Review: 12 Tips for Ethical Marketing to the New Consumer

Chris Arnold’s new book Ethical Marketing and the New Consumer discusses how marketing must change to reach today’s consumers.  If you are interested in any aspect of ethical marketing – Arnold covers product development and design, messaging, positioning and more – this is a recommended read.

Eco-ethical marketing requires creativity and an openness to experimentation and learning from failure. While Arnold admits, “This book is no rule book,” here are 12 key tips from the book:

  1. People beats planet. Between people and planet, consumers are more likely to pay more for perceived human benefits, such as Fair Trade or proceeds benefiting charity, than environmental benefits, such as organic or low carbon footprint.  Community-based values are particularly compelling.
  2. Values are a must. “Consumers are looking for the ethos behind the brand…consumers want to know that a company isn’t just driven by money,” Arnold states.  Gone are the days when profit as sole motivator could fly.
  3. Heartstrings win over logic. Consumers respond to emotional angles more than rational ones.  Luckily, ethical and environmental aspects can be highly emotive, so make sure to position them that way.
  4. Honesty is king. Make an honest gesture about where you are – even if you’re still working to become green – people will appreciate your honesty.  For God’s sake, don’t greenwash.
  5. Get creative with your packaging. Make your product’s packaging a selling point, or design a second life into the packaging so that consumers can continue to use the package for another purpose once they get it home.  (While you’re at it, design a second life for your product.)
  6. People don’t trust ads. Use channels other than advertising to communicate with your audience.
  7. Action speaks louder than words. Spend money on making a great product rather than marketing it.
  8. Market the ease of the green or ethical aspects of your product.  People are lazy.
  9. Beware of market research. Basing a marketing campaign on statistics is a dangerous trap, given that market research is often flawed.  For example, people cannot be relied on to answer truthfully about how they would act in a situation.
  10. Balance ethical and traditional values. Products don’t sell on ethics alone.  Arnold advises choosing the 1 or 2 key ethical values and blending them with the key traditional values (such as value and quality).
  11. Choose your words wisely – different words elicit different impressions from different people.
  12. Maintain coherent messaging across the company.  If a company’s marketing campaigns send conflicting messages, no one wins.

Amie runs Cobblestone Solutions, LLC, a consultancy focusing on business development, marketing, communications and strategy for mission driven companies. Previously, Amie served as Director of Business Development for Viv (a Bay Area environmental start-up), Program Manager for Social Venture Technology Group (a boutique consulting firm focused on measuring social and environmental impact), and Associate Consultant at Bain & Co (a global management consulting firm). She is particularly interested in innovations that reduce waste, altering consumer behavior for good, and leveraging the power of business to solve the climate crisis. You can read more from her on her blog, on, and on JustMeans.

8 responses

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  2. You're right about the people beats planet, but I think you give your self an edge if you could have a more environmental friendly approach than your competitors.

  3. Digital – I absolutely agree. I think making a product more environmentally friendly can never hurt, it's just a matter of which benefits you highlight in the marketing of that product.
    Chris – My pleasure – thanks for a great read!

  4. Digital – I absolutely agree. I think making a product more environmentally friendly can never hurt, it's just a matter of which benefits you highlight in the marketing of that product.
    Chris – My pleasure – thanks for a great read!

  5. Thanks for this review–this is a book I’ll have to check into.

    As a marketing strategist, I actually look for ways to have both in Chris’s either/or scenarios. Appeal to people (self-interest) AND the planet (which is really another way of phrasing point #10, above). Use emotion AND intellect.

    I love the idea of creating packaging that has another use once the product is used up–that’s something I hadn’t thought much about before on a commercial/marketing basis, even though I constantly reuse packaging in my own house. Packaging is also a wonderful canvas for marketing messages of sustainability and ethics, which is something I constantly point out.

    Many of the points are similar to those that I make in my own Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet (John Wiley & Sons, 2010, co-authored with Jay Conrad Levinson).
    –Shel Horowitz,

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