Ethical Marketing Strategies
Bringing business values to marketing actions
Plenty of people say, “I hate being marketed to” but still see marketing as a necessary evil. What if we told you that marketing can be good and honest, without bullshit claims or dodgy promotions or suspect business practices? Have you considered what marketing a company could look like if it didn’t rely on surveillance tech, third-party platforms, and the hard sell?
You don’t have to be a charity or non-profit to take an ethical stance when it comes to marketing. You can be a furniture shop or trades person or accountant and still chose to run your business in a sustainable way (like we do) that doesn’t contribute to surveillance capitalism or hyper-consumerism.
Ethical marketing strategies
There’s a noticeboard in our office that states, GOOGLE & FACEBOOK ADS ARE A TAX ON SMALL BUSINESS!
Tech companies like Google and Facebook have given SMEs the impression that if they run ads they will be successful. That’s actually not the case. In fact, recent automation changes in the Google Ads platform are taking control away from clients and making it very hard to even measure success.
By feeding the ad robots, SMEs are contributing to the commodification of audience data, diverting revenues away from legitimate publishers and towards big tech (most of Google’s revenues come from ads). Tracking ads like Google Ads also represent a massive data breach that is enabling fraud and disinformation on an unprecedented scale. Welcome to surveillance capitalism.
Lots of organisations are making money from the way things are, but not SMEs. And it’s not just ads that are problematic. If you use platforms like MailChimp to send emails, they track ‘vanity metrics’ such as opens and clicks, and your customers can’t opt out of that.
For many of us, it’s no longer good enough to hear “but your data is anonymised” because we just don’t want to be tracked at all! Meanwhile, social media is considered by many to be a public health crisis and the root of catastrophic levels of mental illness, isolation, and cognitive dysfunction.
A growing number of brands are looking for ways to be less reliant on the Big Four tech companies – Google (Alphabet), Amazon, Apple, and Facebook (Meta). Companies like Lush have closed down social media accounts, while Patagonia boycotted Facebook ads back in mid-2020. And they aren’t alone.
More and more companies – of all sizes – are choosing to use their own platforms and data to communicate with their audiences. It may sound scary, but, by taking back control and considering the ethical implications of their marketing actions, they are starting to see big rewards.
Ethical marketing is a proactive mindset where a business takes equal responsibility, alongside its customers, for the cycle of consumerism. It’s about much more than ads or social media, though.
Our approach to ethical marketing
You may have noticed the absence of a cookie pop-up on this site. We’ve been unhappy about contributing to surveillance capitalism for a while now, and so we decided to ditch services such as Google Analytics that had been running on our site since it was created. More recently, we cleared our Instagram and have more or less stopped posting updates on social media. The result? We get just as many new work enquiries and rank just as well in search engines.
This might seem like pretty bizarre behaviour for a marketing agency. But it’s all about choosing what’s right for your company. We’re not saying, “All ads are evil.” We’re simply asking, “Are behavioural Instagram ads right for this business?” We’re having conversations with clients about whether or not they NEED tracking pixels in their emails, or to sell on Amazon, or HubSpot forms on their site.
Our ethical marketing services
If all the above was news to you, let’s start with a relaxed chat about what ethical marketing means.
Ask us if you want guidance switching from a particular service you have ethical issues with.
Invest in the one marketing tactic that is proven to get long-term results without pissing people off.
If you have any kind of website, SEO will help it get found. We only practice ethical (white hat) search engine optimisation.
Unlike tracking ads, contextual ads put relevant, content-based campaigns in front of people.
We’ll help you develop an ethical marketing strategy for the whole business, based on owned channels and data.
Why should marketing be ethical?
Google and Facebook make it easy to get up and running, and accounts are free so it seems like a no-brainer to use these platforms. But remember the saying, “If you’re getting a product for free, you are the product.” Your data, and the data of your customers, is feeding the big tech monster, or Big Other.
We believe that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Ads get you website visits and candid Instas get you likes, but it’s their ability to drive the business sustainably that really matters. Do they do that? Taking a longer-term view will bring you a better return on investment. If you are already taking steps elsewhere in the business – such as reducing your carbon footprint, eliminating the gender pay gap, tackling racism, etc. – an ethical marketing strategy is the obvious next step.
We’re not here to push a particular agenda, but we do think the time has come to have these conversations and to own our decisions afterwards.