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What is Ethical Marketing and How Does it Apply to Businesses?

Personal ethics are as unique to us as the clothes we wear, although the general population agrees there are common ethical behaviours everyone should abide by. Thankfully, we’re not going down that path of navigating our moral compasses but will be discussing the ethics that should be used in marketing. And these we can comfortably say should be reciprocated by every marketer on the planet.

What is ethical marketing?

To market your business ethically means to observe honest, responsible, and transparent practices. This can be fairly subjective as every company operates differently. As a general rule of thumb, your business should be engaging in ethical practices that don’t mislead people, misinform, or abuse policies.

The risks of unethical marketing are just too great and by disregarding these principles, you could be putting your business in jeopardy. It’s not worth tarnishing your brand just because you really want to claim that your product can save lives or stop global warming. We all want to do good but we have to be honest with what our products/services CAN and CAN’T do.

Why is ethical marketing important?

People invest in people. And what makes us unique is our characteristics, beliefs, and values. Translating those traits throughout your marketing makes your business naturally more investable. People will see the good in your brand and want to get involved.

A business that exercises ethical marketing is not just more appealing to customers, but also more trustworthy, which instantly increases the potential customer lifetime value. Customers will likely invest wholeheartedly time and time again in a business they trust.

Not only this, but it also helps to boost your business reputation. You’d much rather be known for all the right reasons rather than all the wrong ones.

What are the principles of ethical marketing?


Complete transparency. Nobody wants to be misguided or to have information left out. Your product/service should list all of the ins and outs somewhere at some stage of the buying process. Whether in the product description or at the checkout stage. And don’t skip out on all-important safety and security information.

Food allergen label example

Data protection and client confidentiality

When you work with customers and partners, there is usually a lot of sensitive and confidential information that gets shared between you and them. When beginning and building on these customer relationships, your business will be holding a lot of legal responsibilities. You must ensure that you abide by legislations such as GDPRConsumer Protection, general client confidentiality practices, and NDAs.

Sustainability and bigger causes

Whilst it’s not a legal requirement for companies to invest in a sustainability program, it’s most certainly advisable. Investment in the planet has thankfully been on the up lately. So, businesses that turn their attention to making a conscious effort to assist with sustainability and giving back make a lasting impression on consumers.

If your business sells physical products or goods, you should consider your manufacturing process. How can you make it more sustainable? Are there more eco-friendly swaps you can make for packaging and item sourcing? Even if you don’t sell a physical product and instead provide digital services, you can still pledge to help the planet by initiating a tree-planting scheme or donating to charities.

To get started, take a look at B Corp and how to begin making more conscious efforts with your business.


Don’t try to stretch the truth of your product and what it can do for your customers. Keep your marketing within the realms of truthfulness and honesty. We would all love a magic cream that completely cures spots and blemishes or a coffee that keeps us laser-focused for all 8 hours of the day. Don’t make these false claims and keep your marketing honest.

With this being said, there is definitely a bit of a rocky line between slight exaggeration and complete fabrication. Brands do have a tendency to puff information, but if done in a harmless way, this isn’t an issue. The problem comes when there is no degree of evidence to back up a claim.

How to avoid unethical marketing

Sidestep stereotypes

As marketers and business owners, there is an intense amount of responsibility that we uphold and one of these responsibilities is to make sure that we don’t perpetuate stereotypes within advertising methods. The world has moved on from outdated thought processes and beliefs regarding genders, race, religion, and so on. So it should really be a given to not include anything controversial that plays with stereotypes in marketing methods.

In an attempt to try and dismiss a massively obsolete belief that defined certain gender’s having certain roles within a household, Burger King actually tried using a stereotype to fight stereotypes. However, the roundabout attempt backfired, creating an uproar that dimmed the fast-food brand’s light.

Burger King tweets from campaign

Don’t play with emotions

A massive component of marketing is storytelling. When telling a story, you want to try and generate emotions within the reader to effectively reach them. But be careful to not tug on the heartstrings too harshly. Negative storytelling that relies on using emotions such as anger or fear can paint your business as manipulative or exploitative. Your business needs to uplift not downgrade.

Keep Your Competitors Names Out of It

You need to know your competitors to understand where you stand within the industry and to pinpoint how you differentiate from them. This is what will define your unique selling point. However, when marketing your business, absolutely do not make direct comparisons between you and them. Your competition is competition but they deserve a fair chance too.

It’s a process that takes time to perfect – but it’s worth it

And that’s how you market ethically folks. It’s not an easy path and will take some trial and error to get right but if you dedicate the time and effort to work on your business’ marketing, you’ll feel the impact for years to come. By committing to ethical marketing and nurturing the relationship you have with your clients, not only will you strengthen your business reputation but more importantly, you’ll strengthen customer loyalty. And that’s what counts most in the world of business. Never lose sight of what matters most to your business: people.

If you want your business to be more customer-oriented and to focus on nurturing those client relationships, get in touch today to speak with a member of the Milk & Tweed Marketing team.

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