By Chris ,Co-Founder & CEO of Growth Animals and a Trustee for Dementia Support. Tenacious about business growth and passionate about ethical marketing, his consultancy helps businesses to sell more through Ethical Growth Marketing, a movement he feels is important and timely, as we move to a post-Covid era – https://growthanimals.com/
– What is Ethical Growth Marketing?
Ethical growth marketing is a new approach to marketing that is tailor made for the post-Covid era. At its core, it is a mindset and process, tenaciously focussed on sustainable growth, in which everybody wins. It means that the growth that is created has positive societal impacts and rather than being short lived, it creates the platform for long term sustainable growth. It places an importance on activities that are human first, using methods, media and partners that are ethically and socially responsible. And importantly it does this without the need to compromise commercial growth or success. Rather it flips that on its head, making ethical business practice a positive differentiator. Ultimately it’s an approach to marketing that is Win, Win, Win. A win for the clients, a win for their customers and a win for society.
– Why is it that important to you?
Our business grew out of the pandemic, at a time of great uncertainty, but at a time when the big community and a civic sense of responsibility very quickly came to the fore, as a beautiful side effect of a difficult time. Our whole business inspiration came from a philanthropic act, of helping a charity, Dementia Support, in the early stages of lockdown, and so when we started building this business, it felt incredibly important to us that alongside ‘Winning’ and ‘Having Fun’, ‘Integrity’ had to be a core value. We all felt that success means nothing if it’s not achieved with integrity and shared with others. I want to be able to look back on the work we’ve done in 20 years’ time and not only see a positive bank balance, but to see that we’ve made a positive difference in society and for my three year old daughter to grow up proud of the impact she has seen us make.
– Why is Ethical Growth Marketing needed now?
Globally there is a movement towards the need for all businesses to become more ethically and socially responsible. In a recent global study by Forbes, it was found that consumers were 4 times more likely to purchase from a brand that was purpose driven, 83% said companies should only earn a profit if they also deliver a positive impact, and the U.K. emerged as one of the top two countries most likely to trust, champion and protect a brand with a strong purpose. This movement has been further accelerated by the global pandemic, so while it may for a small amount of time serve as a competitive advantage to operate this way, it will soon become a hygiene factor that all businesses need to conform to.
– Why do you feel marketing has received a bad reputation lately?
One of the key areas of marketing that has recently been under the microscope is Growth Hacking, particularly when it relies too heavily on automated AI solutions. AI in itself can be a force for good and there’s many great examples of this across areas as profound as cancer screening and climate change. However it’s negative and damaging effects, as highlighted by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and in popular films such as The Social Dilemma, show that corporate greed and naivety can leave it unchecked and free to wreak havoc on the comparatively primitive neural-pathways of our human brains. Growth Hacking though, is an incredibly strong and effective discipline when used responsibly. It’s therefore important, when using digital technology within marketing solutions, to maximise real world and human principles in those digital environments, to ensure that it is non-exploitative, responsible and positive.
– What does Ethical Growth Marketing mean in practice?
In practice that means having human checks and balances that prevent AI, for example, to run rampant. Furthermore, raising awareness within the marketing community of the ethical grey areas that a lot of marketing tactics fall within and educating them of the better alternatives available to them. For example, countdown timers on websites create feelings of anxiety and a false sense of urgency, which we’re primed to pay attention to, due to the dreaded FOMO effect. When it is designed to make people make hasty decisions instead of allowing them the time to decide if it’s the right purchase for them, this is when it crosses the ethical line. In this circumstance, use the final date and time to indicate the end of your sale instead of a time ticker. Be transparent and honest around timings and don’t just say it’s the last chance if it’s not. If your response to this is, well it works and everyone else is doing it, you have to ask yourself, isn’t it concerning if this is the only way you’re able to demonstrate value in your product? And just because we’ve been primed as marketers over time to adopt these methods, does that mean we just continue doing them without question?
While it’s perfectly possible to use automated tech as part of a responsible marketing campaign, there are increasingly options for businesses that want to take that a step further. We are for example in the process of building a network of partner organisations that all have ethical principles baked into their company DNA, which in time will mean that a marketing solution that only uses methods and media that are 100% ethical, can be delivered. For example, if one has a problem with the tech giant Google, then there is always the alternative of advertising (and using as a default search engine), Ecosia, who are privacy friendly and for whom roughly every 45 searches results in a tree being planted.
– How can brands give back to society?
There are many great ways to do this now and the benefits are endless in terms of the impact it can have on workforce morale, company culture, customers perceptions and ultimately the bottom line. Beyond the traditional charity partnerships, which create bags of value for the brand and charity alike, there are fantastic initiatives that enable a business to be fully accountable and transparent in the ethical practices they sign up for. One excellent example that we’ve recently signed up with is Pledge 1%, which is an easy way to leverage a portion of your future success to support nonprofits in your community. The idea is that you pledge 1% of your equity, time, product or profit to good causes, with the 1% pledge meaning that as you grow, the proportion you’re pledging stays constant as the actual contribution you’re making grows. In our case, we’re pledging 1% of our time and product, by committing to one pro bono charity client per employee at Growth Animals each year. Another fine example is B1G1, where commercial activities or gains are mirrored by positive societal impacts. For example a book publisher can set up a process and story that means every time a book is sold, a portion of the sale employs a literacy centre teacher for a day in India.
– What’s next on your Ethical Growth Marketing journey?
Our medium term aspiration is to become a B-Corp, to back up all of our other ethical credentials. Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B-Corp is to business what Fair Trade is to coffee, and would be a great recognition of the fact that we’ve put our money where our mouth is and are taking this incredibly seriously. We’re also in the process of developing an Ethical Marketing Healthcheck product that will enable businesses to get an easy to action snapshot of where they currently stand from an ethical marketing point of view and where they can improve and create more positive impact.
– What’s your advice for anyone considering taking a more ethical approach to business growth and marketing?
Dive in. Now is the time to start thinking about your ethical impact, even if that means starting small. We’d be delighted to support you on your journey, so get in touch. 🙂