and the absence of skills necessary for professional behaviour. Lack of integrity, moral commitment and sound professional judgment to adhere to acceptable standards of right and wrong action.

11. What Is Unethical Behavior In Business?

Unethical behavior is an action that falls outside of what is considered morally right or proper for a person, a profession or an industry. Individuals can behave unethically, as can businesses, professionals and politicians.

Examples of unethical behaviour in business include;

  • Misleading Product Information
  • Unfair Competition
  • Mistreating Employees
  • Manipulating Accounts
  • Bribery
12. Which Practices Of Marketing Can Be Considered As Evil Or Unethical?
  • Misleading ads
  • Objectifying women
  • Contacting people without consent
  • Aiming ads at children
  • Not fully disclosing information
  • Pushy, unethical sales practices
13. What Are Examples Of Unethical Marketing Practices?

Diet Coke is an example of unethical marketing where the company, Coca Cola is making false advertising claims. Loaded with aspartame, cyclamates and saccharin, artificial sweeteners in diet drinks have been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals. But the company will not tell you this. They only tell you that the drink has zero sugar.

14. Ways to Overcome Unethical Behavior in the Workplace
  • It all starts at the hiring process.
  • Be sure to have a clear code of conduct
  • Implement security measures
  • Punish appropriately
  • Have insurance in place
  • Work on building a loyal community
15. Why Is Stealth Marketing Unethical?

Stealth marketing, also known as buzz or undercover marketing, is a marketing technique that involves the selling or marketing of a product to audiences without them knowing that they are being marketed to. With stealth marketing techniques, consumers are often not aware that they are being advertised to until the end of the exercise, if they are alerted at all.

16. What Are Some Examples Of Ethical And Unethical Marketing?

Example of unethical marketing

Diet Coke is an example of unethical marketing where the company, Coca Cola is making false advertising claims. Coca Cola should not be using Karl Lagerfeld’s radical dieting ways as a means of promoting their product.

Ethical Marketing Example

Consumer demand for ethically produced cleansing products has intensified in recent years, and although there are literally hundreds of brands of soap available on the market, few are as unique or memorable as Dr. Bronner’s, the top-selling organic liquid soap brand in America.

17. What Are Some Examples Of Unethical Brands?
  • Amazon. Company type: online retailer.
  • ASDA Walmart. Company type: Supermarket.
  • Nestle. Company type: Food processor.
  • Tesco. Company type: Supermarket.
  • Coca Cola. Company type: Drinks manufacturer.
18. What Is The Motivation Behind Undertaking Unethical Work Practices?

Results show that exposure to in-group members who misbehave or to others who benefit from unethical actions, greed, egocentrism, self-justification, exposure to incremental dishonesty, loss aversion, challenging performance goals, or time pressure, increase unethical behavior.

19. What Factors Make Controversial Advertising Offensive?

In recent years, any stance taken on potentially sensitive social issues can be considered controversial advertising. Offensive advertising by communicating its message breaks laws and customs (human rights), social and moral codes (pornographic or vulgar), or steps beyond limits of moral or physical senses (disgusting and violent advertising).

20. What Are Examples Of Unethical Behavior In Business?
  • Misleading Product Information
  • Unfair Competition
  • Mistreating Employees
  • Manipulating Accounts
  • Bribery
21. Is Coca Cola An Unethical Company?

Yes. Since the 1990s Coca-Cola has been accused of unethical behavior in a number of areas, including product safety, anti-competitiveness, racial discrimination, channel stuffing, distributor conflicts, intimidation of union workers, pollution, depletion of natural resources, and health concerns.

22. What Are Three Unethical Selling Practices?
  • Making promises you know you can’t keep
  • Not fully disclosing information
  • Misrepresenting your products and services
23. Why Is Emotional Marketing Considered Unethical?

Emotions, rather than cognitive thinking, have a more profound impact on our actions; create lasting, instinctual impressions; and actually predispose us to follow the same course of action in the future.

24. What Is The Difference Between Ethical And Unethical Advertising?

Ethical advertising is all about knowing the truth about your product and respecting that truth. On the other hand, unethical advertising always seeks to misrepresent the product in some way or distort the message that is being transmitted to fit some agenda.

