ethics in marketing

Ready for 2019? 6 Digital Marketing Changes that Matter

Marketing is continuously evolving. As we face the start of this new year, we’d like to take a look at 2018’s most influential marketing changes, which are sure to forecast what’s to come. Let’s take a look at how both marketing mishaps and success stories over the past year can help shape future strategies.

1. Trust and Transparency

With Facebook data breaches and data protection in general being major themes of 2018, regulatory actions have impacted digital marketing in a huge way. Many consumers wish to take control of their data back. There are now extra steps involved in acquiring consumer information, which has made it harder for businesses to track users across sites.

This proved to be an important shift as consumers’ inboxes were suddenly filled with emails from companies identifying their terms and conditions and urging them to maintain their trust.

Google also took action, placing a strong push on website hosts to secure their webs pages with an SSL Certificate. Those who didn’t would be labeled for all to see as “not secure,” and the site’s SEO would be punished to boot.

The Takeaway

Striving for trust and transparency will grow all the more important this year. Users want to know where their information is going and are very interested in privacy protection. Therefore, managing customer relations, communicating in an upfront and honest way, and practicing good business ethics are critical in 2019.

2. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) will likely become ubiquitous and invaluable for marketing efforts. AI data and tools are fabulously helpful for analyzing consumer behavior. So it’s no surprise that this year, AI is expected to pack an even bigger, faster, and more capable punch.

The current rising trends include chatbots and programmatic advertising. Chatbots give businesses the ability to save time and resources by allowing AI to communicate with consumers in real-time, while being creative and adept in problem solving. Programmatic advertising is an automated bidding process to purchase ads in a more efficient way. It shows ads to specific customers in a specific context, making advertising far more personal and effective.

The Takeaway

Artificial intelligence proficiencies are helpful in every stage of marketing, from lead generation to retention and customer relations. Incorporating machine learning into your business practice has gone from novelty to mainstream, making it an important trend to keep your eye on.

AI is an investment, which may not be budgeted for in this year’s marketing strategy. Nevertheless, pay attention to what big corporate businesses (within your industry) are doing. At this point in time, your company may not be financially or structurally prepared for this type of growth. However, as AI becomes the norm, there may be opportunities to slowly introduce these methods and help your business thrive.

3. Influencer Marketing
Changes in Facebook’s algorithms have forced many companies to find creative new methods for social media marketing. Enter Influencer Marketing. Encouraging influential people to promote products or share their reviews on their own personal pages helps brands reach their target audience organically.

Here’s a recent example. Netflix just released Bird Box, the latest Netflix original movie. The movie sits at 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, with less-than-generous reviews from critics. That being said, more than 45 million Netflix accounts viewed Bird Box in the first week of its release. Why did this become Netflix’s best-ever debut for an original film? Because of Influencer Marketing.

Bird Box was headlined on Netflix, and some users received push notifications to their phones if the algorithm suggested they might like the movie. However, this wasn’t nearly as significant an impact as the striking cover image of Sandra Bullock blindfolded--which turned out to be low-hanging fruit for memes all over social media. So millions watched the movie simply because they wanted to join the conversation.

Additionally, Netflix strategically created influencers before the movie was even released by challenging hand-picked Twitch gamers to play their favorite video games blindfolded, calling it the “Bird Box Challenge.” Social media users organically spread the word about Bird Box, making the marketing all the more effective.

The Takeaway

You guessed it! Influencers and organic reach are expected to be tremendously important in 2019.

4. Video Marketing

Video marketing is now impossible to ignore. Almost every social media platform has integrated their own version of “stories” or live video feed. Instagram even added the IGTV feature.  

Video has proven to be an incredibly effective way to share information, and bonus--it’s naturally more engaging than text and imagery. Companies get their message across more quickly and in a more impactful way. Additionally, viewers place greater trust in video marketing:

  • 52% of consumers have greater confidence in products if they are able to watch a product video.

  • 72% of businesses have said that videos have improved their conversion rates.

  • 70% of consumers say that they have shared a brand’s video. (Hint, hint! A great opportunity for influencers and organic reach.)

The Takeaway

The numbers certainly give evidence as to why video needs to be a part of your marketing strategy this year (if it isn’t already).

5. Voice Searches and Smart Speakers

Between Siri, Alexa and Google Home, use of smart speakers and voice searches are becoming a popular commodity in most households.

  • By 2020, approximately 50% of all searches will use voice.

  • 39 million Americans use smart speakers.

  • 65% of current smart speaker users have said they would not want to go back to life without their voice-controlled devices.

Voice search is growing more and more intelligent, producing increasingly relevant search results. People can get fast answers and immediate gratification without lifting a finger to type it into Google’s search engine.

This has created a need for businesses to adapt. Many brands are looking to take advantage of these shifts in consumer behavior by including voice search in their digital marketing strategy.

