Why Ethics Will Play a Huge Role in Digital Marketing Post-Covid-19

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Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

The Covid-19 outbreak is a history-defining moment for the world, in much the same way as the two world wars and the Great Depression were in the 20th century.

As the world struggles to adapt to a post-Covid economy, it’s imperative that businesses find resourceful ways that not only allow them to keep going, but also to benefit society as a whole.

Ethical marketing is not a new concept, having played a part in many huge online sales campaigns up until now, but it could be time for it to take centre stage.

Here’s how a shift to a more principled digital marketing approach will prove to be an effective business strategy following the crisis.

Purpose-led strategy

The backbone to any ethical marketing drive is to develop a strong purpose-led strategy.

But first, what is a purpose-led strategy?

According to Bill Theofilou, senior managing director for Accenture Strategy, it’s based on solving a problem for a consumer, and reflecting their values and beliefs.

Developing a deep relationship with customers in this way is something that is likely to become crucial in a post-Covid society.

People will seek brands that contribute to a better world, and firms that behave ethically, like treating staff well and contributing to good causes, will resonate more. Companies who do the opposite may well suffer a grave hit to their reputation.

A shift in focus

Some of the biggest companies in the world are already leading the way. Coca Cola recently placed a huge ad in Times Square promoting social distancing, while Unilever’s Dove focused their Real Beauty campaign on the mask-marked faces of health workers under the tagline ‘Courage is Beautiful’.

It marks the start of a wider trend, which has resulted in a number of manufacturing facilities, such as distilleries, contributing protective equipment and sanitary products to frontline workers. Quite simply, the public is demanding more social awareness from companies.

Naturally, the entertainment industry is also playing a big part in this drive. Initiatives such as the Sony relief fund, which has pledged $100 million in the fight against the disease, are becoming customary among large businesses in the field.

Sporting entities are also working hard to show support in the face of the crisis. The shift away from sporting venues for the foreseeable future is on the cards, as the public remain wary of socialising in large groups – and entertainment firms are committing themselves to more ethical causes.

In the UK, the first ever virtual Grand National took place in April, raising millions for the country’s health service (NHS), and, while it’ll never replace the real thing, there’ll almost certainly be an increase in online punters in the future: as well as much-needed awareness of how important the NHS is to the country.

In other areas of the betting industry, land-based casinos are taking a hit after being forced to close temporarily. Many people find the rapidly-improving virtual equivalent almost as exciting and may stick with them after the crisis subsides.

A knock-on effect of this could be a focus on online safety when using such sites, as people search for ways to choose a reliable online casino. Sites that follow responsible gambling guidelines will be looked on more favourably than those that don’t.

It’s part of a wider trend in ethical gambling which has seen concerted efforts from countries, such as Sweden and the UK. Both countries have recently introduced tougher gambling regulation in an attempt to fight unscrupulous practices and betting addiction.

In the fashion industry, lesser-known brands have shown a charitable spirit. TOMs shoes, for example, have upscaled their buy-one-give-one campaign that has donated almost 100 pairs of million shoes to disadvantaged people. Underwear producer ThirdLove are even donating a 1,000 sets of bras to US health workers, alongside thousands of surgical masks. Both companies’ websites are dedicating their landing pages to the heroic efforts of these workers.

Digital marketers will need to adapt to the trend, as well as its resulting change in consumer behaviour, and could benefit from taking a more ethical approach as people appreciate the effort to keep them safe as they play online.

Making positive use of online media

Of course, not every business can reach out to millions of people, but even for smaller firms, it’s clear that a more ethically-driven focus is going to shape the marketing landscape for years to come.

Online advertising has had a reputation for pursuing clicks; ‘click-bait’ articles, being a prime example of this. The average person is the daily target of many online ads, something that has sacrificed building long-term trust with the customer. However, this could change.

Changing the nature of these ads, focusing on empathy and generosity, could make a huge impact. Making a donation to charity every time someone watches the ad, or buys the product, is one such way; or highlighting an important ethical issue within the ad to raise awareness.

An active social media presence is also going to prove essential. Tutorials and daily tips on topics such as ‘how to stay healthy’ are ways businesses can demonstrate that they have good intentions in mind, as well as putting an emphasis on human well-being. Companies that do this are more likely to build their reputation and perform well.

An eye on a post-Covid world

The current trend towards a more ethical style of marketing is not a fad. Several studies suggest that this is something that was already underway before Covid struck the planet: the outbreak has merely accelerated it.

Resonating with a customer’s moral side is not just a question of looking good as a company, it will also determine a business’s success in the long term. An ethical outlook will most likely generate a higher level of engagement in a post-Covid society – it’ll also give the company pride in what they’re doing.

The one question that businesses should be asking themselves in the months to come is not ‘what can we get from this marketing campaign?’ but ‘how can society get from our marketing campaign’?

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