Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 4-1-2007

Capstone Advisor

Martin Nunlee

Honors Reader

Clint Tankersley

Capstone Major


Capstone College


Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

Management Sciences and Quantitative Methods | Marketing


In the field of business ethics, there has been much written and discussed about ethical matters in areas where there is a distinct right and wrong, but relatively little written about how to make decisions when the ethical issue isn’t as black and white. When marketing a product, it is one’s hope that ethical issues are typically not inherent to the marketer; however, when one has the unenviable task of marketing a controversial product, it becomes a true question of “gray-area” ethics that makes marketing decisions more difficult to make. Companies depend on marketing, as it is the one higher-level areas of corporate function that results in the sales of the actual product. In this particular situation, it becomes increasingly difficult for a marketer to make decisions about how to ethically promote their product to their customers while still being ethical in the decisions made. Therefore, this thesis explores the problems associated with marketing such products, and asks if current companies selling controversial products are ethical in their marketing practices? If these companies are currently unethical in their marketing practices, what steps should they take to be more ethical?

The method used to study these particular questions was a qualitative analysis of the opinions of both marketing professionals and business scholars in the field of marketing, finance, law and public policy, and entrepreneurship. By analyzing experts in these diverse backgrounds, it was the hope of this study to understand how companies selling controversial products are viewed by other business professionals and scholars in to determine their practices are accepted as ethical or unethical.

In this thesis, I will analyze three companies and their products, and prove which ones are ethical in their marketing practices and which ones need to make adjustments for their marketing practices to be ethical. I will further explore what actions these companies need to take in order to be more responsible in their marketing practices. Lastly, I will determine whether it is more important for a product to be ethical or for the promotional practices of a company to be ethical.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.