Here at Four Drunk Parrots, ethics is at the heart of everything we do. Our mission has always been aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and we’re continuously working towards equality and inclusion while protecting the environment.
Ethical marketing harnesses the power and amplifies the message of businesses that make the world a better place, enabling them to share their good-for-the-world impact and ultimately grow their audience.
Profit is the fuel that keeps things going, so these marketing efforts are imperative to driving social and environmental change.
Ethical guidelines need to be followed with dedication and this is done not only by the marketing department, but also the management body as they work on marketing strategies and campaigns to promote the products and services offered by the company to the target market.
What is ethical marketing?
Ethical marketing refers to the process by which companies market their goods and services by focusing on not only how their products benefit customers, but also how they benefit socially responsible or environmental causes.
Companies use ethical marketing to communicate their commitment to doing social and environmental good, and also sell a product or service that improves the world.
To put this another way, ethical marketing isn’t simply a strategy — it’s a philosophy. It includes everything from ensuring advertisements are honest and trustworthy, to building strong relationships with customers through a set of shared values.
Companies with a focus on ethical marketing evaluate their decisions from a business perspective (i.e. whether a particular marketing initiative will deliver the desired return) as well as a moral perspective (i.e. whether a decision is ‘right’ or morally acceptable).
Marketing ethics is an area of applied ethics that acts as a guiding light behind the operations of marketing. Following marketing ethics has become crucial in today’s world because they act as long-term branding, word-of-mouth, and trust-building techniques.
The use of marketing ethics has the potential to benefit society as a whole, both in the short and long term, because it revolves around ethical marketing principles and standards that show acceptable marketing conduct.
Why is ethical marketing important?
What ethical marketing will do is build a community of people who are buying services or products based on shared values. Every time we make a purchase from an ethical brand, we join a community of social innovators and environmentalists. Ethical marketing helps consumers to make better purchasing decisions using transparency, authenticity and mindfulness.
Businesses that decide to market their products and services in an ethical way chose to do so because it is usually a reflection of their business practice, not because it is trendy or something to tick off a list.
Human greed is the main reason marketing has been abused so much. But, if we are being fair, marketing itself isn’t evil.
Ethical marketing is an integral part of an organisation’s life because it can lead to consumer loyalty and trust, long-term gains for the entity, improved credibility, and enhancement of brand value in the market — all of which will prove to be valuable for the organisation in the long-run.
There are several benefits for both companies and society from ethical marketing practices. Some of which are:
- Reputation: Companies that are consistent with ethical norms or expectations in their marketing will build a positive reputation with the public.
- Increased sales: Marketing campaigns that are ethical in nature generally have a better long-term effect on sales. Unethical practices on the other hand are short sighted and when discovered, will cost the organisation money rather than making some.
- Customer satisfaction and loyalty: When done properly, ethical marketing improves the long-term value of a company as well as the loyalty of customers. There is a positive correlation between ethical marketing, the quality of consumer/brand relationships, and how customers perceive the quality of a product — they all contribute to brand loyalty. Ethical marketing is a long-term process rather than a one-off effort or pursuit of the latest trends.Delivering a product that is consistent with what is advertised establishes trust with customers. This results in customer happiness and ensures that customers return because of loyalty to the product, company or brand.
- Improved standard of living/health: The sense of fairness and equity that results from ethical business practices (marketing specifically), results in an overall improved standard of living for everyone in the supply chain.
- Longevity: Consumers are becoming increasingly values-based in their purchasing decisions. As this trajectory continues, companies demonstrating good ethics and sustainability will attract new customers and grow their position in the marketplace. A range of factors including catastrophic weather events, voices for change such as Greta Thunberg, and the global pandemic have prompted rapid acceleration of this conscious consumer trend. These consumers hold expectations that companies will take their fair share of responsibility for the environmental challenges we collectively face and are becoming increasingly intolerant of inaction.
