Jessica Lohmann brings a unique perspective to the world of ethical marketing. Although she works primarily with ethical brands her focus is deeper than this it’s about helping business think about their marketing (and advertising) in an ethical manner. In this week’s guest blog she shares her 7 ethical marketing practices for brands to think about when they’re selling their wares and marketing.
I have to say Jessica does challenge me to think about my own approaches to marketing and the things I’ve learnt from other marketeers over the past few years. The scarcity tactics in particular I find particularly difficult as it goes against the grain of everything I’ve learnt.
And yet that’s probably why it’s so powerful. Ethics should challenge us to think deeper about the way we live and approach the world and this is no different for our businesses and the practices we adopt.
Whether you agree or not with Jessica’s perspective I encourage you read this and consider the ethics of the marketing approach you take in your own enterprise.
How you market matters.
When you think of marketing, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Is it ethics? Yeah, right!
I received my degree in 1991 and have always been turned off by manipulation and sleazy marketing tactics.
Thankfully, I don’t have to use them because there is a better way!
The way you market matters, so if you want to learn about ethical marketing practices to remain in alignment with your values, read on.
The creation of a monster
Marketing is responsible for a lot of the landfill waste because it enables unnecessary consumerism.
Advertisements tell us to buy things we don’t need because it’ll improve our lives. Or we get sucked into buying the latest gadget or the cheapest shirt because we live in a society that’s never satisfied.
Since consumers want more and more and all that cheap and fast, high demands were placed on the industries.
Either that or the industries showed consumers the faster and cheaper way first and we supported it.
Because we think the next purchase will make us happy
Because we want to impress our friends and neighbours
Because we became addicted to shopping
With marketers who’ll do anything for a sale and consumers who just buy for no good reason, we created a depressed society because we’ve learned to value materialism more than anything else in this world.
We’ve learned to nurture our egos instead of our higher selves and only now have started taking the path to a more sustainable way of living.
Be it by conscious shopping, practicing minimalism, up-cycling, making our own products, etc.
Both consumers and the industries are starting to make changes to help tame this monster.
But what I’m not seeing enough of is a change in the marketing industry and so I’ve made it my mission here at Ethical Brand Marketing to help ethical brand owners and marketers create a marketing strategy that will help save our environment and many living species as well as increase revenue so that owners can thrive and become leaders to initiate change in their own industry.
Being green is no longer a USP.
Running a sustainable business is not easy. Not only do you have to ethically source your materials or ingredients and make sure your entire supply chain is sustainable, you have to compete with the many other green players on the field.
You have to market in a crowded space.
Since awareness is rising, small, ethical businesses are popping up like weeds all over the place. Only thing, they’re not weeds, they’re valuable assets to our society and are showing the bigger brands a thing or two about how to run a sustainable business which is a good thing.
But, this makes it even more difficult for you to get your message out.
Here’s where an impactful Ethical Marketing Strategy can help.
If you create a strategy that nurtures human connection, collaboration and transparency to promote your products or services, you’ll be able to build up your business so that you can thrive and feel good about it in the process.
Seven ethical marketing practices to implement in your marketing strategy:
1. Use a rounded pricing structure.
Ever wonder why prices are so odd? 3,97 – 249 - 999?
It’s pure psychology.
Since we read from left to right, if the number on the far left is lower, it’ll make consumers feel like they’re getting a bargain.
As an active member of the ethical move., I encourage businesses to take the Pricing Pledge. It’s an easy initial step to show you don’t want to manipulate your customers.
2. Be honest and transparent.
This may seem obvious, but I still don’t see enough of it.
It’s one thing to say “We donate 5% to various charities” and another to say “For every pound you spend, we fund 5 days of rabies vaccinations for street dogs in Nepal through our membership with B1G1 and their partnership with the Himalayan Animal Treatment Centre UK. For more details, click here.”
Sure, it takes longer to write and read, but it’s crystal clear and if people want more information, they can get it.
If you stick with the 1st option and don’t explain what 5% means (of sales or profit?) or what charities you partner with (does your money really go where it’s needed?), customers will not feel motivated to contribute to your cause since they won’t know who they’re supporting.
Or, if you have a sustainable fashion label, you could show your entire supply chain via video, for example:
Show where and how your organic hemp, linen or cotton is grown and harvested.
Show the workers spinning the clumps of materials into threads.
Show the seamstress performing her magic.
Show how the final product gets shipped to the customers, etc.
In business, there should be no dirty secrets. We all know they exist in every industry, but if you’re an ethical brand and have a clean supply chain, be proud and let people know.
You have an incredible advantage here, so don’t be afraid to show this off as a USP.
3. Encourage abundance and patience.
“Only 2 spots left!!
