Ethical marketing: Where words empower, not entrap

freelance writer 50 1

Ethical marketing is quite a subjective topic. When it comes to ethics in general there is sweeping variation in what is considered moral.

Can selling to people ever really be ethical?

It’s a very debatable topic with many opinions, but the basis of ethical marketing lays in two arenas

  1. The way a product/service is marketed
  2. The social, environmental impacts of a product or service

In this blog, I am focusing on ethical messaging and sales vs manipulative/exploitative sales. 

So let’s get stuck in!

Ethical Marketing vs Manipulative Marketing

When you look to improve your marketing, you are essentially looking at how best to reach, inspire and motivate an audience. 

But the ways in which this is achieved can vary considerably. 

If you’ve ever felt like you have an icky relationship with sales, this could be why 👇

  • Exploitative sales techniques
  • Manipulative tactics
  • Embellished benefits or results
  • Unfulfilled promises
  • Pushy sales tactics 
  • False scarcity 

For me, ethical marketing is 

  • Honest
  • Transparent
  • Without pressure
  • Moral 
  • Empathetic

We don’t want to coerce people into buying things they don’t really need. We want to empower and motivate people who our products or services can truly help. Our messaging exists to enable them to understand what’s on offer and how it could help them. 

Honestly. Transparently. And without manipulating their emotions.

Is using people’s pain points or struggles in marketing ethical?

In the marketing world, we talk a lot about identifying your audiences struggles, problems or pain points, so that you can address them in your marketing. 

Now, for me, it’s what you do next with that information that can either lead you down an ethical marketing route or an exploitative, manipulative marketing trail. And it can be a fine line to tread. 

If you use your audiences pain points to help them identify whether they’ve landed in the right place to solve them, that’s helpful. But you must do so with empathy and understanding. 

If however, you use this to trigger feelings of despair, desperation, shock or to manipulate, that’s a different ballgame entirely. If you’re exploiting someone’s pain to gain a sale, that’s unethical. 

Exploitation is the act of selfishly taking advantage of someone or a group of people in order to profit from them or otherwise benefit oneself.

Empathy is the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation

Cambridge Dictionary

It’s subtle perhaps in action, and perhaps even subjective, but it’s something we all need to be conscious of both as consumers and businesses. 

Shame Language

Use of language that suggests somebody is inferior, unknowing, or making bad decisions is unethical in my opinion. We shouldn’t rely on making someone feel rubbish about themselves to convince them about anything. 

Your potential clients should be met with words and information that empower them to make informed decisions. We need to communicate the value, the purpose and the benefits of our offers. But once that’s done, those decisions are theirs to make. 

We do not need to shame people into buying. Or manipulate them into thinking if they don’t buy, they’ll be ‘less than.’

For me, the key here is to clearly communicate your offers so that people can clearly decide if what you’re offering is for them, or not. 

Marketing with clarity

Marketing in good conscience is to help people who need us, to find us. 

And that means being visible, being honest about how we can help, and making it easy for those people to make a decision. 

Ethical marketing is founded on honesty, transparency and clarity. 

Understanding what your audience is interested in and what they need to know to make an informed choice is a really important part of your marketing. Use it to ensure you share all the information they need, and leave manipulation at the door. 

In summary – 3 top tips for ethical marketing

  Use emotions to create connection, not exploitation

  Be honest – don’t embellish

  Use real-life results, not unsubstantiated claims

You don’t need sleazy sales tactics or dishonesty to sell your products or services. You can craft incredibly compelling messaging without resorting to marketing that’ll leave a horrid feeling in the pit of your stomach. 

How do you feel about marketing and sales?

Does it make you feel 50 shades of sleaze or are you comfortable with striking a value-based balance?!


Written by Rikki S

Hi, I'm Rikki. I'm a copywriter specialising in helping pet businesses with copy that attracts, engages, and converts.



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