Defining the Four Cornerstones of Ethical Marketing

Defining the Four Cornerstones of Ethical Marketing7 Graces Founder Lynn Serafinn strips marketing back to basics and explores how to ‘be’ an ethical marketer before attempting to ‘do’ ethical marketing.

Hi everyone. I haven’t been blogging much in August, as I was travelling and taking some much-needed time off. But I’ve started to make the transition back down to the so-called real world now and will be getting back to writing (although, just so you know, we won’t be back on a regular schedule with this blog until September).

Since I’ve come back from holiday, my colleague Nancy Goodyear and I have been working on the revamping of our 7 Graces course Foundations of Ethical Marketing. We piloted that course last year with a group of 12 people; subsequently, we ran a pilot of its follow-on course Applications of Ethical Marketing with a smaller group, who recently completed the course. We’re now preparing the Foundations course for release to the general public, with the aim of taking enrolments for it in September and starting the course in early October (click her to register for a free information call about it).

Doing these two pilots one after the other was extremely informative, especially when returning to look at the Foundations course. When we first created the pilot for that course, it was (in my opinion) a bit all over the place. We wanted to say everything, teach everything, share everything. As a result, there was a lot of content in the original course that really didn’t belong there. It was all good material, but it interfered with the cohesion of the course. During this review process, both Nancy and I came to realise that this was due to our not being crystal clear about the primary objective of the course. I mean, if you call a course ‘FOUNDATIONS’ of ethical marketing, it’s not about practice so much as awareness. If you create to-do lists of so-called ethical practices without a truly deep – and truly conscious – understanding of the rich dynamics of both ethics and marketing, you will simply be going through the motions, without any real passion and purpose behind them.

So, if we want to teach a course called Foundations of Ethical Marketing, we have to go back to square one and ask ourselves the most rudimentary question:

What ARE the foundations of ethical marketing?

Implicit within that question, of course, are two even more fundamental considerations:

What is ethical?

What is marketing?

Getting Back to Basics about Marketing

In the book The 7 Graces of Marketing, I define marketing as:

‘…the act of communicating that we have something of value to share.’

I wrote this in an attempt to strip away all the social and semantic connotations around marketing in today’s world, so that we can arrive at a new working definition that doesn’t come loaded with all the emotional baggage people seem to carry around the term. But it also redefines marketing: marketing is an activity. It’s not about selling, but communicating, informing and educating. All communication is dialogue; in this case, that dialogue is between a company and their customers.

And then we have the words ‘of value’, which open up yet another can of worms. What do we mean when we say something is ‘of value’? How do we measure it?

This is where the topic of ethics starts to enter the picture. Things are not ‘of value’ simply because businesses tell us they are or put a price tag on them. Things can only be of value if they ultimately enhance, improve or uplift our lives in some way – whether physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, economically or spiritually. By ‘ultimately’, I mean that things are not of value if they seem to improve our lives in the short term but fail us in the long term. For example, cigarettes will give smokers a buzz in the short term, but are addictive and lead to cancer in the long term. Eating from fast-food hamburger chains might save us time and fill our bellies in the short term, but in the long term it compromises our health, and there is much evidence that fast-food chains have contributed to a great deal of environmental imbalance as well. Thus, there is little sense in saying that you are marketing such products ethically, because the product itself is not of any true value. You can put as many health warnings as you want on a pack of cigarettes, but it will never amount to ‘the act of communicating that you have something of value to share’.

The bottom line is this: if we want to learn how to be ethical marketers, we must first look deeply at ourselves, our motivations and our businesses. There is no other way. Without that solid foundation, our businesses and marketing strategies will run around like headless chickens, without direction, vision or focus.

And that is where the whole topic of ‘foundations of ethical marketing’ comes in.

Building a Solid Foundation for Ethical Marketing to Flourish

Nancy and I believe that we’ve come up with a good framework to express what ethical marketing is all about. Like any well-designed architectural structure, it has four cornerstones at its base:

4 Foundations of Ethical MarketingA deep, intimate understanding of these four cornerstones and how they work together is essential to our success as social changemakers. Once we develop this understanding – not merely with the brain, but at a visceral and even primordial level – we become the visionaries, the leaders, and the captains of the ships we are sailing within the world of business. ONLY then can we make to-do lists and create business plans and marketing strategies. Only then can we feel in control of our companies and know for sure that we are making a difference within the world.

Here’s a brief overview of why I believe this to be so.

Foundation 1: The Dharma of Business

The first of the four foundations we teach on the course is the Dharma of Business. This might sound like a ‘woo woo’ word, but the Sanskrit word dharma is actually very rich, and very appropriate within this context. It comes from the Sanskrit verb root dhri-, which means ‘to draw together’ or ‘that which holds something together’. When you talk about dharma, you are talking about the essential purpose of something – its raison d’Ítre.

When applying the word dharma to business, we are talking about its purpose on three levels:

  • Its micro dharma
  • Its macro dharma
  • Its meta dharma

These are my terms, obviously, so let me explain briefly what I mean by them. The ‘micro dharma’ of your business is what most people think of when they talk about the purpose of their businesses. It is the service or value you provide to your individual customers. The ‘macro dharma’ is a little broader in vision and refers to the bigger impact of your business as it achieves its micro dharma. For example:

  • If you are a nutritionist specialising in metabolic issues, your micro dharma might be to help restore health and wellbeing to those who suffer from low energy, weight issues, hormone issues, etc.
  • At a higher level of awareness, your macro dharma might be to help increase overall awareness about nutrition and natural health in the world. Thus, getting in touch with your macro dharma forges a link between what you do and what society actually needs. It’s not just about you and your customers, but about the world around you.
  • At still a higher level of awareness is your ‘meta dharma’. This is where you see not only how your business serves society now but how it creates (and will create) an impact within the bigger picture of history. For example, if you are that same nutritionist and you tap into your meta dharma, your deeper motivation will be the vision of a future world where natural health is a way of life, and how that world will have changed dramatically as a result of what you do now. You will also see beyond the impact you have on people and begin to see your impact (past, present and future) upon things like the economy and the natural environment. With this level of consciousness, every decision you make in your business will be fuelled with a completely different motivation from those businesses that are not driven by meta dharma. Those without meta dharma will continue to exploit and to make decisions solely upon practical analysis. Those who can tap into their meta dharma will make confident, reflective decisions and take socially responsible actions in every aspect of their businesses.