25. How Can You Prevent Unethical Marketing?
  • Create a Code of Conduct
  • Lead By Example
  • Reinforce Consequences for Unethical Behavior
  • Show Employees Appreciation
  • Welcome an Ethics Speaker
  • Create Checks and Balances
  • Hire for Values
26. What Is An Unsought Good In Marketing?

Unsought Goods are goods that the consumer does not know about or does not normally think of buying. Purchases of unsought goods may arise due to danger or the fear of danger. The classic examples of known but unsought goods are funeral services, encyclopedias, fire extinguishers, and reference books.

27. How Can Unethical Marketing Affect A Brand?

Unethical behaviour has serious consequences for both individuals and organizations. You can lose your job and reputation, organizations can lose their credibility, general morale and productivity can decline, or the behaviour can result in significant fines and/or financial loss.

28. Can You Sue For Unethical Business Practices?

Even without a client, any can lawyer sue a business for an alleged unfair business practice even if it has been investigated or remedied by the district attorney or a regulatory agency.

29. What Are Some Examples Of Unethical, But Legal Marketing Practices?

Breaking promises is generally legal, but is widely thought of as unethical. Some marketing tactics can take advantage of uneducated segments of the population, which can be perfectly legal while being scorned throughout the marketplace.

For example, before the Credit Card Act of 2009, banks could lure teens into opening credit accounts with promises of financial freedom, regardless of the teens’ ability to repay the high-interest debts.

Other tactics can take advantage of harmful addictions by eliciting emotional responses. Casino commercials showing elated winners throwing money into the air is a prime example of this in a world where people can ruin their lives with a gambling addiction.

Still other tactics can take advantage of people in need by luring them into predatory services, such as high-cost loans with daily interest compounding.

30. What Are Some Ethical Issues In Marketing?
  • Misleading statements, which can land a business in legal trouble with the Federal Trade Commission
  • Making false or deceptive comparisons about a rival product
  • Inciting fear or applying unnecessary pressure
  • Exploiting emotions or a news event
31. What Are Three Examples Of Unethical Behavior In The Workplace?
  • Misusing company time
  • Abusive behavior
  • Employee theft
32. What is Loss Aversion?

Loss aversion is the tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. The more one experiences losses, the more likely they are to become prone to loss aversion.

33. What Is Retargeting And Should You Be Using It?

Retargeting is a cookie-based technology that uses simple Javascript code to anonymously ‘follow’ your audience all over the Web. The code, or pixel, is unnoticeable to your site visitors and won’t affect your site’s performance.

Every time a new visitor comes to your site, the code drops an anonymous browser cookie. Retargeting allows you to keep your brand in front of your potential customers after they have left your website — persuading them to reconsider your offer when they need it.

34. How Is An Ethical Marketing Plan Developed?

Ethical marketing doesn’t refer to a plan in and of itself, but offers tools for companies to evaluate the marketing strategies they use in the past, present, and future.

How to create an ethical marketing strategy for your brand;

  • Identify your ideal customer
  • Understand what problem you solve
  • Tell your story to create connection
  • Build a sales funnel
  • Track your success
  • Show up in the right places, online and in person, to attract their attention
  • Know what topics will start a conversation and keep them engaged
  • Understand what they’re looking for and help them solve their problems
35. How Does Everlane Use Ethical Marketing?

Everlane isn’t content to merely tell you that its clothes are manufactured and sold ethically; the company also provides customers with a detailed cost breakdown for each and every one of its stylish, minimalist garments. This includes details on the cost of materials, labor, transportation and logistics, excise taxes and duties, and even hardware such as zippers and buttons.

36. Why Choose Ethical Marketing Practices?

With good leadership and teamwork, ethical practices can help a company achieve key economic and legal goals as well as profitability. These standards help identify acceptable practices, foster internal control, and deal honestly and fairly with customers. They also ensure businesses comply with the law.

An organization that is perceived to act ethically by employees can realize positive benefits and improved business outcomes. The perception of ethical behavior can increase employee performance, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, trust and organizational citizenship behaviors.

