Why Ethical Marketing Matters
Ethical marketing has become critical to a business's competitiveness and long-term success in an environment where consumers often dictate the rules, including insisting on corporate social responsibility. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 61% of consumers say that a lack of trust in a brand is a deal-breaker when making a purchasing decision. And the Reputation Institute's Global RepTrak study found that 64% of consumers make buying decisions based on a company's reputation. The reality is that It's no longer enough for businesses to merely sell products or services; they must do so in a way that aligns with responsible principles and values. Tangelo Media explains why ethical marketing practices matter and how to incorporate them into your organization's DNA.
What is Ethical Marketing?
Ethical marketing encompasses a range of principles, including honesty, transparency, sustainability, and fairness. It involves not only the promotion of products or services but also the responsible conduct of your business practices. When a company is transparent, honest, and consistent in its messaging and procedures, it earns the trust of its audience. That doesn't mean you have to be perfect. For example, if you are working towards sustainability in your manufacturing processes but are not quite there yet, it's okay. Customers want to know that you're prioritizing it even if you don't have all the answers yet. However, you must put a stake in the ground with measurable goals and show progress. Otherwise, it simply looks like lip service and not genuine intent.
As every business knows, a strong reputation is imperative. One significant mistake can quickly ruin everything you have worked so hard to accomplish, especially with the instantaneousness of social media. Companies that use culturally insensitive content in advertisements not only risk substantial backlash and alienated customers, but it can also cause prospective investors and potential employees to question whether they want to work with you. The 2021 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey found that 42% of Millennials and Gen Z workers have left a job because they disagreed with their organization's values.
Examples of unethical marketing
Some obvious examples of irresponsible marketing include making false or misleading claims about a product's features, benefits, or effectiveness, creating fake reviews on social media, or promoting a product or service without disclosing that it is a paid advertisement. This can also include paying influencers to endorse a product without full and transparent disclosure. Another example is exploiting a crisis by significantly raising the price of essential goods or services, often to the detriment of your customers. I'm sure we have all experienced several examples of this since COVID. That's not to say that businesses did not have to raise prices because they were also paying more for goods and services. However, there is an increased price that is fair and one where it becomes simple greed. Another way that companies can be unethical in their marketing is by collecting and misusing customer data without consent or failing to adequately protect sensitive information from data breaches and/or immediately disclosing an issue if it does occur.
Best practices for responsible marketing
So, mistakes can still happen even if you have the best intentions. However, these best practices can prevent more significant errors:
1. Conduct Regular Audits: Companies should regularly audit their marketing strategies and campaigns. Audits involve reviewing advertising content, claims, and tactics to ensure they align with ethical standards.
2. Educate and Train Employees: Employees can be your best brand ambassadors and play a crucial role in responsible marketing. Businesses should provide training on conscientious principles and encourage employees to speak up if they observe practices within the organization that don't match the company's public stance.
3. Embrace Transparency: Transparency is a cornerstone of ethical marketing. Companies should openly share information about their products, pricing, and practices. And as we said before, be honest about product limitations and potential drawbacks.
4. Don't Greenwash: Greenwashing is the deceptive practice of presenting a product or company as environmentally friendly when it is not. Companies should be truthful about their efforts and not exaggerate their sustainability claims. Nielsen's Global Corporate Sustainability Report indicates that 81% of consumers strongly believe companies should help improve the environment. And making false claims can not only lead to consumer outrage but also get you in trouble with the FTC.
5. Support Ethical Sourcing: Businesses should know their vendors and source materials and products from organizations that support their values, ensure fair labor practices, and practice sustainable production methods. That also means working with diverse partners such as women and minority-owned companies.
6. Support Causes that Align with Your Values: Cause marketing involves aligning with a social or environmental cause that actually resonates with an organization's values. And that also means ensuring that you are "practicing what you preach." You can't tell customers you support equity and then have employees take to Glass Door to complain about your lack of commitment to DEI. A Cone Communications study found that 87% of consumers would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.
7. Address Mistakes Immediately: No company is immune to marketing mistakes, but don't think you can ignore them, and somehow, they will miraculously disappear. Create a plan to deal with issues before they happen and then address them as quickly and honestly as possible when they arise. Accept responsibility and let your customers know you are taking corrective action to rebuild their trust.
8. Seek External Accountability: Consider seeking external certifications or third-party audits to verify the ethical practices of your company and demonstrate your commitment to transparency and accountability. For example, consider undergoing a B Corp certification process that objectively measures your environmental and social impact.
In today's world, ethical marketing isn't just a moral imperative; it's a business necessity. If you prioritize responsible marketing, you build solid and lasting customer relationships based on trust and transparency. By following the principles outlined in this blog and continuously evaluating your marketing practices, you can successfully navigate this complex terrain and enjoy the benefits of a positive reputation. It's not only the right thing to do, but it’s also an investment in your company’s future and in society as a whole.