As the topic of ethical marketing grows in popularity, you may be wondering why it is relevant for businesses and marketers in 2024. This article introduces you to over 20 facts from recent industry research that show why this is the right moment for your business to start investing in ethical marketing strategies.
From recent findings, the main focus seems to be on a stronger relationship between consumers, their values, and the brands they choose to support and buy from. At the same time, figures show an increased demand for transparency in sustainability and ethical claims, while many consumers are also concerned about data privacy.
So what are the main ethical business and marketing stats you should consider when creating your strategies this 2024?
Purchasing decisions based on values
Based on trends from the previous years, in 2024, consumers will be more and more likely to make buying decisions based on their own values, and how much the brands align with them. Among the most important criteria are environmental concerns, and human rights causes.
- In 2021, 40% of adults in the UK chose brands that have environmentally sustainable practices or values, and 37% chose brands that have ethical practices or values; (Deloitte, 2022)
- In 2020, 60% of UK consumers were interested in a service that would allow them to see how ethical a product or service is before buying it; (DMA, 2022)
- In 2022, 17% of consumers have switched away from, or become less loyal to a previously favoured brand due to a lack of brand purpose or social aims; (Marigold, 2023)
- 34% of adults in the UK decided to stop buying brands or products due to ethical or sustainability related concerns in 2022; (Deloitte, 2022)
- Lastly, 59% of people with an annual income over £75,000 would like to have the possibility to filter product lists based on their values when online shopping (lower income brackets were less likely to have this preference). (DMA, 2022)
What is really interesting here is the relationship between a higher annual income and consumer attitude towards ethical principles. The current cost of living crisis may mean that some may be compromising and buying the more affordable options, which is a helpful aspect to keep in mind.
The recent 2023 Marigold report further strengthens this point, showing that 60% of consumers are very pessimistic about the rising cost of living, and half of them are doing less impulsive purchases and waiting for sales, loyalty benefits or special offers when buying from their favourite brands. (Marigold, 2023)
This means that us marketers must get creative in this volatile market, and find ways to keep customers coming back through attractive offers, and loyalty schemes.
Focus on Gen Zs and Millennials
Trends show that younger generations like the Gen Zs and Millennials are more inclined to make purchasing decisions with their conscience.
- In 2020, 40% of consumers said they would be happy to spend 5% more for an ethical product – but this number rose to 53% among people between 16 and 34 years old; (DMA, 2022)
- 62% of UK young consumers between 25 and 35 years old would prefer to have the option to filter product lists based on their values when online shopping; (DMA, 2022)
- One in 2 Gen Zs and 41% of Millennials are more likely to buy from brands that advocate for social causes; (Hubspot, 2023)
- 54% of Gen Zs, and 42% of Millennials will avoid a brand for their lack of diverse marketing and advertising. (Alida, 2021)
Whether your business is targeting Gen Zs and Millennials or not, their influence in today’s society can’t be denied. It takes a TikTok to tear down a brand for their unethical practices (L’Oreal mascara gate, anyone?). It takes a genuine Reddit story to build another brand up for their good practices.
The bottom line here is that ultimately, choosing to do the right thing, both in your business and your marketing practices, can really pay off with this demographic. While they can be fierce judges, they can also be your strongest, most loyal fans if you earn their trust and live up to the hype.
Diversity and Inclusion
We’ve already seen that many Gen Zs and Millennials will avoid brands for the lack of diversity in their campaigns… so what does the average consumer think?
- In 2020, 61% of consumers said that they find diversity in brand advertising important (Forbes, 2020), and…
- 38% of consumers are more likely to trust brands that show diversity in their campaigns and engagement. (Forbes, 2020)
This is an encouraging trend, which shows that concerns about ethics go beyond sustainability and the environment, and embrace wider issues like diversity and inclusion in brand marketing campaigns. However, it is not enough to just show that a brand is sustainable, or ethical…
Demand for transparency and clarity about ethical and sustainable claims
Findings show that consumers are increasingly aware of the tactics that some brands may use to show themselves as ethical or sustainable, meaning that they are demanding more transparency and integrity when it comes to claims made in business advertising. Here are some interesting findings from recent Deloitte research:
- 38% of adults in the UK say they need clearer information on the sustainability of products and services and 37% want more clarity on the origins or sourcing of products in order to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle;
- 36% of UK adults say they need an increased availability and ranges of ethical or sustainable products so they can adopt more sustainable habits;
- 20% of UK adults need advertising that shows sustainability as the norm and the desirable option so they can adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. (Deloitte, 2022)
This last one is very interesting, showing that perhaps the segment of consumers that is interested in a more sustainable lifestyle would be even more inclined to adopt ethical and sustainable brands, if they were marketed as the ‘norm’, rather than the ‘alternative’ to mainstream products.
