What is ethical marketing?

‘Ethical’ is one of those words – like ‘purpose’ or ‘eco’ – that just keeps popping up. Ethical products, ethical services, ethical companies… In the 21st century, ethical is good, ethical is popular. But what does it mean?

In recent years, we’ve seen a huge growth in ‘ethical’ brands: goods and services that are sustainable, or ‘green’, or give back to the community in some way, and so on. Unsurprising then that a 2021 Deloitte survey into sustainability and consumer behaviour found 32% of consumers highly engaged with adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.

One question I often wonder is, the product might be ethical but what about how it’s sold? Is the marketing ethical? You’d hope so, wouldn’t you? But before we delve into ethical marketing practices, we need to define what ethical marketing is. And that’s what I want to cover in this first post…

Defining ethical marketing

Ethical marketing is not about what you sell, it’s about how you sell it.

Ethical Marketing is choosing to market in a truthful, transparent way that builds trust.

Your marketing is ethical when you talk about your work and attract clients to your business without using psychological tactics, tricks, pressure, fear or deception.

I say “choosing” deliberately because ethical marketing is a choice.

Standard, well-worn marketing practices such as charm pricing, time-limited offers, manipulative wording, and glamorous associations are not ethical. They might sometimes get results, but not ethically.

If you’ve ever felt that something isn’t right with the marketing practices you’ve experienced or been recommended to use, I offer this blog, podcast and book for your consideration.

So, ethical marketing is a choice. A choice to refuse the current normalised marketing behaviours and tactics and instead engage with potential clients based on shared values of openness and honesty.

What’s wrong with ‘regular’ marketing?

The psychological manipulation prevalent in marketing and advertising is often believed to be the only, or best, way to ‘sell what you do’. This in turn supports and feeds a system of overconsumption, oppression and inequality.

Many unethical marketing behaviours have been normalised and accepted by consumers. I want to be part of the conversation, and movement, that begins to question so-called ‘best practice’ and accepted wisdom.

I don’t claim that I (or my book) will ‘solve’ these problems. My aim is to present an alternative way of ‘selling what you do’ in the hope that by implementing some of the ideas you can find your own solutions to these problems, and make a difference in the world.

Be a part of the ethical revolution

A change is coming in marketing and advertising. Purchases are increasingly values-based as consumers become more aware of the ethical status of the brands they choose to buy. Slowly but surely, the mass surveillance advertising age is ending and the ethics of brands and how they are marketed is a critical factor.

Many larger companies, and even most small businesses, are cautious – adopting a wait and see strategy before they get behind the ethical marketing wave.

For personal brands and solopreneurs, the opportunity is different: you can be right at the front of the wave. You can move quickly, flexibly, and make decisions faster about your marketing. You don’t have a marketing or sales department to convince and educate – you can make the change you want to see.

After almost 20 years of working in marketing, I believe marketing can (and should!) be both effective and ethical.

This is why I have decided to write a book, and create this blog and podcast to offer my perspective, insight and hopefully inspire change in as many people as possible.

At this point, you might have questions like: Does it work? Can marketing really be ethical? Why does being ethical matter?

Don’t worry, these are all answered in upcoming blog posts and sections of the book.

How can I do ethical marketing?

A great place to start is to look at your marketing and simply ask – is this truthful, transparent and, from your customer’s point of view, why should they trust you?

If you’re still here, you’re probably wondering how you can find out more about ethical marketing.

The good news is that the book I am writing will answer your questions.

The bad news is that I’ve just started writing it. But… much of the material will be available first through this blog. You’re in the right place.

In the meantime, join the email list to receive updates about the book as well as future blog posts like this one. You can also listen to my podcast and check out the videos on YouTube.

And finally (for now), ethical marketing is a movement. It’s about people choosing to do things differently, and better. If you know someone who might be interested in this blog or book, please do share this with them. Like any change in the world, it’s easier together.