Marketing strategies are increasingly subject to public scrutiny and are being held to higher standards. Caveat emptor is no longer acceptable as a basis for justifying marketing practices. The author’s “marketing ethics continuum” explains the shift in society’s expectations of marketers and provides benchmarks against which marketers can evaluate their practices and perspectives. Today, consumers’ interests are increasingly favored over producers’; consumers can make more informed choices, and less capable consumers are offered special protection. The author provides a practical framework – including the consumer sovereignty test – for marketers to apply to their decision making. The framework attempts to answer the question: What constitutes ethical marketing practice? The test examines consumer capability, information provision, and consumer choice.
The author wishes to thank Alan R. Andreasen, Thomas W. Dunfee, Johan Wempe, and Geraldine E. Willigan, as well as two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.