Ethical marketing strategy: here is a triptych of words which, at first glance, seem contradictory!
Well, no, not at all! Nowadays, if the notion of merchandising seems opposed to that of ethics, it is mainly because the image of marketing has been somewhat tarnished in recent decades. Faced with aggressive advertising and the use of means that are not always ethical, consumers have become suspicious and are now asking themselves a number of questions directly related to their values. Since the arrival of new societal challenges, such as ecological transition and sustainable development, its purchasing behavior has evolved. However, ethical marketing is not an absolute truth. It is a cost-effective corporate response to the growing demand for authenticity. Also called responsible marketing, it differs from conventional in the sense that it incorporates moral criteria at the very heart of its techniques.
What criteria? How are they associated with marketing? What request are they responding to? Why? So many questions that lead to a closer look at what an ethical marketing strategy really is. We will see that it revolves around the 3 meanings of the term “convert”: believing and rallying, transforming, gaining value. Follow the leader!
The company’s commitment, the preamble of any ethical marketing strategy
Ethical marketing is not an exact science, because it is based on the notion of values. Any bioethical marketing approach is only effective if the company’s commitment is the source. You have to believe to rally.
In the beginning are the values
In philosophy and in religion, this concept is defined by “what makes a person worthy of esteem”. Suffice to say that in terms of accuracy, we are far from the mark! In sociology, it is clarified: “perceptions that an individual shares with the members of his socio-cultural group”. Currently, these concerns revolve around social, societal, humanistic, environmental, health, well-being, etc. issues.
In commerce, the company’s involvement in the upkeep and sharing of these values is necessary for good customer acceptance. The commercial establishment must therefore no longer simply position its offer, it must convey its commitment. With this in mind, it is essential for it to take care of its CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policy, which includes 7 essential questions:
- governance of the organization;
- human rights;
- labor relations and conditions;
- the environment;
- fair practices;
- consumer and community consideration;
- local development.
The more the CSR action plan is consistent with the overall marketing strategy, the more the company rallies its ecosystem to its eco-responsible approach.
Honoring sustainable development
What is the central idea of sustainable development (SD)? It is delicate: every human society must live by meeting its needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. SD therefore encompasses the 3 pillars of economy, environment and society. It sets a framework for:
- sustainability of the planet (sustainable and sustainable);
- natural resource management (sustainable);
- acceptable (loveable) living environment;
- respect for human rights (equitable).
In this sense, it takes precedence over other ecological and societal values. Acting for sustainable development is a vehicle for the future in general.
The “consummator” you will not deceive
More aware, instantly thanks to the Web, today’s consumer reinvests his purchasing behavior. He aspires that each of his transactions reflect his desire to exist in society:
- he is one of the main actors;
- it distributes wealth;
- he is in solidarity with a community;
- it works in favor of the environment;
- he rejects hyper consumption.
He therefore becomes a “conformateur”, star target of digital marketing, pampered by the copywriter and storyteller. Approaching him transparently is the only way to convert him. But how concretely?
Convert by making the marketing mix more sustainable
Even if the scope of the mix has recently widened (7P, 10P…), a sustainable strategy focuses mainly on the 4Ps: Product, Price, Promotion, Place (Product, Price, Distribution, Communication).
Integrate authenticity into the product
How to recognize a product that is truly imbued with eco-responsibility? 3 mentions are worth gold for the committed buyer:
- The European Ecolabel, which indicates the presence of ecological materials;
- The indicator of origin, the famous “Made In”, which reassures on the optimization of transport;
- The “Fairtrade” stamp, which guarantees that the product comes from fair trade.
Restore its true exchange value to the price
Rallying the customer to an honest commercial policy also involves the need for transparency in terms of price: Which stakeholders, what added value does he remunerate? A fair price is a clearly detailed price. It covers not only production costs, but also any additional costs related to decent working conditions, or the use of organic raw materials. At the company level, it can be offset by a more direct distribution system. At the buyer level, less compulsive consumption counterbalances it.
Awareness of these new social issues requires the company to position itself by sometimes revising its distribution system or take the help of Social media professionals like Tiktok verification agency. It then integrates the circular and collaborative economy into direct sales models, or fair-trade circuits. We will see, in the examples, that the distribution method is a major asset in the relationship of trust between producer and consumer. The supplier can gain valuable points in terms of transport, income, communication and competition.
Communicate: beware of greenwashing
What could be simpler than communicating about quality? When the CSR approach is inscribed in its DNA, the company has no trouble promoting its brand. Especially since it thus offers itself an undeniable competitive advantage. However, beware! The public’s growing interest in respecting nature sometimes leads some companies to err in a misleading communication policy: greenwashing. That is to say that they use the ecological argument only to restore, or worse, whiten their image.
Implementing a real ethical marketing strategy does not only amount to washing the brain of the prospect with ecological laundry! The ARPP (Professional Advertising Regulatory Authority) is watching over this and the ADEME (Environment and Energy Management Agency) has published an anti-greenwashing guide.
Convert to gain value: 3 examples of responsible marketing that work
In a desire to rebuild itself more authentically, the company can go through the implementation of new business models.
1. Eco-design: “You will be part of sustainability”
Eco-design consists of manufacturing a product with little impact on the environment throughout its lifespan. For this, its life cycle is analyzed and optimized according to the specifications established by the Ecolabel:
- during its design (choice of materials);
- during its manufacture (choice of processes, packaging);
- during its distribution (transport);
- during its consumption (mode of use);
- after its consumption (recycling, recovery, etc.).
This is the example of the reusable water bottle, household appliances labeled “A, B, C…”, labeled detergents and cosmetics, etc.
2. Direct-to-consumer: “The more credible you will become”
In this case, the manufacturer ensures himself, directly, the distribution of his products. That allows him:
- to reduce all unnecessary transport (ecological gain);
- to know your target better;
- to improve its margins;
- to make its product and its communication more credible.
Widely adopted today, direct selling creates a relationship of trust between the consumer and the producer. We find perfect demonstrations of this on the markets, but also in door-to-door sales, designer workshops or farm shops.
3. Functionality economy: “Your added value will be your Holy Grail”
The functional economy is an innovative global solution which no longer bases the notion of sale on the simple transfer of ownership, but on the enjoyment of the use of the good. A clear example? Instead of selling a washing machine, a supplier can offer a washing service. The latter includes the provision of the washing machine, the supply of detergents, the maintenance of the appliance, the payment of the costs of water and electricity consumption, etc.
This solution reconciles ecological and economic interest by fighting against planned obsolescence, by adapting to the real needs of the consumer, in the face of soaring energy prices.
For the supplier, the advantages are:
- better smooth its income;
- stand out from competitors;
- retain its customers.
The interest in sustainable development is a reality that will grow stronger, as it concerns more and more “consummators”. Converting them, challenging them, developing their demand for a more responsible offer that meets societal challenges, these are the main objectives of a good ethical marketing strategy. It can easily be perceived as an opportunity for innovation and differentiation, because it restores trust with its target. It highlights products of equivalent or even superior quality to the traditional ones and thus renews the company’s image. Responsible marketing is proactive marketing. It creates value for the brand and all stakeholders: real marketing for the future!