Over the Christmas period, I read a few articles about ethical marketing. It intrigued me. What does it mean? I had easy visions of unethical marketing for sure: lies, false claims, disingenuous fawning over products someone is being paid to promote (influencer marketing anyone?). I assumed ethical marketing was what most of us do every day. It turns out, whilst most of what we were doing was totally ethical, there were elements that accidentally didn’t quite meet the standard.

I first came across the concept of ethical marketing whilst on the hunt for further ways we can ensure that MarketEd.Live 2020 has less of an environmental impact. In 2019, we removed as much plastic as we could, using lanyards that were pure cardboard, using jugs of tap water rather than imported (into the building anyway) bottled water, increasing the amount of vegan food as a proportion of lunch, donating virtual ticket sales to the Amazon Rainforest Emergency. I just wanted to see what else we could do.

In a tweet by Ethical Brand Marketing, I started to read how there is a way to market a business that is better for the climate emergency we find ourselves in.

Then it went deeper.

So, what do we mean by ‘ethical marketing’?

Ethical marketing does actually refer to what you might think initially – that is, being open and honest about the marketing practices we are participating every day. But there’s a deeper meaning to it. Ethical marketing aims to ‘break the cycle of consumerism’. In other words, being cognoscente of just marketing to sell more stuff that maybe people don’t need, just to make a number, just to increase profits, without consideration to the environment.

Now, I acknowledge this has complications. If our primary role is to promote a product or service in order to sell greater numbers, it goes against the grain somewhat to start talking about potentially selling less. How would we explain it to our managers or our clients? Hell, I want to sell out MarketEd.Live 2020 and potentially grow the event in future years. I certainly don’t want to sell fewer tickets.

I don’t want people not to come to MarketEd.Live in Nottingham because they feel bad about their carbon emissions if they drive or fly to get here.

There are some initiatives that we will be looking into and announcing in the next few months to really ensure that this latter consideration is ours and not our attendees – so that we absorb the impact of our event, so you can attend guilt free.

The part of this learning that interested me most, however, was ethical pricing in marketing. The idea here is that, by ending prices with a ‘7’, as many events now do, we’re falling into a trap of consumerism.

Where someone markets an event at £297 per ticket, we all know it’s basically £300. The ‘charm price’ of £297 is used deliberately to manipulate the purchaser into making a decision faster.

According to 2015 study by Wadhwa and Zhang, cited here, rounded numbers are easily understood whereas charm prices require cognition. They also suggest that charm prices don’t work well if you’re aiming to show high-quality – the very small deduction is still perceived as a discount. MarketEd.Live is a high-quality event.

I find it interesting to note that consumers increasingly want to shop ethically and are starting to place ethics right at the top of the agenda, although the research from the tweet below seems to contradict this:

I want us at MarketEd.Live to lead here, where we can. It’s new to us too, so I hope you can bear with us whilst we find our destination.

There are other elements to ethical marketing, and we’re looking into whether we should avoid talking too much about countdowns and putting potential attendees under pressure to buy at certain times.

For now, we’re announcing that our pricing structure for the 2020 event will be as follows:

Super-earlybird (ends 31 Jan 2020) – £127 + VAT – this is the current price as of this post’s publication, and I would consider it bad practice to change this before a published deadline when others have already purchased at this price.

Earlybird (ends 31 May 2020) – £200 + VAT

Standard (ends 21 Sep 2020) – £280 + VAT

We hope that you understand our reasoning for our decision here and can support our efforts to be transparent and considerate to you, our community, and our wonderful world we live in.

If you have any suggestions as to how we can improve our ethics further, please do get in touch with us.