37. What Makes You A Conscious Marketer?

Conscious Marketing focuses on the customers’ needs and desires, promises only what the company can fulfill, and helps the customer to make informed decisions about whether or not to buy instead of trying to push them into an impulse purchase.

38. What Are Examples Of Conscious Marketing?

Tide as a great example. When it comes to Conscious Marketing, there’s so much more to Tide than just laundry products. Tide goes beyond its product benefits with its very own and very effective Conscious Marketing. Tide does even more than just relate emotionally to the pressures of parenting.

For example, Tide also acts as a first responder by sending truckloads of washing machines and dryers into areas where natural disasters have caused devastation. Tide helps those in need get their families’ clothes clean. The brand calls it “Loads of Hope. This is Conscious Marketing that is both active and full of intent.

39. How Does Toms Use Ethical Marketing?

TOMS puts its social and environmental philanthropy on full display in virtually every aspect of its branding. This not only lets potential customers know the kind of company they’re dealing with right off the bat, but also reinforces TOMS’ brand values consistently across all channels.

In TOMS’ homepage, right underneath the carousel, the company tells you that, for every product you purchase, TOMS will help someone in need

40. What Are The Respective Ethical Practices Demanded For In Business?
  • Ensure Leaders Exhibit Proper Behavior
  • Be Diligent About Enforcing Policies
  • Praise Positive Behavior
  • Promote Community Involvement
41. How Are Ethics Of Standards Applied In A Marketing Plan?

Ethics can be applied in marketing by practicing ethical marketing. Ethical marketing means the process by which a company markets its services and goods by focusing not only on how their product would benefit customers but also being socially responsible.

42. How Does Farmer Direct Use Ethical Marketing?

An entirely worker-owned cooperative, Farmer Direct is farming with a mission. The cooperative’s network of more than 60 privately owned and operated farms across southern Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan is firmly committed to truly sustainable agriculture and responsible environmental stewardship. The co-op is affiliated with several organizations with a focus on sustainable farming, including the Cornucopia Institute and the Fair World Project.

In addition to its vibrant, active social media presence (through which Farmer Direct offers a range of healthy eating tips, recipes, and other fun content), Farmer Direct maintains a lively blog and newsletter, both of which serve as further opportunities to help people make better decisions about their food and live a more conscientious lifestyle as consumers.

43. How Do You Promote Ethical Behavior In The Workplace?
  • Be a Role Model and Be Visible
  • Communicate Ethical Expectations
  • Offer Ethics Training
  • Visibly Reward Ethical Acts and Punish Unethical Ones
  • Provide Protective Mechanisms
44. How Does Conscious Coffees Use Ethical Marketing?

In addition to its strong commitment to ethical production processes and fair-trade commerce, Conscious Coffees engage in a wide range of community outreach initiatives. Its CAFE Livelihoods Program empowers people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Nicaragua to own and operate their own coffee businesses through training workshops and ongoing guidance and support.

The company regularly donates coffee to the local Community Cycles program, a project run by cycling enthusiasts from across the Boulder region who help other cyclists with repairs, maintenance, and refurbishment of old and used bicycles.

Conscious Coffees’ team of coffee experts offer technical advice and support to growers and farmers as part of the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer initiative, which helps coffee growers across South America learn new techniques that can help them maximize yields and engage in fair-trade economic practices with North American suppliers.

45. What Are The Opinion Of Consumers Regarding Adherence To Ethical Practices In Businesses?

A survey conducted by reporters for the Wall Street Journal suggests that yes, ethics do matter. Their research suggests that consumers are willing to pay a marginally higher price for goods that are ethically produced than unethically produced.

46. What Are The 7 Principles Of Ethics?
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Promise-Keeping & Trustworthiness
  • Loyalty
  • Fairness
  • Concern for Others
  • Respect for Others
  • Law Abiding
47. What Are The 5 Ethical Standards?
  • Truthfulness and confidentiality
  • Autonomy and informed consent
  • Beneficence
  • Nonmaleficence
  • Justice