What got us here, won’t get us there! Capitalistic, profit-only marketing is passé! If we want business to play a role in changing the world, then we also need a new way of marketing: a fair, honest, and respectful way. Some call it “responsible marketing”, others say “ethical marketing” and here we refer to it as Humane Marketing :-). No matter what you call it, it’s all about doing the right thing to leverage business for good. This article looks at what Responsible Marketing is and how you can be a Responsible Marketer too.
Responsible Marketing: Doing the Right Thing to Leverage Business for Good
Traditional Marketing is Broken: We Need Responsible Marketing
In 2015, the 4A’s, a United States-based trade organization for advertising agencies, carried out a survey with Ipsos OTX that asked people what professions they trusted the most. The results aren’t surprising: only 4 percent of Americans think the marketing industry behaves with integrity. And clients today really care about integrity! And they care about brands that act responsibly and ethically.
Here’s the deal with Today’s Conscious Client
The conscious client is smart(er) and wiser.
The internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
I don’t know about you, but when I go to the doctor these days, which doesn’t happen often (touch wood), I usually come prepared. I’ve spent at least twenty minutes Googling my symptoms, possible causes, treatments, and more. I’m really going to the doctor to get confirmation about one or the other thing I’ve found online and possibly get a prescription.
My favorite doctor is a dermatologist where you can send in a picture of your issue and he will diagnose it over the phone, letting you know if you need to come into his office or not. It’s so efficient, and I feel so much smarter and more involved.
This concept doesn’t just apply to doctors and patients. Today’s conscious client is smarter and has access to a ton of information online. He wants to do his research before making any kind of buying decision. Therefore his expectations are also higher.
The conscious client wants to be heard and seen.
Just like I don’t want to go to the doctor and be told what I have and then blindly follow the doctor’s advice, the conscious client doesn’t want to be sold to. Instead, he wants to be served, informed, and brought into a conversation.
The days of broadcasting ads are long over. The conscious client wants to feel respected, understood, and he even wants to belong to a tribe. Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, which first appeared in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation, explains the different levels of human needs. After having taken care of the psychological and safety needs, the conscious client is looking for something to identify with, something to belong to. These are the areas of love and belonging and esteem.
The conscious client wants beautiful things.
Today’s conscious client bases his decisions on facts and feelings. Yes, there needs to be value in the offer—features and benefits, as we call them in marketing lingo. But in today’s market it’s no longer enough to offer products and services that are purely functional. The conscious client is looking for moments of awe and a beautiful experience!
The conscious client wants to do good.
The top of the pyramid is self-actualization, which Maslow explains as an urge “to become the best version of oneself.”
In this era of plenty, at least in the West, we are no longer preoccupied with fulfilling our basic needs. Instead, we’re looking for meaning, even as consumers. So if we have the choice to buy from a brand or a service provider who shares and actively supports the same worldview, we happily pay more than average because it fulfills our need for our own self-actualization and helping others with theirs.
In the context of our current challenges, the conscious consumer’s desire to “do good” takes on an even greater significance. As the urgency of environmental and societal challenges becomes more apparent, people are increasingly being more selective about their buying choices and align them with their values, their high ethical standards.
So What is Responsible Marketing?
Responsible marketing to me is about:
- selling your products and offerings with integrity
- having honest intentions, truly wanting to be in service of your clients, not just manipulate them to buy
- doing the right thing when no one is looking
- realizing that marketing means power of influence, and that as a responsible marketer you ought to be using that influence responsibly and in a way that contributes to making this world a better place
- doing your own inner work, because like Raj Sisdoia, the author of Conscious Capitalism says:
“You cannot be a conscious leader without being a conscious Human Being” – Raj Sisdoia
In summary, responsible marketing is about being a good business that cares about people and the world, not just making money.
Or what we say here: Humane Marketing is for the generation that cares: for ourselves, our clients and the planet!
How to be a Responsible Marketer
So what differentiates a responsible marketer from a non-responsible marketer?
