10 Ethical Marketing Principles for Conscious Growth
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
The marketing industry has a longstanding reputation for deceit and manipulation. Thanks to unflattering representations of ad execs in pop culture, data collection scandals, and tone-deaf campaigns, the marketing industry has become about as trustworthy as Slyvester the Cat left alone in a room with Tweety Bird.
Luckily, we have the power to change this reputation by practicing ethical marketing.
Ethical marketing requires brands to build their digital strategy with the wellbeing of the communities they exist in, in mind. In the digital age, marketers have massive power to create trends, influence thought and behaviour and enact meaningful change. Unfortunately, many marketing departments use this power to manipulate their audience for the sake of sales. Consumers have caught on to these tactics. Marketing strategies that rely on gimmicks, preying on insecurities and maintaining a neutral standpoint on social and political issues just don’t fly anymore. Selling a killer product or service is no longer enough to generate sales. Consumers want to put their hard earned cash into the pockets of brands that align with their personal values.
In order to stay competitive, brands are now being encouraged to implement ethical marketing and modify their messaging to be more socially conscious.
How to Practice Ethical Marketing in Your Digital Strategy
‘How in the world do I practice ethical marketing and create content that is socially conscious AND won’t offend my audience?’
This is currently the million dollar question for brands that are typing to keep up with the times.
Socially conscious marketing may sound daunting, but I believe it's ushering in one of the most profound revolutions in the marketing industry that we’ve ever seen. In light of the massive political and social movements that have taken our world by storm this year, people are becoming much more conscious of how the brands they engage with are positioning themselves and using their platform. This is an amazing step forward for humanity and the way we treat our marginalized communities, but it requires brands to adapt (quickly) to new standards, rules and guidelines. If you don’t start integrating ethical marketing into your strategy, cancel culture will come for you faster than you can say “We would like to extend our sincerest apologies.”
Practicing ethical marketing will make your brand more approachable, authentic and trustworthy. These days if you want a loyal audience, you’re going to have to work for it.
We’ve compiled a list of the 10 ethical marketing principles you should be using in your digital content to ensure it's appropriate, conscientious and socially responsible. Before releasing any piece of digital content, ask yourself these 10 questions:
DOWNLOAD THE FREE CONSCIOUS GROWTH ETHICAL MARKETING CHECKLIST HERE
1. VIRAL MINDSET
Would you be okay with EVERYONE (not just your target audience) seeing this content with your logo on it?
Anything can go viral these days, so before you put out a piece of content, make sure that you’d be comfortable and confident with the entire world seeing it with your logo attached.
2. DATA COLLECTION DISCLOSURE
Are you being transparent about the data you're collecting and how you plan to use it?
If you are collecting data from surveys, website tracking, or any other means, you need to make your purpose clear in your messaging. We all know that a successful digital strategy requires data in order to optimize and improve your content for your audience. However, people are becoming increasingly more protective of their information and for good reason (cough, cough Cambridge Analytica scandal). Consumers are smart enough to know that their data is being used for marketing purposes so it’s better to be up front and honest than deceitful. The proper disclaimers should be in place to inform your audience of what their information is being used for. Transparency is always key in conscious growth.
3. AVOID EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS
Can the message your conveying be harmful to the self-esteem or wellbeing of your audience in any way?
Psychological trauma and mental health issues have steadily been increasing over the past decade and it’d be irresponsible to believe that social media and the internet aren’t primary culprits. Be mindful of any coded language, misleading information or edited photos that you use in your content. Your content should never rely on making your audience feel insecure to generate sales. Your content should also never promote anything that could physically or emotionally harm your audience—or any audience for that matter. Nobody can know exactly what will trigger another person, so the best way to avoid harmful messaging is to ask for feedback from multiple sources from different backgrounds. Be open to—not offended by-- making the suggested changes in order to practice ethical marketing.
4. SUSTAINABLE MARKETING
Are you helping your audience live a more environmentally and socially conscious lifestyle?
Consumerism has made a giant, nasty impact on our planet and people are becoming much more conscientious of the environmental and societal implications of their purchases. According to a Forbes survey, 88% of consumers want brands to offer them sustainable lifestyle solutions. This is more than just showing how socially and environmentally conscious your brand is, you have to offer ways for your consumers to practice more ethical ways of living as well. You can offer your audience this in a number of ways such as selling eco-friendly products, offering sustainability tips on your social channels, or sharing social movement resources on your website.
If you’re knowingly marketing something that will cause harm to society or the environment, you need to be upfront with your audience about that. Don’t feel comfortable being upfront with your audience? Then you may want to consider adapting your product or service to be more environmentally and socially responsible. You should feel proud of every aspect of your brand, so make sure there’s nothing you feel the need to cover up or avert attention from.
