In our current time of uncertainty, ethics play a bigger role in digital marketing than ever before. Over the last few weeks, the world has been dealing with the effects of COVID-19. The full impact still remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that it will be felt across the globe.

While many businesses are being cautious with their digital campaigns to avoid the risk of tone-deaf marketing or self-promotion, others have begun to promote their businesses or spread misleading information in a way that walks a very fine ethical line. This has had more than a few consequences, ranging from dangerous news being shared to the risk of jail time or fines in the case of South Africans sharing false news relating to coronavirus.

How do you ensure that your digital marketing during this time is ethical and helpful? For starters, it helps to understand how ethics apply to the digital space.

The Importance of Digital Marketing Ethics

Digital marketing ethics is often focused on privacy laws. As important as those are, now is the time to start thinking about how brands can avoid tone-deaf campaigns that are not part of the solution. Without ethics, there is a far higher chance of the following:


Well-meaning businesses trying to provide their customers with information relating to the pandemic can all too easily share false information. The trouble with this is that coronavirus content is being shared rapidly as people search for information online. Sharing something without being sure of accuracy can be dangerous. Before you share anything or create your own content for emails, mobile campaigns or social media campaigns, make sure that you are using proper sources and provide references.


Another problem is brands trying to capitalise or jump on the bandwagon by newsjacking. This practice refers to people and brands playing off headlines to create hype. Even if you are not trying to gain followers, it is best to create your own content as much as possible. Look at genuinely helpful information that relates specifically to your business. For example, if you run a travel business, you could share information relating to current travel restrictions, tips for those quarantined away from home or even virtual tours for those who are self-isolating.


Finally, something that is important during all times – crisis or otherwise – is sensitivity. This includes cultural sensitivity, timing, and language, and anything else that could offend your audience. Most digital marketing strategies fail to be successful when campaigns are not clearly thought-out. You may have scheduled posts sharing your event or the latest nightclubs, or a campaign that alienates your audience through inadvertent fat-shaming, sexism or bias. Review all campaigns, including those scheduled in advance, to make sure that they are not open to misinterpretation or offending in any way.

Ethical Digital Marketing

Brands that take the time to use our current crisis as a way to genuinely help rather than promote without considering the impact that campaigns can have are far more likely to build trust and increase loyalty. With that in mind, it is essential to plan your lead generation and ecommerce marketing campaigns ethically and responsibly.

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