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Can Marketing Be Ethical?

By December 13, 2021March 28th, 2022No Comments
Will Smith Ethical Marketing Just Water

Do you find yourself wondering “can marketing be ethical?” Finding ways to ensure you are deploying ethical marketing practices can be tough. In this guide we explore what ethical marketing is, who’s getting it right & how you can too. 

If you run a business, you’ll know that launching high-quality marketing campaigns represents a vital step on the road to entrepreneurial success. You’ll also know, however, that crafting an effective marketing strategy is fraught with potential ethical pitfalls. After all, promoting goods and services inevitably requires a degree of persuasion – something which can easily tip over into coercion or false advertising if you’re not careful.

If that weren’t enough to think about, consumers have become increasingly interested in spending their money on ethical brands. As concerns surrounding climate change and human rights mount, more and more people want to invest in products that reflect their moral and political values. Did you know, for example, that 35% of Americans would stop shopping with a brand they considered unethical, even if there were no alternative options available?

With this in mind, how can you embrace ethical advertising practices and convince potential buyers to invest in your goods and services? We’ve put together a quick guide to ethics in marketing to help you get started.

What is ethical marketing?

One of the best ways to understand ethical marketing is to learn about unethical marketing. Ethical marketing is complex, but you can rest assured it never – under any circumstances – involves the following elements:

  • Contacting prospects without consent: Increasingly stringent data privacy laws mean that contacting people without prior consent isn’t just annoying – it’s illegal.
  • Misleading advertising: Adverts that overpromise on their offerings or fail to disclose all relevant costs to the customer are considered misleading. If you’re unsure whether you can prove a claim, you risk losing customer trust.
  • Emotional coercion: Exploiting potential buyers through sentimental advertising campaigns doesn’t break any laws. However, overly emotional advertising is exploitative and could leave vulnerable consumers out of pocket.
  • Deliberately stirring up controversy: Although sparking debate via offensive or controversial campaigns will likely attract attention, it could poison public discourse and harm the reputation of your brand.

Of course, ethical marketing isn’t a black and white issue. Take the problem of “greenwashing”, which involves marketing brands as eco-friendly despite evidence to the contrary. Most companies engaged in greenwashing choose to omit information about their carbon-intensive practices while highlighting more favourable details such as the recyclable packaging used in their products. Often, this lack of transparency isn’t technically illegal. However, many customers would be disturbed or disappointed to learn that their purchases are less ethically sound than initially thought.

Tips for running ethical marketing campaigns

Avoiding ethical difficulties isn’t always easy. Here are a few tips for ensuring your marketing practices stay above board, and your customers remain loyal:

  1. Put customer safety first

If you sell a product that carries potential risks, you must make them clear to consumers on your marketing materials. Say, for example, you sell natural supplements. You should include information about potential side effects, if applicable, as well as age restrictions or contraindications.

  1. Avoid unsubstantiated claims

Exaggerating the benefits of your offerings is all too easy, even for experienced copywriters. To avoid misleading customers and getting into trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority, you must ensure all claims are backed up by solid evidence. Ideally, you should have surveys, studies, and data to substantiate your claims.

  1. Prioritise consumer privacy

According to a recent survey, over 85% of consumers feel increasingly worried about how their data is used and stored. As such, it is imperative that you only collect the information you need to carry out relevant marketing campaigns and ensure customers actively consent to their data being used.

  1. Don’t smear your competitors

Discrediting or mocking your competitors is never a good look. It could also have legal consequences if you’re unable to back up your claims. So long as your goods and services are up to scratch, you shouldn’t need to play dirty in this way.

  1. Don’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes

We’ve all come across outrageous marketing campaigns seemingly designed to annoy their audiences. From sexist adverts that objectify women’s bodies to shockingly racist billboards, marketing teams continue to produce campaigns that go viral for all the wrong reasons. To avoid this, it is worth asking a range of colleagues to check and approve marketing materials before they’re unleashed on the world.

  1. Embrace an ethical company culture

The only way to convince customers that you’re committed to ethical principles such as human rights or social justice is to make them a company priority. Are you oblivious about the working conditions of the people who manufacture your product materials, for example? If your suppliers are shady, it’s time to switch to a fair-trade alternative. Then, you can feel confident about promoting your ethical commitments.

Other options include actively investing in projects that help the world’s poorest people or using ethical advertising platforms, such as Views For Change.

Examples of brands who’ve got it right

If you need a little inspiration, here are a few brands whose ethical commitments have impressed us:

Lucy & Yak Ethical Marketing

Lucy and Yak offer a range of ethical fashion garments crafted by well-compensated workers in India. The company actively campaigns against exploitation in the fast fashion industry and includes comprehensive information about their production processes on their site. If that weren’t enough, their clothes are made using organic cotton and look fantastic!

Will Smith Ethical Marketing Just Water

As the brand name suggests, JUST Water is committed to social justice and sustainability. The brand’s marketing materials emphasise efforts to reduce harmful emissions through infrastructural investments and innovative recyclable packaging. To top it off, they even channel their profits into repairing ancient water pipes.

Conscious Coffees Ethical Marketing

Conscious Coffees is all about improving working conditions for coffee farmers and growers in South America. With many coffee-growing regions facing the threat of climate change, the brand is also dedicated to mitigating its impact on the planet through sustainability practices.

Ace your ethical marketing campaigns with Views For Change

Are you keen to attract the attention of socially conscious consumers? Perhaps you want your brand to make a positive difference in the world? Great news! Views For Change is here to help. With our advertising platform, you can automatically donate money to a cause of your choice whenever customers click on your ads. To find out more, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team today.

Nicola Telford

CEO & Co-Founder of Views For Change.

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