Unethical marketing practices to avoid

According to the Financial Times Lexicon, ethical marketing is ‘a process through which companies generate customer interest in products/services, build strong customer interest/relationships, and create value for all stakeholders by incorporating social and environmental considerations in products and promotions.’ Fair Trade products are an easy example of ethical marketing, whereby customers are encouraged to interact with a brand as it can be seen as a way of helping contributing to society. There are many benefits to ethical marketing; 92% of millennial consumers are more likely to buy products from ethical companies, for instance.

With that in mind, you’d be surprised at how many unethical marketing practices are widely used…so these are a few to avoid!

Misleading ads

According to ASA, ads are not supposed to be misleading – but this doesn’t mean that companies don’t still use misleading ads in their marketing, and this is undeniably unethical. If you brush over the negative side of your products and overplay the positives, you are essentially deceiving people into making uninformed decisions. This is bad for the consumer, as they are buying products or services that ultimately do not satisfy their needs, but it is also bad for you, as consumers won’t come back to your company if they feel they are being tricked by  you. Beyond being unethical, misleading ads can have huge financial repercussions; in 2010 Dannonn was  sued for its claims that its Activia yogurt products were ‘clinically’ and ‘scientifically’ proven to regulate digestion and boost immune systems, ultimately having to pay consumers up to $45 million in damages.

Objectifying women

The objectification of women in marketing is about as old as marketing itself, with many companies using sexist tropes to market themselves. Using stereotypical images of women perpetuates outdated views of women, while sexualising them can have harmful effects by normalising sexism. Yet many companies persist in objectifying women to sell their products or services, thus using women as a tool for financial gain – something we should, by now, surely have left behind! An example of the objectification of women in ads can be seen in this American Apparel ad showing a unisex shirt; you only have to see it to know that there is a clear difference in the way women and men are portrayed in ads.

Contacting people without consent

Contacting people without their consent is a definitive invasion of privacy, and should be avoided at all costs. If you do not have someone’s permission to put them on your mailing list, don’t do it! It will only put off potential consumers, and there are other, more effective ways to generate their interest in your brand!

Aiming ads at children

With a growing number of children using the Internet on a regular basis, there is a corresponding growth in the number of ads that target children. But is this ethical? Many would argue that it isn’t, as children are not mature enough to analyse the pros and cons of products or services for themselves, and are therefore more susceptible to ads’ influence than adults are.

So, these are a few practices you would be better off avoiding – and as a result you will be able to both see a financial gain and sleep at night!