Ethical Marketing: The Wisest Path to Success

Date Published:
August 18, 2022
Summer Stirling

In a world where the truth (and detailed customer reviews) can be found with a few clicks of a mouse, honesty and transparency are crucial. Today’s post is the first part in a series looking at the ethics of marketing a product or service.

But, what is “Ethical Marketing”?

Generally speaking, it is a standard of practice that centers around honesty and empathy for and towards your consumer base. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules. In some instances, abhorrent marketing tactics are perfectly legal, but that doesn’t make them right. And what might work for one company, won’t necessarily work for another.

So where do you start? With your company’s core values. Having values or a mission can truly drive your business forward. Just be sure to stick to them.

If you decide as a business to make the health of the environment an important value, be sure you’re not packaging your product in three layers of plastic.

If your core values are about serving children and families, ensure that everything you produce, from products to your marketing images, is child-friendly.

With core values in place, you can follow some of the “Dos” and avoid the “Don’ts” below.

DO: Be Transparent

When marketing your product or service, be honest about its effectiveness, uses, and safety.

When and where possible, let your customers know how and where it’s made. What products went into its making?

DO: Increase Benefits and Minimise Risks

Try to benefit as many people as possible while creating as little harm to the consumer or the planet. A lasting positive impact should always be your goal.

Ensure your products are well made, safe, and durable. Don’t cheap out for a buck, it can cost you a lot in the long run.

DO: Be Inclusive In Your Marketing Campaign

I’m pretty sure it’s not just lean, Caucasian women that wash their hair… but for decades that’s exactly what the shampoo companies led consumers to believe based on their ads.

Are all your models or stock photos looking the same? Maybe it’s time for some introspection and a broadening of your demographic.

DO: Commit To Sustainability and Human Rights

Ethical consumerism is in, and hopefully to stay. Customers want to know that they are purchasing sustainable and ethically produced products. Be honest about your ingredients, product components, and supply chain.

DO: Protect Your Consumer’s Data and Privacy

People are becoming increasingly concerned about entrusting their personal data with companies. Now, more than ever, it’s important to emphasise your company’s commitment to consumer privacy; and actually stand by it.

DON’T: Exploit Emotions

Evoking emotional reactions from consumers is an effective way to generate interest. However, if you evoke negative emotions such as anger, fear, or sadness in a tacky way, it could be seen as exploitative. Customers want empathy, not manipulation.

DON’T: Exaggerate

If you exaggerate the benefits of your product beyond what it can deliver, you are lying to your customers. Never try to deceive people by making promises you can’t keep. Not only will you prevent repeat sales, but negative reviews will drive away new customers.

DON’T: Make False/Unverifiable Claims

Similar to the previous point, if you can’t prove it, don’t say it.

You’ve created a skincare line that works wonders on elasticity and wrinkle prevention. Great! But if you say it can also prevent melanoma, you had better have some third-party lab testing that can back that up.

Designed a pet seatbelt? Fantastic! But don’t say it’ll prevent all injuries in the event of an accident unless you have some evidence to back that up.

DON’T: Greenwash

I’ve seen the words “Natural & Organic” big, bold, and green on a bag of sidewalk salt meant for de-icing. “All Natural” on cleaners that singe the hair in your nose.

And Sprite’s new “greener” bottle? They’ve changed it to clear for “easier recyclability”, but that does nothing to help the fact that it’s another single-use plastic item unlikely to even reach a recycling facility. Many suspect it’s a ploy to make their bottles less identifiable in the trash heaps that wash ashore all around the world.

If your product isn’t designed with the planet in mind, so be it. But don’t try to market it as something it’s not. There are plenty of eco watchdogs out there waiting to call you out on it.

So, does your company have its core values decided, laminated, and posted to the wall?

What are you waiting for?

Need help setting up a marketing campaign that aligns with your values? Get in touch!