Consumers today are more discerning and mindful than they once were. As such, they are more knowledgeable about and pay closer attention to the brands they engage with.
Ethical marketing has the biggest effect on consumers, as they seek brands that have strong values and care about more than just making a sale. Not only that, but consumers want to engage with companies that are transparent and honest about who they are because it feels more authentic and relatable.
This means brands need to adopt ethical core values. Beyond that, they also need to live out those values and fully integrate them into their marketing strategies to have the most success. It's one thing to have values, but it's another to put those values into practice for consumers to see.
This article will define ethical marketing and explore how it's affected by core values, which values matter most to consumers and how brands can define those principles and put them into practice to improve their overall marketing strategy and brand image.
What is ethical marketing?
Ethical marketing emphasizes a brand's trustworthiness, transparency, and its social and environmental responsibilities. This means using honest, inclusive, culturally sensitive and sustainable practices.
Of course, the end goal is still to make money, but with ethical marketing, sales naturally tend to increase due to a brand's core values, which improve its reputation. If consumers see you as a genuine and honest company that is doing good, they will happily support you and buy your products without you needing to force "pitchy" marketing down their throats.
You still need a solid marketing strategy as an ethical brand, but when you have quality core values that drive your practices, your marketing will likely take that shape naturally. This is because brands that understand the importance of social and environmental responsibility know their job is to do more than sell products -- it's to make a difference in people's lives and have a positive effect on the planet.
Core values that matter to today's consumer
There are many values that today's generation of consumers find important, and sustainability is at the top of the list. As waste, pollution and climate change become more of a concern with each passing year, consumers are increasingly driven to "go green" and support sustainable brands. According to Simon-Kucher & Partners' Global Sustainability Study 2021, 85% of consumers have shifted toward greener purchasing practices and 50% of them rank sustainability as a primary value driver.
Next to sustainability, consumers also care about equality, diversity and inclusion. This means supporting women's and LGBTQIA+ rights, racial equality and being inclusive of all individuals, no matter their socioeconomic limitations or disabilities. Consumers want brands as diverse as they are.
Beyond that, authenticity, transparency and accountability are also highly ranked principles that consumers look for in a brand. This means not just saying your brand has good values but being honest about your practices and showing how you put those values into action.
How to define and implement core values to improve marketing
It's clear that company values are important, but how do you define those values and put them into practice?
Your core values shape your business and your brand image. They give your company meaning and purpose, making it essential to define them clearly. You can do this by sitting down with key decision-makers and asking yourselves some questions, including the following:
- What social and environmental beliefs and practices are important to you?
- What philosophies matter to you?
- How do you want your brand and what you offer to affect people and the world?
- What does your ideal workplace look like?
- What is the company culture and the overall atmosphere like? How can it improve?
- How do you think your employees deserve to be treated?
- What makes you stand out as a brand?
- What would you like to be known for?
- How are you living out these values? How can you improve?
These are just a few of the many questions you can ask to get the conversation flowing about values and how your company can put them into practice. Once you have a clearly defined set of core values, it's time to put them into action.
If sustainability is one of your values, there are many ways you can put it into practice. You can start being more mindful of the energy and resources your office consumes, use more sustainable packaging and product materials and look into building relationships with fair trade suppliers. You can also look for ways to reduce your organization's waste, which can range from composting food scraps to recycling or repurposing excess inventory.
Some brands have even started take-back programs to recycle products at the end of their lifecycle. Certain clothing companies, for instance, accept customers' old clothing purchases and either repurpose them or donate them to charity. Not only does this reduce clothing waste, but it also ensures someone else can reuse those products in the future.
Adopt whatever initiatives and practices are relevant to your organization. You can then discuss these initiatives in your marketing materials, such as your company website. That way, when customers hear you're an eco-friendly business, they can use the information you've provided to verify the truth behind that claim.
Diversity and inclusivity
If your brand values diversity and seeks to be inclusive, you can start by being more mindful of your hiring practices and supporting diversity and equality in the workplace. You can also use strategies such as social selling to convey these values to your customers.
Content and social media marketing are essential to any organization's marketing strategy. However, it's crucial to tailor that strategy to make it useful for your business. For example, a software or SaaS company should use different marketing tactics to reach their customers than a health and wellness company -- even if they are trying to convey similar messages about diversity and inclusion. Using marketing tactics that are relevant to your niche will help you engage your customers and help you better share your values with them.
Social responsibility generally means having a concern for the well-being of others or being aware of your effect on people and the world. So, if this is something your company values, you can put this into practice by implementing quality employee well-being and benefits programs.
If your marketing shows that you value all people, but you aren't actually appreciating the people who work for you, then it can make you seem like a dishonest brand that is only doing things for show. But if you offer good benefits packages and well-being programs that show you genuinely care about your employees, it can convey to the rest of the world, as well as your consumers, that you believe people matter and are doing your part to have a positive effect.
When you think about it, the most effective marketing tells a story, and the most impactful stories are based on truth. If you want your marketing to be genuine and ethical, it needs to be driven by core values that your brand puts into practice every day. Don't just show your customers what they want to see. Be the brand they want to support by putting those ethical values into practice.
About the author
Luke Smith is a researcher turned writer and blogger. With a background in science and marketing, Luke brings his expertise and enthusiasm to his work, and hopes to share genuinely helpful information with those in the world of tech, business and marketing. When he isn't writing, you can find Luke taking photographs, traveling or learning about the latest tech.