“If you buy this product, you’ll feel more confident on your next first date!”
“Quick, time is running out! This is the 1st of 15 e-mails you’ll get over the next 5 days to pressure you to buy!”
OK, that last one was a bit exaggerated, but have you unsubscribed because you received too many mails during someone else’s launch? Yeah, me too. It’s pressure and just feels gross, doesn’t it?
These are so-called scarcity and urgency tactics and are widely used in marketing. They encourage people to develop a fear of missing out (FOMO).
What comes after successful FOMO tactics?
Purchases that no one needs.
Purchases that make people feel dissatisfied a few weeks after receiving the package.
Purchases that increase our landfill and further destroy our environment.
Purchases that drive living species into extinction.
So, while they can be successful, they’re damaging and this is not the right tactic to use when selling ethical products or services.
If you really do only have 2 spots left, fine. If you honestly have to sell by a certain deadline, OK. There’s nothing wrong with that, but, it’s the way you communicate it that doesn’t have to invoke fear or pressure.
If you’ve already established a trusting relationship with your customers, they’ll continue to buy from you as long as you show the value of your offer.
4. Build trusting collaborations.
Collaboration is the new competition. Since your competition in this ethical space often has the same goal and mission as you, you have the wonderful opportunity to collaborate.
For instance, if you own a sustainable fashion brand, you could organize a fashion show together.
You could purchase your materials or ingredients in bulk to get a better price.
You could organize a mastermind group to help each other out.
There are so many ways to collaborate with no need to ‘beat your competition’ as you’re in this together and there’s room enough for all of you.
5. Concentrate on your own customers.
When I was working in the corporate world, one of the companies I worked for was highly stressed about our competition.
I didn’t feel the need to concentrate on them as much though.
Instead of wasting time analyzing your competitor’s every move, spend your time and energy wisely on nurturing your own customers.
It costs more money to gain new customers as it does to keep existing customers, so please value your own customers and don’t worry about someone else’s.
6.. Be social.
Social media is a great way to connect with others.
We came in contact with old high school friends and work colleagues.
We ‘met’ people on other sides of the planet who we’d have never been able to meet if it weren’t for this development.
The down side? It’s also become THE place for trolls, fake news and battles. And sleazy marketers.
It’s not enough to have your data sold to huge businesses who know your every move, brands can now invade your message space with bots who act like they want to collaborate.
But this is not real. These brands don’t care about you. They just want your money.
Especially those who follow you on Instagram only to get your follow so that they can turn around and unfollow you again.
This is not the social media world I want to be a part of, so I’m very careful with my accounts and how I follow and interact because I want to have real conversations with real humans.
Social media is at the top of the funnel in my strategy. It’s where I meet and start to get to know my potential clients.
I want to learn from them and I want to teach them about ethical marketing strategies and conscious living.
Your customers are the same way. They don’t want to be sold to the first time they see you. They may like and comment about your recycled silver bracelet, but they need to get to know you more before they buy from you.
It’s best to nurture your customers on social media, not hard sell them on every post.
The rule is to sell 20% of the time and provide information the rest of the 80%. Information could be anything from entertainment, highlighting your workers, talking about your supply chain or a new ingredient you’re exploring, talking about what Sustainable Development Goals you’re trying to reach, etc.
Let’s put the social back in social media and nurture these valuable connections.
7. Close the sale ethically.
I'll be the first to admit, selling is not easy. Especially if you don't like to do it and have a lot of competition.
You're in business to make money and a more positive impact in this world, so you have no choice. You have to market and sell.
And since customers only buy when the perceived value far exceeds the price, you're faced with the challenges of finding the right customers and justifying a high production cost if you're product-based or proving your expertise without a full guarantee if you're service-based.
You can overcome these challenges by helping your potential customers make the right decision.
Maybe this means NOT hiring or buying from you because if the wrong person buys from you, they may be unhappy and write a bad review.
Being honest (#2) really is the best policy for your business.
To help your potential customers to make the right decision, you’ll need to communicate with your customers.
Once you have enough information from the, you can create an incredible offer that will appeal to them. Without the pressure or sleaze.
Let’s make marketing ethical.
If you implement these seven practices in your Ethical Marketing Strategy, you’ll not only feel good about marketing and selling, you’ll also inspire consumers to shop consciously which will help protect our environment as well as form a mentally and physically healthier and happier society as a whole.
Jessica Lohmann envisions a world of healthy choices and opportunities for all humans and animals. A world without child labour, sweatshops, animal abuse and testing, pesticides, GMOs, plastic, unnecessary waste and harmful chemicals on the foods, clothes, cosmetics, meds and other products we consume. And a world free of war and poverty.