30% jumps to 70% when others are listening

make it easy for consumers to be seen to be ethical

Given the findings of the Royal Commission into the banking sector, this is surely the right time to be discussing the importance of ethics in business. This is the fourth in a series of five thoughts addressing ethics in business and, more specifically, in marketing.

A study in the United States highlighted how important consumers say ethics are to them and how much they impact on purchase behaviour, as follows:

  • 73% agree or strongly agree that It is important to buy environmentally friendly products
  • 87% believe quality is more important than price
  • 70% are interested in ethical products and claims
  • 85% are interested in misleading product and marketing claims

Another, very interesting university study found, however, that:

  • When a purchase was 100% private 30% of consumers selected the ‘ethical option’
  • When a purchase was public, 70% of consumers select the ‘ethical option’

These later findings suggest a number of things:

  • While there is a significant base of consumers who genuinely want to ‘buy ethical’ (30%) there are those that only do so because of peer pressure or image (40%)
  • The trend towards ‘buying ethical’ will be greatest where the purchase is inherently public
  • The social pressure to ‘buy ethical’ or at least be seen to ‘buy ethical’ should not be underestimated

This later finding is further emphasised by the findings of behavioural economics research, conducted in a hotel where:

  • A sign in the bathroom suggesting that recycling towels is good for the environment contributed to a 30% recycling rate
  • A sign in the bathroom suggesting that 80% of hotel customers recycle their towels contributed to a 60% recycling rate

Both of these studies suggest the importance of recycling to a core base of people, and the importance of ethical behaviour as a source of social acceptance to many more people.

They also suggest that if a business or brand is ethical, they should make it easy for customers to leverage that to gain greater social approval.

Ethical behaviour includes:

  • Participating in and promoting fair trade
  • Avoiding all forms of discrimination (see more tomorrow)

In 2018, make it easy for consumers to be seen to be ethical

Sources of core statistics – Mintel, Entrepreneurs, Forbes, Choice and WordSteam.

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