Foundation 2: The 7 Key Relationships

The next foundation is what I call the 7 Key Relationships:

  1. Your Relationship with Self
  2. Your Relationship with Source
  3. Your Relationship with others
  4. Your Relationship with your business
  5. Your Relationship with your audience
  6. Your Relationship with money
  7. Your Relationship with marketing

I talk about these relationships in The 7 Graces of Marketing, and I’ve written about them frequently on this website, but in the revamped Foundations course they become the thread that weaves everything else together.

Relationships underpin everything we do. The very act of breathing is an expression of the relationship we have with the natural world (which comes under the category of ‘Source’ in this paradigm). Yet most of us walk around every day without giving much thought to how all these relationships are defining, directing and moving us through life, often at an unconscious level. For example, if your relationship with Self is wounded, or your relationship with money is strained, it will have a profound (and negative) impact upon your business and marketing. If there is a strong feeling of disconnection in your relationships with others or with Source, you will see them as separate from yourself, which can sometimes lead to exploitation, evasiveness or defensiveness.

Until we become deeply aware of where we stand within these 7 Key Relationships, we will struggle to bring truly conscious decision-making into our business practices. We will act on autopilot rather than steering for ourselves. There can be no question of building an ethical marketing platform without building these Key Relationships into the foundation of our businesses and getting very clear about where we truly stand within them.

Foundation 3: The 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing

The third cornerstone is the 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing:

  1. Disconnection
  2. Persuasion
  3. Invasion
  4. Distraction
  5. Deception
  6. Scarcity
  7. Competition

Sometimes people criticise me for spending time talking about the 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing. They feel that we should stop focusing on the old and negative, and simply look at the new and positive (i.e., the 7 Graces). But I believe it is just as important to understand the 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing as it is to understand the 7 Graces. To attempt to create an ethical marketing platform without this understanding would be like trying to paint a picture without the use of light AND shade: without the shadow, everything is flat; there is no depth.

By understanding the 7 Deadly Sins, we learn how to do two very important things. First, we become better able to evaluate our own marketing, because we develop an awareness of our impact. Second, and equally important, we become better able to evaluate the marketing to which we are exposed every single day, so we can become more responsible consumers. Being unconscious of the 7 Deadly Sins makes us vulnerable to exploitive marketing strategies, and we might find ourselves spending more money than we can afford, and on things we didn’t really need or which were of no genuine value.

So learning about the 7 Deadly Sins is not simply an exercise in negativity. It’s the crucial ‘shadow’ in the model that can actually help us gain a heightened sense of purpose and awareness. They should not be looked upon as enemies but as great teachers for how we will intentionally bring light into our businesses and marketing plans.

Foundation 4: The 7 Graces of Marketing

And finally, of course, we come to the fourth foundation, the 7 Graces of Marketing:

  1. Connection
  2. Inspiration
  3. Invitation
  4. Directness
  5. Transparency
  6. Abundance
  7. Collaboration

These 7 Graces provide us with a starting point for creating the actual platform of our marketing. They become the goal posts, the beacons of light to which we aspire. They become a checklist of things we can both be and do in our marketing.

In the Foundations of Ethical Marketing course, we focus on the being side of ethical marketing.

Later, in the Applications of Ethical Marketing course (where students create comprehensive business and marketing plans using the 7 Graces model), we finally focus on the doing. As I said, if you jump to the doing before you have the being sorted out, you’ll just end up with a lot of incoherent faff that amounts to nothing terribly significant.

Closing Thoughts

These four foundations cannot work in isolation. The 7 Graces cannot work without awareness of the other three cornerstones. They dance together and impact each other in a multitude of ways. I could spend all day just talking about the Grace of Connection and any one of the 7 Key Relationships. Equally, I could spend days talking about how dharma can transform our Key Relationships. Consider how it can shape and define our Relationships with Self, Source, our businesses, etc.

And this is why they have become THE four elements we call the Foundations of Ethical Marketing on our 7 Graces course. By focusing the course on these specific elements, it is our aim to help business owners dive deeply into the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of their businesses: who they are, who their customers are, why they do what they do, why the world needs what they have to offer, why they so passionately want to do things a different way and so many other aspects.

From that place, getting down to the practical stuff – the what, when and how – becomes easy. And that’s when REAL social change begins.

We’ll be hosting a free one-hour info call about the 7 Graces Foundations of Ethical Marketing course on September 24th. On that call, we’ll be talking about these foundations, as well as telling you more about the course itself. If you’d like to attend, just fill in the form on this page:

And of course, if you subscribe to this blog and/or join our 7 Graces Facebook group, so you’ll be amongst the very first to know everything about it.

Lynn Serafinn
14 August 2014

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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:

The 7 Graces of Marketing BOOK COVER The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues


Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.

Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at

The Social Entrepreneur's Guide to Successful BloggingComing later in 2014

The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.

Lynn Serafinn author of The 7 Graces of Marketing LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.

Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.

7 Graces Project CIC




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