Being a responsible marketer means focusing on ethics and considering the impact of your actions. Unlike irresponsible marketers who prioritize short-term gains, responsible marketers think about the long-term effects of their strategies on people and the planet. They are open, honest and transparent in their marketing communications and stay away from deceptive and manipulative strategies that trick people into buying things they don’t need. Responsible marketers also care about the planet and future generations, using sustainable practices and promoting products that are socially and environmentally friendly. They use their influence to talk about these things. In essence, they are changemakers before they are marketers – it’s about building trust, making positive contributions, and leaving behind ethical footprints.
Being Honest and Transparent
Tell people the truth about your services and products. Don’t over promise results that you can’t guarantee such as “100M Leads” or “6-Figures overnight.” Marketing has gotten such a bad rap because of all the false promises and exaggerations. So by being very honest about your products and services and the results people can expect, you are gaining your people’s trust back.
Helping People Make Smart Choices
As I laid out above, customers today are smarter and wiser. Your job is to empower them even more, and help them make smart decisions for their current situation or challenge. Contribute to conscious consumerism by helping them define their reality, don’t just sell them stuff that doesn’t apply to their situation.
Being Kind to our Planet
Given the challenges that we’re facing today, a responsible marketer has understood that ‘business as usual’ is a thing of the past. Business has to change radically if we want to make this place livable for the next generation. Responsible marketing includes taking a stand. But it’s not just about displaying your values on your website. It’s about walking the talk as well. Learn how you can contribute depending on the nature of your business. If you’re creating products, work only with responsible suppliers and find ways to reduce carbon emissions in your supply chain. If you’re a service based online business think about the CO2 of your website (measure your website carbon here) and other information you have stored online.
Listen to this podcast episode where I talk to Tom Greenwood, founder of Wholegrain Digital, about what a Humane Web would look like.
Respecting Different People and Cultures
Responsible Marketing is inclusive marketing. It’s about crafting messages that don’t rely on stereotypes or harmful content. Instead, it’s about embracing diversity and demonstrating genuine respect for every individual. Inclusive marketing acknowledges that every person is unique and deserves to be represented with authenticity and sensitivity. This means understanding and appreciating cultural, social, and personal differences, and ensuring that your communications reflect this understanding. Responsible marketing creates a positive impact, fostering a sense of belonging for all of humanity.
Balancing Profit and Ethics
Responsible Marketing is still about selling your offerings. But it’s about selling ethically and to the right people, without forcing and manipulating, pushing to overconsumption and by being mindful of how business transactions impact our mother nature.
Responsible Marketers make money. But they have a different relationship to money and growth. They don’t see money as the end all and definition of their success, therefore they don’t market blindly in a never ending pursuit of growth. They balance profit and ethics and the money they make is ‘healthy’ money that helps them fill their own cup so that they can continue to create their life’s work and make a difference.
Measuring Responsible Marketing
The traditional marketer is obsessed with measuring, click and conversion rates. He’s looking at marketing only from the perspective of the left brain and the mind. The responsible marketer on the other hand looks at marketing as a long term investment. She sees it from the perspective of the right brain, and the heart. She trusts in the invisible, the intangible and ‘measures’ success by the quality of her relationships and the difference her work is making on a larger scheme.
Conclusion about Responsible Marketing
In conclusion, Responsible Marketing is an absolutely necessary response to a changing world. It’s a break up with the profit-first mindset, and a pivot to embracing integrity, authenticity, and ethical consciousness. As a Responsible Marketer you play a key role in this journey towards responsible marketing that’s based on truth-telling, human(e) connection, empathy and kindness and integrity!
Other Resources You Might Enjoy
Blog post: Unethical Marketing Practices
Blog post: Empathy in Marketing
Blog post: Unlocking the Power of Human Marketing
Blog post: The Humane Marketing Glossary: Humane Marketing Words we love
- Manifesto: The Humane Business Manifesto (no opt-in)
- Creed: The Humane Marketing Creed (no opt-in)
- The One-Page Marketing Plan (email opt-in)
The Humane Marketing Circle is our community of Humane Marketers.