As consumers, we get flooded with “new year, new you” content every January, but as business owners we have our own plans and new goals too. One of yours might be to become more sustainable or to put an ethical focus into your marketing plan. But why is ethical marketing important and how would you create an ethical marketing strategy?
What is ethical marketing?
Ethical marketing is an approach taken to marketing that seeks to promote honesty, fairness and responsibility. It’s not only focused on the benefits to customers but also on how the company is contributing to the environment and/or society. All stakeholders are considered. Definitive areas including corporate social responsibility (CSR), employee wellness and socially responsible marketing activity are all part of an ethical focus.
Why is it important to your business?
Displaying your values to customers and stakeholders has become increasingly important – conscious purchasers want to support a truly ethical business and not one that is just giving ethics lip-service. Ethical marketing is all about emphasising what your business is doing to support its people, society and the environment in a positive way, both now and into the future.
People increasingly look for businesses that have sustainability at their core. They search by sustainability criteria and there are many blog lists compiled and labelled for company groups; ‘best sustainable clothing brands’ for example.
It is reported that 62% of consumers want marketers to take a stand on environmental values. The Guardian also reported that ethical consumer spending was at an all-time high, having increased almost four-fold in the past 20 years. In particular, Gen X (those born after 1995), who are emerging as the upcoming generation – are taking increasing interest in brands that are ethical and sustainable. It is not enough to shout an ethical message – the brand also has to live it! Then marketing is the way to communicate it.
Covid has only made ethical marketing more important as it has caused people to reflect on the value of human interaction and the state of society. The EY Future Consumer Index Study, a study involving 14,500 individuals in 20 countries since the start of the pandemic, has identified two important consumer types to emerge from the pandemic. One is called “the planet first” consumer, who made up 16% of the respondents, they are those who are trying to minimise their impact on the environment and want to buy from brands who reflect their beliefs. The other is “the society first” consumer, who makes up 15% of the respondents, they want to buy from organisations that are transparent and honest.
Covid has also been a catalyst for the dramatic expansion and normalisation of online shopping – across sectors and products and services – meaning that every company needs a virtual shop window in which to display its values and what it stands for and supports (or will not tolerate).
In both B2C and B2B businesses, ethical marketing approaches are important due to the heightened need for honesty and trustworthiness. In particular for B2C, customers want honesty especially in the digital age where there are increasing privacy and data concerns. A transparent approach can help to build more loyalty to a business. However, this ethical approach shouldn’t just be confined to marketing, it should be present throughout the whole customer journey.
Ways to incorporate ethical marketing and what to include in an ethical marketing strategy:
1. Ethical Marketing is a long-term approach – it needs to feel genuine and consistent; it is not just a single campaign, so plan ahead.
2. Marketing activity needs to be relevant – look at what issues are important in your industry and align with those – Recycling commitment? Fair treatment of suppliers? Diversity & Inclusion?
3. Emphasise the ethical attributes of your products and services – e.g. handmade, locally-produced, percentage of revenue donation to relevant causes – the pandemic has led to a rise in people wanting to support local businesses and those making a genuine effort towards sustainability
4. Know what your ideal customers care about – through visualising different personas and customer segmentation you can discover where they hang out online, understand their problems and needs, discovering what they are looking for to make their life easier.
5. Incorporate transparency – about your processes, how you create your products / provide your service throughout your actions and communications. How will you show these things and through which channels?
6. Make ethics an integrated part of your brand e.g. clear on your social media and website, carefully selected engagement with causes – all to help attract your ideal customers and reach a wider community. Don’t forget about aligning internal marketing comms too.
An example of Good Ethical Marketing
An example of a company that has successfully implemented and executed an ethical marketing strategy is Tony’s Chocolonely. In 2020, it achieved an €88.4 million turnover. The company’s stance against child labour and slavery, prevalent in chocolate-producing countries and the industry, has led them to promote their policy of being ‘100% slave free’. Tony’s message of Fair Wages is central to the brand – they have a roadmap about making an impact, 5 sourcing principles and produce annual ‘fair reports.’ Their brand message further reinforces this, it is “we’re not a chocolate company, we’re an impact company that makes chocolate”.
They are transparent about their practices and contributions to the industry in their annual reports. They are an example of a brand that is living by its principles and calling for action from their customers and they’re succeeding.
All business can engage in ethical marketing – its most important quality is being honest and fair in the way you market to the customers. It offers a way for your business to differentiate itself and capitalise on the external changes occurring in the post-pandemic world; the want from consumers to support businesses that are transparent, honest and true to the values they state. As time progresses, the importance of ethical marketing will only grow.
Chloe Hagdrup, Shake It Up Creative