Does ethical marketing work?

A split in the path with two directions to go

The short answer is yes. It’s still marketing. It still gets your goods, services and you out there. It just does it ethically.

Ethical marketing utilises the same underlying principles of regular marketing and advertising, but with the fear, manipulation and tricks stripped out. The massive bonus for you here is that it’s a lot more fun, easier to get working, and costs a lot less money.

It’s less soul-destroying too, when you’re not manipulating people just to make a living.

Let’s quickly remind ourselves of what ethical marketing is

  • Ethical marketing is not about what you sell, it’s about how you sell it.
  • Ethical Marketing is choosing to market in a truthful, transparent way that builds trust.

Your marketing is ethical when you talk about your work and attract clients to your business without using psychological tactics, tricks, pressure, fear or deception.

Why ethical marketing is a radical act

Why would anyone doubt that ethical marketing works? Short answer: because they’re reliant on non-ethical business practices.

The established corporations and media are just that (‘established’) because they are heavily invested in the status quo and, therefore, need to protect it.

The status quo, however, relies on the destruction of the planet and the exploitation of people to make money. That money is all-important and therefore anything that affects profit or share price is automatically seen as an excessive risk. In general, the status quo is risk-averse, unless they’re risking other people’s money, notice how when reckless bankers crash the economy, governments spare no expense in restoring it. This risk-adverse culture means very few people want to take the opportunity to change the status quo for the better, even where it has gotten us to is proven not to work.

Ethical marketing is not based in destruction, exploitation or profit at any cost. It doesn’t fit the status quo. Ethical marketing is a radical act.

Change is here

There is a lot of money tied up in the status quo. That money views any challenge to how things are as a threat.

And yet, people are challenging… The challenge says it’s possible to be profitable, environmentally friendly, and ethical at the same time. To anyone on the side of the current system, this threatens not only their profits but also their reputation, because if this new idea is right, it means they put profits before people. It’s in their interest to protect the status quo and to do so, they equate change with risk and cost.

The only way to shift the status quo is through momentum, a critical mass of people and businesses who are doing something different, something radical. Something ethical.

Whichever side of the fence you’re on, It’s easy to feel anxious about this scenario. According to Seth Godin, non-clinical anxiety is, “experiencing failure in advance.”

It can happen. It will happen. It is happening.

After 20 years (and counting) in marketing, I believe marketing can and should be both effective and ethical. Ethical marketing works not simply because it is ‘ethical’ but because the fundamentals of marketing are still being used, just in an ethical way. At the core of personal brand marketing is your Who, What and Why. Once clients understand who you work with, what you work with them on and why they can trust you to deliver it, then saying yes to working with you is an easy decision to make. It also makes it much easier for people to refer other people to you.

Back to the original question: Does ethical marketing work?


Ethical marketing means,

  • A credible and trustworthy brand
  • Customers/clients who are a good fit with your values
  • Being forward-thinking enough to challenge the status quo knowing change is coming (fast)
  • Making sales and profit, not at the expense of people or the planet

I believe that by implementing some of these ideas for effective and ethical marketing you will attract the kind of clients you really want to work with, and earn enough money to build the life and business you really want.

If this blog post has got you thinking then you might like to know I have written a book Reframing Marketing: A 3-step plan for effective and ethical marketing. It’s a practical guide to making an effective and ethical marketing plan, written for people just like you.