Ethics in Marketing: What Responsibilities Accompany the Power of Analytics?

Ethics in Marketing: What Responsibilities Accompany the Power of Analytics?


In the modern economy, business analytics is one of the most important processes marketers can employ. Business analytics is the act of exploring and studying data to draw out actionable business insights. In marketing, this means unprecedented understanding of an audience that can in turn lead to higher revenues and a greater ability to adapt.

But like with all power, analytics comes with responsibility. Marketing professionals have a duty to remain ethical in their exploration of customer information. Here, we explore what exactly these ethical responsibilities are and why ethics in marketing is an integral aspect of success.

Transparency

When it comes to data analytics, transparency is an especially relevant aspect of ethics. Digital businesses, marketers, and commerce professionals have an ethical responsibility to use data transparently, even when it isn’t legally mandated. 

Transparency is what terms of service agreements and many marketing laws are all about. This quality in the world of data collection and analytics cannot be understated as it ensures that your customers don’t feel betrayed or used by the marketing process. To operate in the global marketplace of data, you’ll have to adopt transparency as a core tenant of your marketing strategy. It is required by the GDPR, after all.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a legal standard enforced on digital commerce in the European Union. It makes transparency a responsibility of any business that plans on collecting and implementing a data analytics strategy that uses EU customer information. 

Since the first thing you’ll want to do after identifying a target market is to collect information on your audience, having a transparent plan in place is a must. Even if you don’t plan on doing business in the EU, the GDPR is a great guideline to follow regarding your data responsibilities. So make a plan that follows GDPR transparency standards, then publish that plan for your customers to see.

Intention

Next, digital marketing professionals have a responsibility to be intentional with data use as they prepare an analytics strategy. It is bad business to use resources in acquiring all kinds of customer data only to not end up using any fraction of it. The more careless and haphazard your analytics strategy is, the more you put your customers and business at risk for no reason.

Instead, your data strategy should be planned, organized, and honed to produce actionable results while safely and ethically using the data you assemble from your customer base. This means developing a strategy across all your methods of collecting target marketing data, deciding what metrics will be used in what analytics processes, and implementing a plan for securing that data. 

For instance, don’t assemble information on the geographic distribution of your customers if you don’t have a plan for using that data in targeted location-based marketing campaigns. You’ll spend too much money storing that data on either internal servers or third-party cloud systems while failing to act on immediate potential.

By being intentional with your analytics, you naturally put your business and your customers in a safer position. This makes it easier to act on the next primary responsibility that comes with data analytics.

Protection

Any business that collects consumer information has a responsibility to then protect those customers from fallout in the event of a data breach. The cost of identity theft, for instance, averages $1,000 per incident for the victim. For your business, the toll of a data breach will be even greater. 

The average data breach costs a business $3.92 million in both direct and indirect damages. The direct damages are the ones that stem directly from the breach itself, such as the cost to resolve the incident or regulatory fines. The indirect damages come later, through lost business due to a damaged reputation.

By using analytics, you take on the responsibility of protecting the data you store and all those that might be identified from that data. Digital marketing insights from customer data can help you grow your business, but analytics will do more harm than good if you fail to protect data properly. This requires that you follow cybersecurity best practices while applying helpful security tools.

Here’s what you need to help you protect sensitive customer data:

  • Strong password and digital hygiene
  • Websites protected with Secure Socket Layers (SSL)
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
  • Employee training against phishing and social engineering
  • Firewalls and endpoint network protections

Honesty

With a secure system for managing your data, your next point of focus must be on maintaining honesty and integrity regarding the data you collect and what you do with it. Today’s world is plagued by all kinds of misinformation and viral falsehoods being spread around on the internet, and especially on social media. As marketers utilize these platforms, they must make an effort to use data analytics honestly. 

Ethical target advertising depends on honesty. False claims unfortunately are the basis of many pay-per-click (PPC) ads, suggesting various kinds of miracle weight loss and health solutions (“Doctors hate her!”). These tend not to churn up that much business, much less customer loyalty, and can even result in legal consequences. 

To avoid misinformation in data analytics, find sources you can rely on, compare your data with your industry, and consistently test your results. Running on faulty data — or sharing data you know to be incorrect — will more often than not come back to bite your marketing efforts. 

Promoting Fairness in Data Analytics

With these four major ethical responsibilities of using analytics in marketing, you can promote a fairer digital marketplace. This means an expansion of opportunities through new markets. Whether you learn of a new niche through customer research or you spread your marketing into the EU through GDPR compliance, these opportunities can only exist in a world in which consumer data is used safely and ethically. 

Build a marketing analytics strategy that adheres to these responsibilities. As a result, you’ll be better prepared to scale your marketing into new territory while securing customer loyalty.