The principles of ethical marketing
In the past, businesses were simply there to market their products and services, and make profit. But the business world has now transformed a lot in this regard, mainly due to increasing consumer awareness.
Ethical businesses are built mainly on three things: relationships, passion, and transparency. These key components, in conjunction with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, are the principles of ethical marketing.
- Relationships: For smaller businesses, they are built on relationships and human connections that drive their mission forward. The same idea applies to sales, where relationships based on shared values create a community built around a brand doing good things for the planet.
- Passion: Owners of smaller businesses have a unique connection to the work they do because they are more often than not, handling every part of the business. This passion can be taken advantage of to show potential customers how much time and energy goes into making the best possible products. This passion can also be valuable for authentic and engaging storytelling, which increases brand awareness.
- Transparency: Small businesses are more likely to be transparent and make environmentally conscious decisions because they are more in touch with every part of their impact. Secondly, they aren’t as obligated to profit-driven shareholders as many traditional big brands. Communicating with customers about where money is made, the materials that are used, and the type of factory conditions they have, are sure ways for small companies to grow and gather new customers.
In combination with the transparency, passion and relationships of ethical businesses, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals play an important part in how companies do good in their work.
These goals have highlighted 17 of the world’s biggest issues that need to be addressed, for the world to be a more habitable place for people to thrive in.
The United Nations and collaborating organisations set out to achieve these goals by 2030. Businesses can contribute to achieving these goals by choosing to reduce waste, offset their carbon footprints, or contribute to solving the big issues in our world such as clean water access, poverty reduction, and renewable energy.
Advantages of ethical marketing
Ethics and marketing should ideally go together because it not only benefits a business’s reputation and helps to protect customers, but also helps the industry the business is in.
Proper business ethics is a good way to not only improve your brand reputation and avoid public backlash, but also ensure that the stakeholders of your company (employees, customers and suppliers) benefit from the ethics you practise.
Some the advantages are;
- Avoiding punishment: one of the main advantages of following business ethics is avoiding legal punishment. Ethical marketing mainly ensures that everyone who comes into contact with your company is treated fairly and respectfully, which helps to build a positive brand reputation. If your company adopts proper business ethics, you eliminate the costs associated with fines and lawsuits.
- Workplace Culture: ethical marketing creates a better work culture because employees are treated with respect and given equal access to opportunities, which makes the workplace a positive and nurturing environment.
- Employee retention: when your company practises proper business ethics, it not only improves customer loyalty but employee loyalty as well.
High employee turnover can prove to be costly for any business, but with the right business ethics, employees will want to work for your company for a long time.
When is marketing unethical?
Unethical marketing, as opposed to ethical marketing, sends the wrong message to prospects about your products and services. In some cases, these practices can lead to legal problems, but more importantly, they can lead to reputational loss or destruction of your brand.
A marketing campaign can become unethical when it is deceptive and misleading. It is important to have ethical business practices in every industry, including digital marketing.
It is usually the case that deceptive marketing practices have caused customers to look for tricky wording in ads, read the fine print, read customer reviews, and do background research on companies.
It is not strange for brands to tap into our good nature and use unsavoury marketing tactics to get our attention. The main issue here is that this marketing is based on feelings of scarcity or emptiness on the part of the customers, not impact and values-alignment on the part of businesses.
The lack of corporate accountability makes ethical marketing even more important as we try to sort out which companies fall into each category.
Ethical versus unethical marketing
Our core beliefs are grounded in our personal ethics and will extend into our professional practices. In marketing, it’s less about whether you think your marketing practices are ethical and more about whether consumers believe they’re ethical.
Ethical marketing is all about making honest claims to attract potential customers. If customers perceive your marketing practices to be honest and genuine, they can begin to trust your brand.
Mutual trust helps to develop brand loyalty and this will keep customers coming back, and motivate them to share positive messages about your business.
The don’ts of ethical marketing
Here are some common examples of unethical marketing to keep an eye out for:
- Greenwashing: going green is becoming a profitable business strategy and while brand transparency is important, it isn’t the benchmark for ethical marketing.
