Ready for the most 2019 thing you’ve ever heard? Two words: Morality Marketing. Yep, you read that right. But pump the breaks on your snark, because when you’re in the business of marketing, you’ve got to be open to trying new things, especially when consumers expect more than ever from the brands they choose.

What is morality marketing, exactly? Simply put, it is marketing constructed around an ethical (moral) viewpoint or stance. Morality marketing isn’t Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), although they certainly work well together. As opposed to CSR, which are focused, public-facing partnerships that better the community around a business (in hopes of garnering positive PR), morality marketing requires taking a stance on an issue that will leave an impact on your audience through messaging that resonates with their core beliefs. 

For instance, Patagonia doesn’t just volunteer to clean up beaches and plant trees (although worthy endeavors). Instead, they took it further by endorsing two Democratic Senate candidates publicly, putting their full weight behind their bids. Political support is a great way to show what values your brand stands for and how far you are willing to go to act on those beliefs. This displays dedication to the overarching ideas that shape the landscape in which your business operates. When’s the last time you heard of a business endorsing a candidate because of their stance on global warming? That’s morality marketing for you.

Part of being a marketing agency in Denver is forecasting marketing trends and we think morality marketing is going to be huge for businesses. Why, you ask? Because consumer awareness and expectations have elevated to the point where it really does matter where that salmon you are eating was raised, and how. It matters how the workers are treated that make the shoes we wear, and which side of a controversial issue a brand we support stands on. Each dollar a person spends is more than just a payment — it’s a vote for the moral ideologies we support.

Here’s another good example: remember Nike’s iconic campaign with Colin Kaepernick? That was morality marketing. By taking a public stance alongside the prominent (and fairly divisive) Black Lives Matter activist, Nike genuinely put themselves out there, understanding fully the risks it could mean to their bottom line. And, by all accounts, it has certainly paid off. The take-away here is the more controversial an issue is, the more risk (and attention) the brand attracts if it decides to speak publicly about it. The good news is rolling the ethical dice doesn’t have to be as risky as it sounds if it’s done right.

So, how can your business leverage morality marketing? Start by getting in touch with your customers, the life-blood of your operations. Their opinion on ethics is what your company should be striving to represent through your morality marketing efforts. This will help them further identify with your brand and increase customer loyalty. While Nike tackled a controversial issue by working with Kaepernick, they understood how their consumers would feel beforehand, making their move less of a gamble and more of a strategic marketing tactic.

Regardless of what you decide to do, remember this: if you hop on board the morality marketing train, your intentions must be pure. Just like with CSR initiatives, if the public smells even a hint of selfish intentions, they’ll eat you alive; and you’ll become a cautionary tale. If that makes you worried, just hire an expert marketing agency in Denver like Decibel Blue (there’s that self-promotion we were talking about). We’ll help you safely thread the morality marketing needle while driving the success you crave.

Tyler Rathjen

Tyler Rathjen is a partner in Decibel Blue, where he leads some of its highest-profile lifestyle clients. Whether developing strategic marketing plans, establishing creative programs, or managing digital, advertising, social media, influencer and branding projects, Tyler has a wealth of communications expertise. Tyler began his career with Decibel Blue in 2006 and has since overseen the launch of more than 120 franchises across the nation, including 80 Dunkin’ Donuts stores.


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