Ethical marketing. Does that even exist? When you think of marketing or sales, does your mind automatically go to some sleazy used-car salesman trope?
I can’t blame you if it does. Historically, advertising hasn’t exactly been a beacon of truth.
Traveling medicine shows in the late 1800s and early 1900s advertised products with truly bizarre and outrageous claims–claiming to cure everything from baldness to epilepsy with homemade tonics, “ancient” mystical artifacts, and psychic powers.
None of them worked, and some of them were actually dangerous.
The laws against false advertising, as well as increased food and drug safety, made products safer and more reliable, but companies still get caught lying to their customers.
And it’s not a good look for them.
Practicing ethical marketing isn’t just about doing what’s right, (I mean, it should be, but…) it’s also about doing what’s best for your company.
Customers are increasingly more likely to support brands that they feel good about. They want to work with companies they see as honest–that care about sustainability, social responsibility, and have the same values that they do.
Practicing ethical marketing builds your reputation as a company to trust, which brings in new customers and keeps them coming back.
How to practice ethical marketing
“Six weeks to six figures! Start your online business today and watch the money roll in.”
Claims that seem impossible usually are. Even though there may be disclaimers in the fine print, the message that people are getting is false. When the product doesn’t live up to its promises, customers lose trust in the brand.
Practicing ethical marketing means being honest about your product and what it can and can’t do. And backing up your claims with proof.
Be transparent with your research process, don’t pick and choose data to back up your claims, and don’t use click-bait marketing tactics.
Honesty in marketing also means not unfairly trashing your competition. Making false accusations or claims about a competitor is not only unethical, it can also turn off your customers in a big way. You don’t want to come off as petty or mean to your audience.
Be Protective of Your Customers
We all know we give up a certain amount of privacy on the internet.
Getting an ad for something you were talking about a few days ago, or seeing that pair of shoes you were looking at pop up again and again–it’s a little creepy.
But, while we’re (mostly) used to things like that, no one wants to have to worry about all of their information being broadcasted out on the web, or having all their data mined just because they decided to see what kind of taco they are based on their zodiac sign.
Having good security practices for customer transactions, as well as being clear about how their information is being used, goes a long way toward making your customers feel comfortable buying from you.
Make sure your website is properly set up for secure transactions, that your cookie policies are clear and easy to find, and your information usage is transparent.
Listen to the People
Sure, you can say “my way or the highway” and ignore customer feedback, but chances are a lot of people will choose the highway.
Businesses that are engaged with their customers have higher brand loyalty, and if there really is an issue with a product or service you can often head it off early by having listened to your customers.
Be known for having great customer service. Reply to concerns on social media. And above all, actually make changes that are needed.
Watch Your Language
Think about an ad from 50 years ago. It probably has some language and stereotypes that would not fly today.
Don’t be the ad that people are cringing at 50 years from now.
Take a hard look at your marketing language. Are you being mindful of sexist or racist tropes? Are you thinking about inclusive language and pronoun usage?
What about your brand images? Make sure your visuals reflect the real-world population and the audience you work with, by showing diverse ethnicities, genders, and bodies. Representation is important, and people feel more comfortable with brands they can see themselves in.
We’re all going to make mistakes–and when you do, be gracious about it–but caring about the message you’re sending, and being mindful of how you’re framing your message, will increase your credibility and the respect of your audience.
Voice Your Values
It’s a relatively new phenomenon for businesses to take a stand on social or political issues.
In the past, you didn’t want to alienate potential customers by having an opinion on anything remotely controversial.
Not so much anymore.
People want to know where you stand. They want to know who and what they’re supporting. More than ever, people are making buying decisions based on how they feel about the company as well as the product.
Saying nothing says a lot, too. If you don’t take a stand, your audience may assume you either don’t support the issue, or don’t care enough to say anything.
Trying to please everyone will ultimately mean you’re pleasing no one, so it’s better to follow your values. Like-minded people will follow you back.
Beware Performative Marketing
Don’t take a stand on something you don’t care about just because you think your customers want you to.
And definitely don’t put out an opinion that you don’t actually believe in. Be honest, remember?
Practicing ethical marketing is also about being true to your personal ethics.
If you’re going to publicly support a cause, don’t just post it on your Instagram and forget about it. Let people know how you’re going to make changes in your company to reflect your values, or who you’re donating to and why. Putting in the work to back up your public support is more important than voicing your opinion in the first place.
And beware of jumping on “trendy” issues.
If you have something to say–say it. But don’t generically post something with no real message behind it.
Ethical marketing practices are becoming more and more common. And that’s a good thing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a huge corporation or a small business. People are paying attention to how companies present themselves and what they’re putting out into the world.
Make sure you’re saying something with substance.
If you’re not sure where to start, we can get you on the right path with a focused strategy session. Click here to find out where we can go together!