Consider Domino’s Pizza, for example. Knowing that customers value the effectiveness of voice searches, Domino’s now uses voice search technology to allow customers to order pizza through Alexa.

The Takeaway

Smart speakers are creating new opportunities for advertisements, Google AdWords for audio content, and other methods for gaining brand awareness. This means giving consideration to keywords and words people are likely to speak rather than text.

As technology grows and develops, your marketing methods should, too.

6. Personalization

Personalization is all about fostering improved customer relationships. This means customizing content, products, emails and more to appeal to the individual. Personalizing messaging is a powerful way to stand out against competitors and generate greater interest from buyers.

There are a number of opportunities to tailor messaging based on the availability of data on purchase history, consumer behavior and link clicks, making this information extremely valuable.

Businesses like Amazon do an excellent job with personalization. When users log into their accounts, they see custom banners, carousels, artwork and recommendations designed just for them. These efforts are to make the customer feel special. What happens when a customer feels special and understood? They come back and buy more.

The Takeaway

Personalization not only distinguishes a brand, but it also cultivates customer loyalty. Incorporating personalization into marketing strategies is advantageous for consumer relationships and for businesses.   


Guiding Principles for Ethics in Marketing: Keeping Our Eyes on the Horizon

Business marketing is defined as the research, promotion and sales of products or services. Pretty straightforward.

Except that it isn’t!

Trying to persuade consumers to believe that a business is valuable (even with the best intentions, we are technically manipulating customer perception) can put us smack in the middle of a moral gray area.

While the benefits of honing in on your marketing efforts can be huge—boosting brand awareness ultimately leads to increased sales—it is critically important to remain cognizant of the means by which we influence others.

This is especially significant considering that the marketing world is ever-changing, and the use of technology is becoming more and more prevalent. The average person is not exactly familiar with how businesses use their information to target them through advertising.

If you’re wondering what the harm is in this arrangement, consider that when customers are kept in the dark, it makes it impossible to form a mutually trusting relationship between people and businesses. When marketing practices are unethical, everyone eventually suffers.

Here’s a handy summary of what constitutes unethical marketing practices:

·      False or exaggerated claims

·      Misleading facts or a distortion of reality

·      Withholding important information or side effects

·      Slandering rivals

·      Discriminatory messages

·      Exploitation

So how do you optimize your results without trading away your brand’s integrity?

1.     If you are guided by a single principle when it comes to ethics in marketing, let it be this: Practicing ethics requires the distinction between good and bad/right and wrong, regardless of the legality of the situation.
From a business standpoint, you should ask yourself, “Am I doing more harm than good?” (Penn, 2018). If having no regard for others is the price for achieving success, you can be sure a business is falling short ethically.

2.     Another excellent guiding principle is to concentrate on promoting sincerity and fairness.
This requires balancing the company’s financial interests with social responsibility (Ethical Marketing). In short: Make money, but think of others while you do it.

Simple enough, right? Not quite! Ethically speaking, there are still a few loose ends.

Artificial Intelligence

It’s no secret that technological innovation can be both a blessing and a burden. Looking ahead, artificial intelligence (AI) appears to be the next morally ambiguous entity we have to prepare for.

AI can rapidly recognize patterns and meaning in human behavior, which is advantageous when incorporated into marketing practices. However, the amount of sensitive personal data that is being collected on people is unprecedented.

We’re not just talking about a person’s geo-location or knowing her go-to online shopping sites. The algorithms can (and will) pick up on your values, impulses, vulnerabilities and motivations. AI knows you so well, in fact, that advertising can be tailored in a way that controls and accurately predicts your behavior. It’s like having a data-driven, algorithm-comprised follower that knows everything about you, but you know nothing about them.

Generally, people care about protecting personal information and maintaining a certain level of privacy. Collecting sensitive data has become all the more worrisome considering the prevalence of data misuse, breaches, and threatened cyber security (Facebook, we’re looking at you).

At its best, AI can be a great tool for connecting people with exactly what they’re looking for. While the pay-off of using AI is rewarding, with powerful technology comes great responsibility. As we wade out into these uncharted waters, what we need is to form an infallible set of ethical guidelines that instill transparency and allow people to be a part of the process rather than be targeted blindly.

The most important take-away from this is that taking the moral high ground can actually give you a significant competitive advantage. As we’ve talked about before, being upfront and honest can actually create a more trusting and long-lasting relationship with your customers, especially with millennials. Sticking to ethical guidelines can build you a promising reputation (valuable) and ultimately, foster brand loyalty (priceless).  

Penn, C. S. (2018, January 05). What is ethics in marketing? Retrieved from

Ethical Marketing | What is Ethical Marketing? (n.d.). Retrieved from