How to establish good marketing ethics for your business

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Promoting your product or service in a fair and honest way is something most marketing professionals aim for. There are less honest ways of attracting customers, which can result in short term success, but most marketers strive to follow certain standards. Unscrupulous marketing tactics can damage your long-term reputation and even drive customers away. In this article, we explore how to follow good marketing ethics and look at how to establish best practices for an ethical and successful marketing strategy.

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What is ethical marketing?

When thinking about how to apply ethics to the promotion of your brand, service or product, this means conducting your marketing in a transparent and trustworthy manner. The key is to bring integrity to your campaign. This type of marketing looks at the ethics and principles of your strategy.

Ethical marketing generally refers to making consistent decisions that follow industry standards and meet your customer's expectations. It promotes responsibility, fairness and trust and considers the environmental and social impact of your campaign. Rather than a strict list of rules, ethical marketing is a set of general guidelines which set out best practices.

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What is unethical marketing?

In contrast, unethical marketing may mislead customers or ignore the social implications for the target audience. In the worst cases, unethical marketing, such as sending spam emails, making false claims, using stereotypes or cold calling, can harm your reputation and lead to a loss of business. Marketing in an ethical way ensures your brand is honest, culturally sensitive and socially responsible.

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How to incorporate marketing ethics into your strategy

An ethical marketing strategy can help your business grow sustainably. Here are nine ways to help you develop good marketing ethics:

1. Develop transparency

Ensure your customers have the full facts about your product or service. Include key information about what it's for and how it can help your customer. If you're selling food items or beauty products, for example, provide an easy to find list of ingredients and safety warnings.

2. Comply with consumer protection laws

It's essential to comply with standards set by the government and other regulatory bodies. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations set out how to treat consumers. For example, it warns marketing companies against:

  • using deceptive or dishonest messages

  • failing to warn customers about important information

  • employing aggressive sales techniques

Additionally, it warns against comparing your product with a very different competitor's product.

3. Only use honest advertising

It is never a good idea to use misleading advertising. Dishonest advertising can result in customers losing money. For example, if you say a skincare product makes you look younger, without any scientific evidence to support it, this is misleading to customers.

4. Keep consumer data and privacy safe

Protect any data your business stores that may identify an individual. The law protects customers' personal data usage. Emphasise your company's policy about maintaining consumer privacy and keep key information such as customer names and addresses, transactions, payment details or personal information such as health records, safe. A good data protection policy helps avoid fraud or possible identity theft.

5. Think about sustainability

Consumers look for products that commit to sustainable production. It's important to make your sustainable credentials public. Consumers increasingly opt for products that avoid unnecessary environmental harm. They look for ethical and green products. Ensure that you're honest about how you make your products, including your supply chain and any steps you take to reduce your environmental impact. Include honest Information on your packaging about where your products come from, plus any details you have about whether a customer can recycle the packaging.

6. Listen to consumer feedback

Always listen to your customers and address any concerns they may have about your products or services. Investigate any complaints and think about how you can improve your marketing to reduce misconceptions. Safety concerns should be a priority for any organisation.

7. Minimise risks

The focus of a strong ethical marketing strategy is to benefit as many people as possible without causing any harm. The aim is to make a positive impact. It's about minimising the risks while providing your customers with honest and safe goods and services.

8. Watch out for stereotypes

The world has moved on considerably in the last few years and it isn't acceptable to use stereotypes. For example, portraying racial stereotypes or gender roles, such as an advert showing cleaning products aimed at women. By following social developments and questioning traditional concepts, your marketing can avoid perpetuating the same set of fixed assumptions used in advertisements from the last century.

9. Be careful with emotions

Many marketers look for ways to provoke an emotional response from their customers. It's an effective marketing tool, but if you evoke negative emotions in a careless way, it can have consequences. Be careful to avoid enraging, stirring up hatred, fear or sadness because this can be exploitative.

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Why are marketing ethics important?

Ethical marketing can help businesses win their customers' loyalty. Shoppers and consumers look for brands they can trust. They go back to products and services that they know are going to work and that do what they say they're going to do.

Using ethical marketing is good for business in other ways too. This way of working can help employees feel more committed to the brand or product. A company that advocates responsible marketing can give employees a greater sense of purpose.

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What are the benefits of ethical marketing?

There are many benefits of establishing ethical marketing practices. These include:

  • Sales boost: When customers learn to trust your product, brand or service, they're more likely to become repeat customers. Ethical marketing can impact sales in the long term.

  • Reputation: Businesses that build their brand with transparent and consistent marketing are more likely to construct a positive reputation with their customers.

  • Positive customer feedback: If you describe a product in an ethical and honest way, your customers are more likely to feel satisfied and happy. This leads to better customer feedback and more positive reviews.

  • Environmental benefit: Many customers look for businesses that show a commitment to good environmental practices. Buying goods or services with a lower carbon footprint is better for customers and better for the environment. Some customers will spend more on a product if they know it is helping a good cause.

Tips for implementing ethical marketing

Here are some tips to help you align your strategy with ethical marketing:

Identify industry problems

One way of boosting your marketing campaigns is to identify issues that your customers care about and then provide answers to those problems. By helping customers contribute to causes they hold dear, you can increase customer loyalty. It may be possible to create a community of supporters who use your brand and who are passionate about the causes you are helping.

Support customers' values

You can increase sales if you demonstrate shared values with your customers. It's a good idea to conduct market research to find out about your customers' main priorities and look for ways to bring these into your strategy. By showing that your interests align, you can encourage customers to buy your products and support your initiatives.

Accept criticism

As an ethical brand, it's important to listen to your customers and respond to feedback. Allow customers to speak their minds and tell you directly what they think of your products or services. By opening up a direct channel of communication, you can gauge what they truly think of your brand and then tweak your strategies so that you improve your practices and engage more effectively with your customers.

Allow customers to make informed decisions

Empower customers to make their own choices by being transparent about a product's features and your business practices. For example, tell them how you source raw materials. Transparency helps you build trust and an honest relationship with consumers. It means the customer and the business share honest feedback together. It's essential to be upfront with customers so they have all the information they need to make an informed decision.

Work on corporate social responsibility

Ethical companies care about their communities and are willing to make positive changes. By investing in corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, you can work out ways to improve society while helping to market your brand. Ethical marketing may involve partnering with charities and non-profit organisations for mutual benefit. This can help publicise your brand and contribute something useful to society.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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