Marketing Code of Conduct

Written by susan roberts
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Marketing Code of Conduct
A marketing code of contact helps business walk the line of business ethics. (Legal Law Justice image by Stacey Alexander from

A code of conduct, sometimes called a code of ethics, defines a set of principles and behaviour that a company or organisation abides by. It deals with key issues, based largely on the industry, regulations, or organizational goals. A marketing code of conduct specifically addresses how a company markets and sells its products or services.


Marketing personnel are typically in close contact with other people outside the company, including customers, partners, media and external stakeholders. Having a strong, enforceable marketing code of conduct is one way to build trust with those groups because it makes the company's values and ethics transparent. Even if a company does not have a specific marketing code of conduct, it likely has a section specifically for advertising and marketing in its general code of conduct. A marketing code of conduct typically addresses points such as truthfulness and accuracy in advertising, fair treatment of all people and groups, standing behind the product/s and avoiding vendors that use child labour.


A marketing code of conduct protects both companies and employees. A proper marketing code of conduct defines clear expectations about behaviour when marketing, advertising and selling. For example, most marketing codes of conduct include provisions for not discriminating in marketing or advertising materials against groups or individuals based race, colour, ethnicity, religion or age. If a company follows a defined practice of publicising and enforcing this marketing code of conduct but an employee violates the code, the company may be able to avoid recrimination because it can prove that the employee's behaviour violated policy, that the employee knew about the policy, and that the policy has been enforced. Likewise, if an employee observes a violation of the policy, the marketing code of conduct will also provide avenues for the employee to report questionable or inappropriate behaviours.

Professional Organizations

Many organisations for marketing professionals maintain a marketing code of conduct. These professional organisation codes provide a general code of conduct for all members in the group, regardless of industry. For example, the American Marketing Association's (AMA) code of conduct is called a statement of ethics. It includes provisions for doing work for which you are trained, obeying all laws and regulations, and fostering trust in marketing. It also identifies six key ethical values: honesty, responsibility, fairness, respect, openness and citizenship. Lastly, it recognises that sub-disciplines in marketing and also different industries have specific policies and regulations that must be met.

Pharmaceutical and Medical Companies

As of June 2010, four states (California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Vermont) had a marketing code of conduct specifically governing how pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers can market and sell their products. Other states are considering adopting similar codes. These codes of conduct and their regulations are designed to prevent conflicts of interest by doctors prescribing certain medications and treatments. They focus on restricting pharmaceutical and medical manufacturers from providing promotional goods and activities to physicians. For example, California has a Compliance Program Law that requires a specific limit on gifts, an annual declaration of compliance and publication of that declaration on the company's website.

Restricted Products

Companies in controversial lines of business, such as manufacturers of wine and spirits or tobacco products, have a specific marketing code of conduct. These codes typically stress values such as marketing to legal-age adult consumers, responsibility messages such as responsible drinking, and avoiding the promotion of illegal activities such as drinking and driving. These codes of conduct are typically complementary to national marketing codes of conduct and many government and industry regulations.

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