Is what your marketing offering something that will help your audience in some way?
One of my favorite conscious marketing quotes is “Stop selling, start helping”.
Marketing is very easy when you’re offering a product or service that solves a problem for your audience. Your digital marketing strategy should entirely revolve around improving the lives of your audience. Are you making a difficult task easier? Are you offering valuable information? Are you improving humanity in even the smallest of ways? Find the aspect of your brand that offers value and solutions to your audience and make that the focus of your content marketing.
Is your copy and visual content inclusive and diverse?
Inclusive copy may feel like you’re walking on eggshells, but it’s really not as hard as you think. Just be considerate, aware, empathetic and respectful in your messaging. Your content shouldn’t exclude any member of your audience whether that be through copy, photos, or graphics. Use neutral pronouns, follow non-discrimination laws, use imagery with diverse people that represent your target demographic and avoid demeaning or outdated language. Simple, right? Inclusive marketing is not only respectful to your audience, but it will also help your content resonate with a wider audience of people which translates to more potential sales.
7. READ THE ROOM
Does your content have the proper self-awareness in relation to the current climate of the world?
If you’re like me, you religiously plan your content calendar out at least a month in advance. However, a lot can change in a month. You have to adapt your content to align with the atmosphere of the broader community that your brand exists in. If your content feels insensitive to current events, social movements or politics, your audience will find your content tone-deaf and unappealing. Believe me, no product launch post or #OOTD story is more important than standing with your audience and empathizing with their situation. Make sure your digital strategy is flexible and able to quickly adapt to changes and trends.
Are you using any gimmicks that feel inauthentic to your brand?
Brand integrity is the reputation and trust you build with your audience by upholding your standards, values and promises. Every piece of content you release with your logo on it should contribute to maintaining your brand integrity.
Attention-grabbers, appropriated hashtags, newsjacking, and clickbait may boost your engagement, but using these gimmicks will hurt your brand more in the long-run if they don’t align with your values. Take the road less traveled and practice integrity in your digital strategy. This is the easiest way to earn the loyalty and respect of consumers who truly resonate with your brand.
9. BE A MINDFUL ALLY
Does your content diminish, marginalize or negatively impact any communities?
Conscious growth requires you to examine your content through the lens of marginalized communities. Your content should never perpetuate stereotypes, tropes, or ideas that can harm people of color, women, LGBTQ+, the disabled community, or any other vulnerable groups of people. As an ethical brand, your goal should always be to uplift and advocate for disenfranchised groups, not hinder their progress.
Another important aspect of being a mindful ally is taking a stance. Silence is violence, so if you're staying “neutral” in your messaging, you are being compliant in the oppression of minorities. Consumers want brands to take a clear stance on major social and political issues. In fact, 87% of customers are more likely to buy from organizations that share their cause. Cause marketing has always been an effective community relations strategy, but clarifying your stance has never been more important than it is now.
Words matter, so be mindful of how your content affects others and always recognize your unique place of privilege.
10. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
Is any part of your message hypocritical?
Creating inclusive, diverse, sustainable and socially responsible digital content is essential to ethical marketing, but it doesn’t mean squat if you’re not practicing it behind the scenes. You can repost and post as much progressive content as you want, but if you’re not adjusting your business operations to reflect your content then your audience is going to see right through you. Advocating for a marginalized cause while continuing to cause harm to vulnerable communities is called woke washing. Companies that cash in on ethical marketing and inclusive messaging may do well in the short term, but audiences will quickly discover the truth if you’re talking the talk but not walking the walk. Woke washing puts your brand in jeopardy of being seen as untrustworthy and opportunistic.
Ethical marketing is not just a means to capitalize on social justice; it is a matter of morality. Don’t just be conscious when it’s trendy, be conscious in every aspect of your brand and implement the necessary internal changes to ensure you’re practicing what you preach.
Use Ethical Marketing To Consciously Grow Your Brand
Ethical marketing requires you to be aware of the social and political ramifications of your digital content. Increasing your brand awareness is vital to a successful marketing strategy, but if you’re growing your audience in an unethical manner, the longevity of your brand will suffer.
We’re created a FREE Conscious Growth Ethical Marketing Checklist that you can use to ensure your content is adhering to conscious marketing principles. Visit our Conscious Growth Resources page to download.
Conscious Growth Communications exists to create authentic relationships with brands and their audiences through ethical digital marketing. We hold ourselves to the highest moral standards and approach content marketing, social media marketing and public relations with integrity and transparency. Consumers are becoming much more mindful of the brands they’re giving their hard earned dollars to and we want to help position you as an ethical brand. We create customized digital content that adheres to ethical marketing principles while generating audience engagement and growth.
Contact us to learn how we can help you practice ethical marketing in your digital strategy.