Did you know that 62 per cent of consumers say that ethics are an important influence on their spending? The majority of people want their purchases to make a difference — or, at the very least, do no harm.
Navigating these consumer desires in marketing isn’t always straightforward. While it may be simple to ensure your business isn’t engaged in shady practices, maintaining transparency while avoiding suspect claims isn’t always as easy as it seems.
For a transparent and ethical approach to marketing, you’ll need to focus on a few powerful best practices. But implementing these practices takes commitment and understanding. Start with the reasons why transparent and ethical marketing is essential before devising ideal policies.
Why Transparent and Ethical Marketing is Important
Many marketing professionals get a bit cynical in the course of their work. They feel as if they might be able to pull the wool over their audience’s eyes, getting away with misleading statements like greenwashing. But ethical, honest, and transparent marketing will always be more effective than the alternatives.
In today’s highly connected world, businesses cannot afford the damage that comes with being caught in a lie or conducting unethical business practices. In fact, consumers expect transparent and ethical marketing and will change their behaviour in many cases when a business fails to live up to its standards.
Marketing research has illustrated the importance of inclusive marketing, for instance, in revealing that 49 per cent of participants stopped buying from a brand that didn’t share their values. By failing to maintain an ethical standing, brands can experience unrecoverable damage.
To look at just one out of thousands of examples, Volkswagen landed in hot water with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission when they made unsubstantiated claims about their products. VW sold diesel vehicles claiming they were cleaner for the environment. Meanwhile, the company had simply fitted these vehicles with illegal emissions defeat devices.
Volkswagen has settled in U.S. courts alone for more than $20 billion as a result, illustrating precisely why it is essential to stay transparent and ethical in marketing.
If VW hadn’t attempted to deceive its customers, it wouldn’t be out billions in legal fees. Businesses can experience all sorts of similar financial and even safety risks with deceptive marketing.
Fortunately, implementing more ethical marketing campaigns is just a few best practices away.
Tips for Implementing More Ethical Marketing Practices
Honesty really is the best policy, in business and life.
By building more honest and transparent practices within your marketing department, you give your business a few invaluable benefits that can serve as a competitive edge. These benefits include
- A trustworthy business reputation
- A loyal customer base
- A reduction in liability costs and damages
This is because customers truly care when a business reflects its values or, at the bare minimum, refuses to harm people or environments while seeking a profit.
To best ensure that your marketing remains transparent and ethical, there are a few steps you can take. These include
1. Putting your customers first.
Most importantly, marketing professionals are best served by putting their customers first. In doing so, you’ll better maintain the transparency and ethics of your campaigns.
A customer-first marketing approach is an empathetic one. It means framing every decision as it might affect the target customer. What does that customer want to know? What do they want from a product or service like yours?
By exploring these questions from the customer’s perspective, you can answer marketing questions in a way that’s best suited to their particular needs.
From here, every marketing decision can be evaluated through the golden rule of treating others as you would like to be treated. Is the marketing practice your considering one you would be okay with as a consumer? If the answer is no, you’ll need to make a different choice.
Every customer wants ethics and transparency from the businesses they deal with. By providing these features, you transform your business for the better.
2. Making transparency a core value of your company.
Transparency is a quality of good communication and it requires honesty. But this doesn’t mean a free-for-all of information. Transparency instead means providing customers with evidence for claims made in your marketing campaigns.
You don’t have to scientifically cite sources in every ad, but having access to white papers, testimonials, and more on an accessible platform can all support customer success. In turn, you’ll build a reputation for transparency.
Make transparency a core value of your company as you develop marketing campaigns. This means viewing every marketing decision through a lens of transparency before finalizing it.
3. Maintaining an inclusive working environment.
Without an inclusive working environment, however, your marketing efforts will be vulnerable to blind spots. Various cultures have different expectations both of marketing content and of workplace interactions. Inclusivity is about incorporating these differences to form greater awareness.
In marketing, this awareness is invaluable. It means understanding your audience with greater clarity and empathy. From here, you can better personalize marketing content to target demographics while genuinely providing them with a valuable product or service.
Inclusivity starts with an early commitment to empathy in the workplace. Make social intelligence another core company value, and gauge both internal and external marketing decisions based on how well they incorporate real human experiences.
4. Avoid misinformation and greenwashing.
Then, do your best to avoid misinformation. Cause marketing is becoming increasingly popular due to the relevance it has in all our lives. We all have a cause we’re passionate about, and marketing can tap into that passion effectively — when done genuinely.
However, some companies don’t take the extra step of verifying claims before they include them in marketing. In Volkswagen’s case, these were fraudulent claims of “clean diesel” in vehicles that utilized no such thing.
In your marketing efforts, learn how to spot and avoid misinformation using many of the same tips that are helpful when browsing the web. These tips include:
- Maintaining a sense of scepticism about new information
- Checking the source, data, and author of new information
- Fact-checking information against other sources
5. Prioritizing data integrity.
As you avoid misleading your prospective customers, build policies for protecting their data, as well. One survey found that 70 per cent of consumers would stop doing business with a company if it suffered a data breach.
And yet, these breaches have only become more common as the pandemic kicked off a deluge in cybercrime. Marketers must be careful with how they store and use data.
If you aren’t already, consider adopting GDPR standards for data integrity. While only enforced in the EU, these standards provide a solid baseline for keeping data safe from cybercriminals.
From here, inform your users directly of what data will be collected and how it will be used. Transparency of data — or, even better, customer control of their data — will be a big selling point in 2022 and beyond. Just look at the stage presence of “privacy” at Apple’s WWDC 21 event.
Transforming Your Business for the Better
Oftentimes, you don’t think of ethics first when you think of good business practices. However, ethics and transparency are key to maintaining customer loyalty in a highly competitive global economy. You can provide plenty of value to customers simply by not harming the environment.
However, your use of ethics and transparency in marketing will only be as effective as it is consistent. An ethical slip-up can damage your business to the tune of more than $20 billion — as was the case with Volkswagen.
So if your social media strategies aren’t working, don’t turn to misformation. Instead, implement these tips in your marketing practices and apply transparency and ethics to every decision. As a result, you’ll build customer loyalty and satisfaction like never before.
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Ainsley Lawrence is a writer who loves to talk about good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. She is frequently lost in a good book.