How to make your marketing ethical

Essentially the ethicality of your marketing boils down to one simple question – is your marketing moral or immoral?

The morality of your marketing will encompass a number of areas;

  1. The claims that you make – are they accurate and honest?
  2. The target audience – for example; are you targeting children in an appropriate way and with an appropriate product?
  3. The pricing – is the offer and the price fair and honest?
  4. The hidden elements – are you hiding something that the customer has a right to know? Are you blurring the edges? Are you offering something at a price that is not actually available (remember how the budget airlines used to advertise flights?)

Being 100% honest may not make for the catchiest marketing slogans – but being caught out doesn’t make for great PR either.

Be upfront with your customers – most people appreciate honesty and tend to respect a company for telling the truth.

This doesn’t mean you have to highlight all the downsides too – after all marketing is marketing and the aim is the sell the product or service. But to be ethical you do need to be fair. And in this instance fair can also be translated as moral.

But what does being “moral” or “ethical” actually mean?
An individual’s view of ethics and morality is influenced by a variety of things including their culture, experience, family, background, upbringing, community, peers, religion and country.

In order to embark on an ethical marketing campaign you need to go through the following steps…

  1. decide what ethical means to you
  2. decide what you are going to communicate to your customers about your ethics
  3. look to see if there are areas where you can improve the ethical behaviour of your company and its products
    check your claims – are they exaggerated? Are they accurate? Are they honest? Are they supported?
  4. are your sales techniques ethical? Or do you practice high pressure selling techniques or target vulnerable customers (e.g. pensioners)
  5. are you squeezing your suppliers to the extent that it damages their business or has an impact on the quality of the products sold to you?
  6. ask yourself honestly – would you be happy to buy from you?

Ethics is a grey area as it encompasses so many aspects of a business and everyone has a slightly different view about what it means. But it’s also becoming increasingly important. Just because it’s not clear cut is no excuse for behaving unethically.

Additional reading: I can recommend Chris Arnold’s “Ethical Marketing and the New Consumer” published by Wiley.

 

1 Comment on How to make your marketing ethical

  1. Great advice, thanks Chantal. I cannot remember any company marketing with lines like “we will rip you off with our small-print” or “once you’ve paid us, you’re on your own” and I am not sure that part-truths are any better than outright misrepresentation. We hear a lot about ethics and values – I have been published on this very topic – but how much these are genuinely filtering through marketing, particularly with the global brands – I am not so sure about. e.g the dancing kids on the mazuma(?) mobile phone advert on TV. That said, ethical marketing companies appear to be on the increase; you and yours included clearly and I wish you all the ongoing success that you deserve.

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