• Kate Clarke

How ethical is your marketing?

Updated: Nov 18, 2021


Over the past few years, we’ve been heading into a new era of a new breed of consumer. The conscious consumer. Now I get your cynicism. You’re groaning as you read this. And I don’t blame you. Marketing has all kinds of fads and slogans. But the conscious consumer is NOT a fad. They have been with us for a long time.


The conscious consumer cares about how and where they spend their money. They know when they are being cynically manipulated. This means the minor psychological manipulations that have been an everyday practice for most marketers for many years are now being recognised and called out.


The conscious consumer is more aware of the greenwashing, pinkwashing, and every other way in which marketers exploit and appropriate causes to appear virtuous. It’s all just lies. The lies are now so obvious and in your face that it makes you wonder how they got away with this for so long.


What this means for brands is that manipulative practices in marketing are seen as unethical and this upward trend of the conscious consumer means that carrying on in this fashion is not sustainable for your business.


With the acceleration of the climate crisis and basically the threat to humankind being amplified, the new consumer now has a heightened awareness of the BS that they see every day.


What is ethical marketing?


Ethical marketing has been a huge thing for a long time now, but like everything else in this space I feel it’s become more mainstream in the last few years.


For me ethical marketing is about doing the right thing for the consumer. It’s about providing what they need, based on their needs, wants and desires. And it’s done without using manipulation to create a fear or a desire based on what other people think they need.


Ethical marketing is about helping the consumer make a conscious decision.


Switching to an ethical strategy could have an immediate negative effect on your bottom line, so I wouldn’t expect all businesses to do this overnight. But there are small switches we can all make to become a better business and a better human being.


There are industries out there, mainly retail, that play on the fears of others to create a want and desire that wasn’t there before through comparisonitis.


How Can I Be More Ethical with my Marketing Practices?


The best set of advice I’ve seen is from The Ethical Move. It is a movement and pledge to be better and do better in the world of marketing.


The best thing about the Ethical Move is that these pledges are easy to implement in your business.


The pledges are:


  1. Charm Pricing:

We pledge to change our pricing from charm prices (£297) to round numbers (£300).


There’s psychology at play when choosing numbers in pricing. It’s been around since the dawn of consumerism. Using £9.99 rather than £10 to make it look cheaper. More recently it’s been using the number 7 so £97 or £47 increases the conversion to buy.


But now when I see this I realise why they’ve chosen those numbers in their pricing and it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. I no longer trust the ethics and morals of that brand.


  1. Countdowns:

We pledge to not use countdown timers to drive a sale


There are times when countdowns are necessary, you might genuinely have a “doors closed policy” or an “end of line sale” that ends at a certain time. But the idea here is to not use this when it’s not authentic. Don’t create panic when it’s unnecessary.


  1. False Scarcity:

We pledge to be honest about availability.


When people say there’s only a few places left, ‘when they are gone they are gone’, a lot of the time they don’t mean it and there’s plenty of availability. Similar to number 2, if it’s genuine, then fine, if not, don’t say it. Most of the time people see through it and actually, you end up looking silly. If there are only a few spaces available then give alternatives of when there will be more availability.


  1. Lead Magnets:


We pledge to be transparent in our email list building


I’m all for lead magnets, they are a great way for a person to find out what you’re about, they get something for free, you build trust and recognition and brand awareness. However, there are lots of false promises out there. ‘Download this swipe file and never have to create another social media post again’ some of it is BS and it won’t solve all your problems. So, please be honest and transparent about what you’re giving potential leads and customers and what they’re signing up to. Make it clear that they will be added to your mailing list and make unsubscribing really easy (a thousand plagues on the houses of people make unsubscribing HARD)!


  1. Bait and Switch

We pledge to deliver the value we promise


Here’s another one I despise! When a brand lures you in with a freebie or some great value added content like a webinar or education and then it immediately turns into a sales pitch. Don’t do it people! Please, please, please! Just don’t. It annoys and creates distrust straight away. You always want to be BUILDING trust not taking a Miley Cyrus sized wrecking ball to it. Be authentic and transparent from the get go. If the free webinar is a chance to tell them about your great offer then just be clear in the sign up process. And keep the pitch to the end and keep it brief.


  1. Woke Washing:

We will not leverage or exploit social issues in our marketing


There’s so much “washing” going on these days, from greenwashing to pinkwashing. It’s dishonest and is a disservice to the causes that companies often try to attach themselves to. Don’t say you support something if somewhere along your supply or value chain it turns out you actually don’t. Walk the walk and don't just talk the talk.


  1. Secret Recipe:

We pledge to not make false promises in our sales and marketing.


Urgh, I really hate this one. How many ads do you see on Instagram or Facebook with that smug business owner claiming they have the secret recipe? This happens A LOT in social media marketing. Get to 10k followers with this “secret” or “exclusive” or “only I have the answer” solution.


I always say with any marketing there is no silver bullet, no one size fits all and absolutely no secret recipe. It creates an icky feeling of lack and failure that preys on people's fear...not cool.


So don’t call your solution a secret or say it’s the only solution.



To join the pledge visit The Ethical Move website.