Top Ethical Issues in Digital Marketing To Solve in 2022

Top Ethical Issues in Digital Marketing To Solve in 2022

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Customers may get information at the push of a button thanks to technology (or the swipe of a screen). However, technology has presented marketers with some ethical issues despite its many benefits.

As tech tools get more powerful and intelligent, their capacity to target individuals in an intrusive manner begs the question: where does digital marketing draw the ethical line?

According to recent research, 90 percent of global customers expect brands to use technology responsibly and governments to interfere if they don't, with 84 percent afraid their personal information isn't secure.

Eighty percent say they would cease doing business with a company that mishandled their data — the most significant source of distrust in the digital industry. 

In advertising, understanding how personal data is shared with advertisers and used to offer tailored ads reduces consumer approval of display ads on websites for access — from 63 percent to 36 percent.

So, before you commit to a digital marketing strategy, here are some things to consider, but first, let me clarify what ethical marketing issues are.

What Are The Ethical Issues In Digital Marketing?

Online platforms are becoming increasingly popular as a method of conducting business. Therefore, every digital marketer must have a system to monitor ethical behaviors.

It's essential that they put in place a mechanism and implementation while marketing strategies are being developed.

Moral principles and disciplines dealing with good and evil, or right and wrong, are related to ethical marketing issues. Conflicts and a lack of agreement on specific disputes or judgments lead to ethical difficulties in marketing.

Rules and regulations, laws and obligations, terms, and conditions for marketing practices are all legal issues in marketing. These legal difficulties in digital marketing are also linked to marketing methods.

What are some issues surrounding the promotion of products? 

1. The data dilemma

In the digital world, every action you take leaves a trace. We permit corporations to collect our data every time we sign up for a new website or app without really thinking about how They will use it. It's buried deep in the privacy policy, and it's written in a language we're unlikely to comprehend anyhow. Language such as:

Sure, companies collect data to improve their products. On the other hand, nefarious organizations utilize this data to hack into social media platforms like Facebook and target people with fake news stories. This tactic is said to have influenced the outcome of the 2016 US election.

Our smartphones are listening to what we have to say. Hundreds of apps have been programmed to listen through your phone's microphone, allowing businesses to target advertisements more precisely – even when the apps are just running in the background.

I hung out with my colleague Afsane last week, talking about AirPods. She began receiving targeted adverts for them the next day. It was creepy.

The internet is meant to be a free exchange of information, but huge tech giants have dictated mainly this freedom. Marketers need more precise boundaries around what is and aren't a violation of privacy in this new era of big data and AI marketing tools.

2. Is it reasonable to spam or not to spam?

We've all had it: a barrage of irrelevant and uninvited advertising that gets in your face and tries to sell you products you don't need. Spammers will show you whatever they want you to see, the polar opposite of the laser-targeted advertising discussed above. Privacy barriers are meaningless; once they get their hands on your information, they'll use it.

A corporation that prides itself on its positive ethical ideals should never use such dishonest selling practices. Have you ever received spam from an organization like Amnesty International? Or the Red Cross in the United Kingdom? No, because it would cast a negative light on their business operations.

Most spam is for luxury products that we don't need, and it uses a forceful sales style to create a sense of inadequacy that their product can only satisfy. Ethical selling causes an open and honest approach; spam is a red flag that the company you're dealing with has dubious morality.

3. Putting the competition to shame

Comparison marketing is another ethical problem. And, as long you don't go too far, there's nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. In general, it's preferable to highlight the advantages of your product rather than criticize others. And anything you say has to be accurate, or you'll lose all credibility.

When I think about comparison marketing, I think of election-season TV and billboard advertising, which typically spend more time slamming the competition than discussing how their party proposes to improve things.


If you're going to make any promotional materials that pit your items against the competitors, double-check the facts first, or you'll be called out. Worse, you can find yourself in the middle of a legal battle. Consider whether it's worth the risk of losing your audience's trust and causing a rift between you and your competition. Ethical enterprises should help each other rather than tear each other apart.

4. Children's marketing

Children are among the most enthusiastic users of the internet. Millennials, who have only ever known digital technology, are among the most avid internet users. Like a wise digital grandfather, Google has always been there for them. They are, nevertheless, highly vulnerable.

Although most children enjoy using the internet, they are unaware of how their online actions are monitored for advertising purposes. They're also less able to evaluate the information they're given critically. As a result, ethical businesses are responsible for avoiding making a hard pitch to youngsters online. Consider your marketing efforts to be educational rather than promotional.