Greenwashing is simply the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound. Take American multinational oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil, for example. They indicated they were reducing greenhouse gas emissions while actually increasing it. Understandably, it can happen, but advertising falsely makes it worse.
- Using unverified claims: in a desperate bid to compel potential and existing customers to buy their products and services, some marketers might falsely advertise or exaggerate the benefits of their products and services to make them appeal to a greater audience. False claims can be hazardous to consumers, especially on wellness and supplement products.
- False/Unfair comparisons: another common unethical marketing strategy is emphasising the dark sides of your rival’s product in a bid to turn potential customers towards your own product. It would be better to emphasise those aspects that make your offer stand out from the rest of the pack, rather than resort to this unethical strategy.
- Using fear tactics: this is a common unethical marketing practice that occurs when the intention of marketing, in this case, is to subject the customer to undue pressure to force them to make a decision on the spot, which is wrong.
- Marketing that reinforces stereotypes: if you watched Mad Men, you probably learned that a major selling point for products is sex appeal. It will send the wrong message to the next generation and also reinforce the sexist culture that generations of people have attempted to outgrow.
How to embrace ethical marketing for your business (the do’s of ethical marketing)
If you are ready to apply ethical marketing practices to your organisation, here are some helpful tips to get you started:
- Build goals that have a soul: Your passion here is what sets you apart from your competitors. It is therefore important to incorporate social responsibility when creating company goals — to keep your goals aligned with your values.
- Practice full transparency: As a business, fully communicating your price, business practices and even your ethical issues is information the consumer wants. It keeps your consumers engaged and interested in what you continue to put out.
- Involve your customers: It could be something as simple as offering to choose a BCorp carrier such as Sendle, or to offset their carbon footprint in the checkout of your eCommerce.
- Tell your story: Your journey to becoming an ethical marketer needs to be put in context. Why is this important to you and why have you decided to change to ethical marketing?You can use Storybrand or other storytelling techniques to distil and convey this message. It’s a distinctive tool that you should leverage.
Examples of Ethical Marketing
Ethical marketing is used by socially concerned companies to reach their target demographic and grow their reach. Here are a few of our favourites:
- Patagonia: if you talk to any environmental activist, they’ll tell you that the fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to climate change.
Patagonia famously ran campaigns telling people not to buy anything. They would rather you only purchase goods you really need and ensure the ones you purchase are good for a long time.They use their platform to advocate for political awareness. Like their recent clothing label, ‘Vote the [email protected]@holes out,’ which was a dig at politicians who don’t take climate change seriously.
- Toms Shoes: this brand aimed to raise awareness of the lack of footwear available to children in developing countries in the One Day Without Shoes campaign.It was open to everyone to participate, by posting a photo of their bare feet on Instagram with the hashtag #WithoutShoes. The reward was one photo equaling the donation of one pair of shoes to a child in need, which was more than worthwhile in our opinion!
- Dr. Bronner’s: Dr. Bronner’s style of marketing is known as activist marketing. They lay out all of their beliefs right on the bottle, which, when you think about it, is a clever way to promote environmental awareness.
They are pretty lowkey with traditional marketing tactics and instead, use their products and social media to advocate for a more equitable and sustainable world. You can find posts on topics like Black Lives Matter and safer gun laws on their Instagram page.
So, what does the future of ethical marketing look like? We believe it’s about continuing education, campaigning and activism. It’s about helping consumers make better choices about the products they buy and the stores they frequent.
It’s about changing the way we think about how goods are provided, the people who make and sell the things we buy every day, and the communities that rely on fair trade to survive. And it’s about cultivating brand loyalty by aligning your organisational values with those of your ideal customers. Are you ready to join us in creating a more sustainable future for all?
If you want a marketing project that is ethical and environmentally conscious while being mindful of how your brand is being portrayed, contact our team today!