A guide to ethical marketing practices

8 mins read

LAST UPDATED 6th June 2024

PUBLISHED 20th May 2024

ethical marketing tactics

We’re in a world that’s more connected than ever. We share pictures, opinions and memes. One thing we don’t often think about is potentially something we all share without realising  – data.

With so much data floating around the interweb, businesses have a greater responsibility to protect and use this information responsibly and ethically. 

So, why is it important to be ethical when it comes to digital marketing? Above all, ethical marketing practices are the building blocks for creating a trustworthy company or brand, one that people will want to invest in and work with. Shady marketing tactics = shady business, and no one wants to be involved with a shady business.

What is ethical marketing?

When referring to ethical marketing, this article is talking about honest and consumer-focused marketing tactics and practices, rather than campaigns that market a brand as ethical.

It’s the practice of promoting products or services using strategies and tactics that align with general moral standards. It involves performing marketing activities in a way that prioritises honesty, transparency, fairness, and respect for consumers, employees, communities, and the environment.

In this blog, we’ll be focusing on technical marketing tactics you can implement into your marketing strategy to ensure everything you do is ethical, as we do with our clients.

What are considered ethical marketing practices?

There are a number of ways a brand or business can be ethical, and it really isn’t that hard. At its core, it’s about maintaining integrity and respecting the consumer, their privacy and data and being honest about your products and services.

Responsibly collecting data

As marketers, we need data. We need data to help us understand who our audience is and their needs and interests; to help businesses we work with grow within their industry, and to set a benchmark for us to measure where we stand against our competitors.

However, when collecting data, it’s important to be respectful and responsible by collecting the data you need rather than all the available data. You can achieve this by giving consumers control over how much data they would like to share and being transparent about how their data will be used.

Cookie banners give users the option to accept or deny the use of cookies on their browsing session, and many businesses have expanded their cookies options to allow users to select exactly what they want to share, and what they don’t.

Many businesses also give users access to remove their cookies or change their preferences.

ethical marketing

Being GDPR compliant

GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation) is a comprehensive set of regulations that protect the privacy and data of the browsing user and came into effect in May of 2018. In simplistic terms, GDPR requires that businesses are honest, transparent and protective of their customers’ personal information, and have a procedure in place should there be a data breach.

Being GDPR compliant means to:

  • Receive explicit consent to collect and use data
  • Have a lawful basis for processing personal data
  • Notify users of personal data breaches
  • Have a privacy policy with all processes regarding personal data
  • Use technical security to protect data
  • Ensure all staff are trained on GDPR and data protection

Should you not be GDPR compliant, you could face an administrative GDPR fine of a set amount of a percentage of your company’s global turnover. So, don’t sleep on GDPR!

Giving consumers options to opt out

Much like giving browsers the option to accept or deny cookies, the same principle applies to all types of marketing communication. Where possible, give consumers the option to stop contact with your business.

Opting out should be easy. In email marketing communication, you can include a link at the bottom giving users the ability to unsubscribe, and for text communications you can set up an automation that will remove users from your data list when they text “STOP”.

Not only is opting out a part of GDPR data usage, but it will also help keep your data clean, weeding out those who aren’t interested in your product or service. This gives you accurate open rates and allows you to only engage with users who want to receive your communications.

Using honest SEO tactics

Search engines are becoming smarter and less tolerant of dishonest technical marketing tactics. Using black-hat SEO methods is not only outdated, but they’re also damaging to your reputation and SEO.

Black-hat SEO refers to using private blog networks, keyword stuffing, hiding text, cloaking and copying competitor content. How can you recognise these tactics in the real world?

  • Private blog networks are websites specifically designed to link out to other websites to help build link authority and influence an increase in rank. Using PBNs in your marketing strategy can lead to poor quality links which can drag down your own website’s rank.
  • Cloaking is a deceptive tactic where a different website is shown to the user and the search engine bots. Search engines will be offered a website version that is to their liking, and the user could be delivered a completely different website.
  • Hidden text is as it sounds – keyword-dense text hidden on the page or within the coding. Back in the 90s and 00s, websites would change the text colour to match the background, hiding the text whilst raising the keyword density across the page. This used to help, but search engines will now penalise you for using such tactics.
  • Keyword stuffing is one of the most common black-hat SEO tactics used today, and it’s not always done with intent. Keyword stuffing is overusing keywords in order to raise the keyword density on the page and increase search visibility. Keyword stuffing often leads to poorly written content that doesn’t read naturally. Here’s an example of keyword stuffing:
what is keyword stuffing

Search engines will pick up that you’re using these techniques and penalise your website.

White-hat SEO techniques are defined as search engine-approved methods that support the optimisation of your website. This includes creating helpful, consumer-focused content, earning high-quality backlinks and implementing keywords from thoughtful, focused keyword research.

Honest reviews and results

Nothing good can come from false advertising. Don’t be tempted to stretch the truth by exaggerating results, writing or editing reviews for your business to promote your own products or services, and sharing false imagery to promote your product or service.

Being dishonest to your audience destroys trust and reputation between the brand and consumer. It sets you up for failure by setting consumers’ expectations higher than what you’re able to achieve and can eventually lead to the demise of your business.

ethical marketing agency

What are the benefits of ethical marketing?

There aren’t limits to the benefits ethical marketing can have on your business and brand. By prioritising honesty and transparency, businesses build a positive brand reputation, earning the trust and loyalty of consumers which is the ultimate channel to success.

Ethical marketing practices satisfy your audience and provide a competitive advantage as consumers increasingly seek out brands that align with their values. It also fosters stronger relationships with stakeholders, mitigates risks and contributes to long-term sustainability by promoting fairness, transparency, and positive societal impact – the list doesn’t end!

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