The following advertising organizations provide guidelines that may be useful:

  • Data & Marketing Association
  • Advertising Self-Regulatory Council

5. Integrity and transparency

Big data has two sides - on the one hand, you have this great opportunity to develop valuable audience insights, while on the other hand, you risk being viewed as unethical. How are you going to get around this? With honesty and transparency.

When it comes to online marketing, transparency can make or break your company. If you intend to use client data to inform your digital marketing, you must do so in an ethical manner, without resorting to invasive or deceptive approaches.

If you collect and monetize data, you must be clear about how and why it will be used. In other words, what is the customer's value?

In an ideal world, each customer would permit you to use their data to understand the repercussions fully. Still, many of us click "accept" without reading the terms of service (which is understandable given the image below). However, as much as feasible, follow the concept of informed consent.

How to Follow the Digital Marketing Code of Ethics?

Building customer trust involves a variety of strategies in digital marketing.

1. Avoid statements that are distorted or exaggerated

It's just as important to be open and honest with your audience about your motivations as it is to be open and honest about your content. Unethical material may exaggerate an item's use or be a glammed-up visual that has little resemblance to reality. You're lying to your viewers if you distort the camera perspective to make a room appear bigger for a real estate ad or if you make promises you can't keep. Your audience will most likely see through your lies, and you will lose credibility.


2. Don't over-promise

We understand. It's tempting to strive to please everyone. We wish to present our products in the best possible light. We want to present ourselves in a positive light. Sure, there'll be a quick turnaround. Is it possible to get free shipping? Sure. (But only if you spend another $100 on merchandise.) 

Most individuals know that it most likely is if something appears too good to be true. However, if you want to follow ethical marketing methods, avoid over-promising. You'll have a terrible reputation if you disappoint individuals who want to believe in you and what you're offering.

3. Avoid spamming

We've all seen Twitter accounts that constantly encourage people to visit their website. An unsolicited email offering dubious offers floods our inboxes. And we've all got a friend who is selling stuff on their social media site while ignoring the social aspect.

Most individuals unfollow these brands and friends. As a result, you must examine your habits. Are you solely talking about yourself as a brand on social media? That isn't a discussion. Are you bombarding your subscribers with emails that generate brief engagement and few clicks? That's a sign you're a pest, not a collaborator.

When someone signs up for an email on your website, the ethical approach is to be upfront about how often you'll send it. Keep the discourse on social media focused on your audience, with only a few instances of self-promotion.

4. Don't Use Clickbait in Your Headlines

When we come across a fascinating or ridiculous claim, we've all gone down the rabbit hole. We'd like to know the secret or see the photos that have been hidden. But, because of the rise of clickbait titles, we're becoming more aware of the problem. If your headline resembles clickbait too closely, Facebook and other social media platforms are more likely to flag it as spam or fake news.

Ethical writers can write headlines that are both smart and truthful. What's the benefit? That strategy will help you rank higher in search results.

5. Don't engage in fear-mongering

It is unethical to make statements that should scare the reader into action. Using fear as motivation is not only dishonest, but it also exposes your content to fact-checking, bans, and other forms of penalties. Sometimes you must convey information that may be viewed as frightening, like the toilet paper crisis last year.

Now it's the time to insist on a thoughtful approach. Also, remember to provide reputable references to assist your readers in grasping the full context. This strategy will assist you in gaining your audience's trust.

6. Don't be a troll or blast someone

Libel, slander, and defamation cases are all very real. And if you spill it all on the internet, you could get one. Many people have succumbed to the desire to criticize a company, abuse an individual for alleged behavior, or plain lie in a review. However, the ramifications of a quick tweet or a fictitious review might linger much longer. Law firms are winning claims based on slander on social media.

7. Don't make the mistake of being an opportunist

While an opportunity may come knocking, not every chance is proper for you. Being an opportunist entails taking advantage of events or other people to get an immediate benefit. Every action you perform shows your ideals. So consider your options. Look at your partner's conduct and ethics. 

RELATED READ - Why Digital Marketing is Important for The Manufacturing Industry

Final Note

Consumers must feel confident when shopping online because of ethical procedures in the ever-growing digital marketing landscape. If corporations disregard ethical principles, a moral gap may arise in business. While their reputation and brand image may not suffer immediately because of these ethical and moral failings, they will. 

Businesses have a responsibility to look out for investors, buyers, employees, and others involved in their day-to-day operations. As a result, it's critical to comprehend the significance of incorporating ethical concepts into every marketing strategy, regardless of the platform.

The most successful digital marketing organizations recognize the need to regularly work on their digital marketing tactics to keep them up to date with the ever-changing online business sector. In the digital era, failing to do so could negatively affect your company's sales, reputation, and ability to grow.

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