What is responsible marketing?

January 2021

What is responsible or ethical marketing?

What core values should you embrace and what type of projects can marketers apply these values to? Following some difficult moments, over the last year or two, trust in advertising remains stubbornly low.

Now more than ever we need to focus on open and transparent marketing campaigns to build back trust with customers.

Here are my six pillars of responsible marketing:

1. RESPECT – put simply, your customers sit at the heart of your campaigns.  As one ICO speaker said to me at a DMA conference a few years ago “don’t piss people off”. That should be easy shouldn’t it? Ask yourself the question, how would you feel if you received the message/communication you’re planning to send out?

2. VALUE – create a credible value exchange. According to DMA research 88% of consumers believe the value exchange between consumers and corporates is skewed towards corporates. If customers receive relevant messages, they consider the value exchange is fair and will happily share their data.

3. TRUST – build trust in your campaigns. According to the Advertising Association, since 1992 consumer trust in advertising has halved to 25%. A project might involve marketing, product, compliance, risk, legal, sales, distribution teams and all of them need to put customers at the heart of their activities. In particular customers need to feel they can trust companies to do the right thing and, recently, this has been in short supply.

4. JARGON FREE – we must speak the same language. For marketers, the data privacy teams can sometimes talk gobblydegook. Article this and recital that, results in everyone else’s eyes glazing over in double quick time. And that’s just within the business. We all need to make a concerted effort to speak the customers’ language.

5. BE OPEN – openness and transparency are watchwords. Responsible brands employ responsible marketing techniques which revolve around providing a clear explanation of how data is used with clear pointers to help customers manage their data preferences. Explaining how data is going to be used and not feeling worried about how customers will react should be the norm.

6. RISK v REWARD – balance risk and reward. Only the business can really decide where this balance lies and that view needs to be shared across all teams. The compliance teams cannot own this, although they can help the business make those decisions. In the end data privacy is a business decision.

So, how can these principles translate into actions and projects? Here are just a few examples of responsible marketing projects:

  • Privacy by Design – what does this mean? If you’ve designed a new workflow or invested in some new technology, you need to consider your customer’s privacy needs from the start. You may have to evaluate the risks to understand the positive and negative impact of your decisions. You may ask your customers how they feel.
  • A brand led privacy communications campaign – have you asked your brand team to develop a clear and easy to understand privacy comms campaign? There are a few teams who have used video or graphics to bring their privacy policies to life, such as Channel 4, The Guardian, Amnesty International and the ICO themselves have materials which work hard to explain their policies clearly.
  • Data strategy –I’m not talking here about deciding what tech to buy but a clear strategy and decision about how to recruit and retain customers. Have you carried out a project in your organisation to figure out what data you really need to make a difference to sales? Have you worked through your database and minimised the volumes of data you need? Have you considered whether you need all the cookie data that is collected? A strategy based on what will make your messages relevant to your customers and prospects will almost certainly use far less data than is being collected at the moment.
  • Making data privacy part of your business culture and values – behaving ethically and treating customers well will reap huge benefits in terms of enhanced trust and increased sales.