Data Privacy Concerns
Data privacy should really be at the top of brands’ priorities this year. Consumers have grown more and more concerned with how businesses use their personal information, and how they may access it. New laws on the topic are likely to also have an impact in the coming year. So how serious is this issue for consumers?
- In 2022, 74% of consumers in the UK and the USA said that they were concerned about companies being able to view and track their online activity and target them with advertising; (Statista, 2023)
- 61% of consumers feel cookie-fuelled ads are a creepy, uncool marketing tactic in 2023; (Marigold, 2023)
- 82% of consumers prefer marketing campaigns that use their data in a responsible way; (Marigold, 2023)
- 75% of consumers in the UK & USA are not comfortable buying from a business that has poor personal data ethics; (Statista, 2023)
- 35% of consumers felt frustration when they received marketing campaigns based on information they didn’t directly share with the brand; (Marigold, 2023)
- 89% of consumers in the UK & USA say they would be more likely to buy from businesses that make a commitment to protecting their personal data online than from those who don’t. (Statista, 2023)
Out of all trends in 2024, the demand for ethical personal data use is the most widely approved by consumers. If you haven’t paid much attention to this topic until now in your strategies, then it’s the right time to begin reviewing if your practices are up to legal and ethical standards.
So What Are Marketers Doing?
The marketing agency Precis Digital published a very interesting report in 2022, based on surveys with 152 senior marketers across the Nordics and UKI. The report highlights what challenges marketers encounter when it comes to ethical issues, and what they are prioritising in order to improve their performance. Here are some of the most interesting findings from it:
- 65% of the businesses surveyed struggle to use data ethically;
- 47% struggle with diversity and representation within their marketing communications;
- 53% find it difficult to communicate privacy practices to consumers according to their ethical and legal policies;
- 76% place marketing ethics on high or critical priority for their organisation;
- 67% agree that ethical marketing is important or critical in delivering good or fair customer experiences;
- 83% are prioritising ethical data use to follow principles of data ownership, consent, transparency, and privacy;
- 73% are focusing on improving diversity and representation in their marketing campaigns;
- 4 out of 5 marketing leaders agree that ethics and focusing on consumer welfare will drive growth in the next five to ten years.
Many businesses and their marketing teams are admitting that certain ethical practices are difficult to implement, but it’s encouraging to see the growing intention to do better.
One of the biggest challenges, especially for micro and small business, is that a lot of marketing decisions are currently taken on the basis that ‘many big players do it, so it must be okay’. And even when they start recognising the importance of ethical marketing practices, there is a severe lack of actionable guidance for them to follow.
The recent studies cited in this article show a fresh perspective on why 2024 is the right time for your business to start implementing ethical marketing principles.
Consumers are willing to pay more for brands that do good, not only through their products, but also through their marketing messaging.
They want to see transparent communication, and a focus on diversity and inclusion, as well as a sensible use of their personal data when being targeted through advertising. And most importantly, they want to buy from brands who align with their own values, especially for the younger generations.
So what may be the next steps for your brand in 2024?
- Make sure you listen to your community: what do they care about? What causes do they support? How do they prefer that you communicate with them?
- Don’t be afraid to be open about your journey towards becoming more ethical and sustainable. Lead with transparency and show the human side of your brand.
- Audit your marketing communications to find out what you could improve. Are your tactics ethical? What is the impact of your messaging? How could you create more inclusive campaigns?
- Review the way in which you use consumer personal data and make sure that it complies with current data privacy laws.
- Don’t despair thinking that you need to change your whole communication strategy overnight. Start with what makes the most sense for your business right now, and for the resources you have. What matters is that one step at a time, you will contribute to a fairer, more transparent and ethical industry. And ultimately, you will build a community of loyal customers that will enthusiastically support your business in return.
P.S.: I have left out the topic of AI on purpose: there’s SO much to say about it from an ethical point of view, so I’ll soon publish another piece dedicated to AI marketing ethics alone. Sign up to my newsletter at the bottom of this page to be the first to find out when it’s out!
List of sources:
- Forbes: Sonia Thompson – Data Shows Consumers Want Diversity in Marketing – Why Many Brands Struggle To Get It Right And How To Fix, 2020
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