Is ethical marketing risky?

Ethical marketing has seen a big rise in popularity and effectiveness in the last five years, but consumers are now expecting more from brands in their social actions. In 2019, brands with a clear social conscience are leading the way with consumers. According to the Shelton Group, 86% of consumers want brands to take a stand on social issues. In 2018, few campaigns were more popular than Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad.

In 2019, consumers want to align themselves with brands that reflect their own ethics and principles. The challenge with ethical marketing is that consumers expect action and not just words and pretty pictures. While consumers sometimes feel powerless to implement social change on a large scale, they know that corporations often have the financial and political clout to influence change.

For example, Starbucks closed 8,000 stores for racial bias training (internal influence), while Patagonia sued the US government in a bid to protect Bears Ears National Monument and coordinated the fight to protect this public land (external influence).

Ethical marketing is far from traditional marketing and it may seem risky. It takes visionary internal leadership to define a company’s moral values and to make them integral to a company’s ethos. It requires close collaboration between operations, public relations and marketing.

But when it’s done right, ethical and social marketing brings to light the core values of a company, and in doing so has a far deeper and longer lasting impact than a traditional ad campaign. It’s not about a product; it’s about a way of living.

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