Ethical Marketing: Why Does It Matter?

The relationship between making money and doing the right thing has always been an unsettling one. We live in a society where it wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to assume that those who reached the top did so by unscrupulous means, and I’ve met plenty of people who that applies to: in past lives, I’ve even worked for them. There’s a huge disparity between corporations and customers, and there always has been – this is why you’ll often find that ethics are abandoned in marketing, because there is no connection between the two.

Ethical marketing is all about promoting honesty, fairness and responsibility through the common standard of truth. As marketers, we are the middle ground between the corporation and the customer, so we must hold ourselves to a high standard of personal ethics in all that we do. An ethical marketing campaign is clearly distinguished from news and entertainment: our customers know they’re being sold to, and we are always transparent about who we pay to endorse products. Our customers should always be treated fairly based on the nature of the product and the nature of the consumer, and we should pay particular attention to this when marketing to vulnerable demographics such as children. Consumer privacy should never be compromised, and with this in mind we must always comply with all regulations and standards.

An ethical marketer should discuss the ethics of their clients marketing openly and honestly when making all marketing decisions. More often than not, unethical marketing isn’t illegal, it’s just unethical, and if it sells the product or service then many decision makers are willing to roll with it and deal with the bad taste it’ll leave in their mouths. We’ve also seen some campaigns which are purposefully unethical, drawing a lot of attention to the brand, but having a spectacularly negative affect on their image.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can be ethical in your marketing, vocal about what you care about, and you can make more money than you ever would have made through unscrupulous means.

In our Buying On Belief blog, we looked at Edelman’s Earned Brand Study 2017, and found that 50% of the global population consider themselves to be belief driven buyers, and this figure is growing. Consumers are now forcing brands to stand up for them on controversial issues by buying based on their beliefs and values. For brands who share their customers beliefs and focus on that in their marketing efforts, the payoff can be massive, but if a brand sticks to unethical marketing tactics, they can even face boycotts from previously loyal customers.

Values-based, ethical marketing isn’t just about appealing to your current fan base. As well as strengthening relationships with your existing customers, it can help you to win new ones too! In our Buying On Belief blog, we found that 67% of belief-driven buyers had bought from a brand for the first time based solely on their position on a controversial issue. 51% also said that they would stay loyal to a brand who shared their opinion on an issue, and 23% of belief-driven buyers would pay a 25% premium for a product from such a brand. Marketing your brand ethically essentially gives you a tool to retain old customers, make them feel wanted, appeal to new customers and increase your brand loyalty, so it’s definitely worth focusing on!

You might know who wants to buy your products, but do you know why? Stating that your target demographic is 20-30-year-old women is a great start, but two different people inside this demographic can have very different values and beliefs. By focusing on the “why” behind the purchase of your product, you can define the values and beliefs of your consumers and match your next marketing campaign to these to encourage more sales.

Ethical marketing (particularly when it’s values-based) bridges that gap between the corporation and the consumer. It removes the idea of the “faceless corporation” and creates a real connection between the brand and the consumer which drives sales, loyalty and brand recognition.

Ethics isn’t just problematic in marketing – technology has developed so quickly that ethics in development is often overlooked. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that products are entirely ethical before going to market? On Friday 13th July I’ll be attending Coed:Ethics to find out more about practical ethics for technologists and developers. There are a limited number of tickets still available, and I’ll be recapping what I’ve learned in a blog a few weeks time for those of you who can't make it.

Until then, if your marketing needs an injection of great ethics, get in touch. We focus on values-based campaigns for every client, and we’d love to work with you.

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