The Ethics of Marketing

Mindful Marketing – Finding the Intersection of Effective Marketing and Ethical Marketing

Whether your marketing program is nascent or well-established, part of your process should always be to evaluate the social and ethical impacts of your campaigns.

You want the people on the receiving end of your marketing to become your customers and advocates. There are millions of ways to go about this. Plenty of companies have done brilliant work implementing campaigns that resonate with their target audiences and garner lots of attention.

There are also plenty of examples of ethical quagmires spawned from flawed marketing that could have been avoided with a little forethought. Some of these are high-profile and some a little more subtle, but all share the common outcome of eroding society and/or brand perceptions in some way.

Think It Through

While the idea that there’s no such thing as bad publicity may sometimes be true, it is in your best interest and the interest of your company to strongly consider the potential repercussions of any marketing ideas you may have in mind BEFORE you implement them.

On the surface, a marketing campaign that generates tons of attention for your brand may seem like a smashing success. But if that campaign marginalizes a group of people or causes feelings that don’t align with your brand’s social values, you are doing more damage than good.

Compromising your company’s values for the sake of a viral video damages your brand. The public is sensitive to authenticity and will backlash against marketing that appears to go against what they believe to be the core values of a brand.

Be Aware

This may sound like common sense, but in the race to create a splash in a crowded marketplace, it can be surprisingly easy to miss a potential faux pas.

Don’t mistake this as a push for political correctness. You want your brand to be real and conscious of the repercussions of what you say and do. But that doesn’t translate into tippy-toeing around every known and imagined social issue. However, it does pay to be aware. Reviewing your marketing in an empathetic way is important both to the success of your campaign and public opinion of your company.

Since generating positive public opinion is kind of the whole point of marketing, it makes sense to consider whether any campaign will damage this.

Mindful marketing means being empathetic. It means honestly evaluating whether any given campaign fully aligns with what your company stands for.

How to Check

The ethicality of your marketing can be evaluated by thinking through how well a campaign upholds societal values. In making these evaluations consider the following five points:¹

  • Decency
  • Fairness
  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Stewardship

Being cognizant of how your marketing may be received by different members of your target audience and by the public in general not only helps you steer clear of negative outcomes, but it also gives you the chance to reinforce the core values of your brand.

In today’s world where people can rally for or rail against anything from the comfort of their cell phone touchscreens, taking the ethical significance of your marketing into account is more important than ever.

Have a Conversation

Strive to be a brand that is aware and considerate. Don’t shy away from being a leader on social issues if they are important to your business. Taking a stand for something can be good for your soul and a boon to your brand. Just remember to stay true to your values and communicate openly and respectfully with people who may have opposing values and points of view.

Engaging in conversations arising from social issues in marketing, and doing so thoughtfully, will strengthen your brand. Marketing is no longer a one-way street. Be visible, be engaged and be responsive. Just remember to always align what you do and say with your brand values.

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