Ethic Marketing and the Challenges of The Conscious Consumer

Alberto Adler
5 min readMar 14, 2021

In a world plagued by consumerism, what is the role and importance of an Ethical Marketing Strategy with reliable eco-practices?

By Albert Adler

Ethical Marketing Strategy and reliable ecological practices are strategic market decisions aimed at Brand Equity.

Growing portions of the public place more importance on these postures, so brands work to add these traits to their continuous image-building process. In terms of society, this is great. We all stand to gain. But only if the company’s posture is supported by its practices (which is not always the case).

“Greenwashing” as a Marketing Practice

It is quite common for these postures to be just facades. Vales do Rio Doce Mineração (Brazil) is an example. In 2015, a dam by Samarco, a company that was a partnership between Vale and BHP Billington, broke. Its mud, full of highly toxic chemical waste, reached Rio Doce. This river gives the company its name in Samarco.

In such a large volume, this mud practically killed the river and even affected a large sea region located around its mouth. Since then, Vale do Rio Doce has tried to avoid legal liabilities and fines.

Our theme here has made several efforts to mitigate the company’s image’s adverse effects in terms of communication. In practice, however, what we saw was an accident of even greater proportions in 2019, when the “Brumadinho dam,” belonging to the same Vale do Rio Doce, broke, causing, in addition to formidable environmental damage, the tragic death of 259 people.

In the week of this terrible accident, the then president of the company announced hiring a famous publicist to work on the company’s image. This denotes more than a lack of tact. It reveals a posture of contradiction between appearance and practice.

There are several other similar cases around the world. Remember Volkswagen’s fraud regarding the emission of pollutant gases in diesel engines? I chose this example from Vale because it is emblematic.

It is cheaper and easier to talk than to do. I continue to be suspicious of any campaign with an ecological theme or social responsibility without commitment. The company must expose reliable data of real actions put into practice reassuring efforts supporting the speech.

What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising?

Are there any differences between the older and the new media concerning Ethics?

As the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun.

From the point of view of entertainment (and, ultimately, even news programs are entertainment), although the changes seem to be the result of socio-cultural awareness, they stem from market pressures.

The Identity of minorities calls for representation and relevance, so the entertainment industry responds to satisfy this outcry and thus remains itself (the sector) relevant to these audiences. These changes are positive, of course, but they are not due to ethical reasons. However, they have an impact on the ethical training of viewers, and this is very good.

Concerning news content, the difference is that today there are fewer barriers to entry. It is possible to make a news channel without a large investment in a graphic park or in a network of reporters worldwide. So, there is a profusion of virtual vehicles of all kinds, from the serious to the most spirited. But it has always existed. Only the quantity has changed.

Is it possible to merge Social Responsibility and Marketing as a new way to communicate an idea being through organic publicity (Social Media) or Commercials?

The only way to do that is to have concrete practices in this sense of social and environmental responsibility and only announce anything related to this when it also has tangible results. We did this and arrived at this result.

The “Let’s do it” or just “support” is empty and can lead to problems like the ones Volkswagen faced. We all remember Volkswagen’s fraud about the emission of polluting gases in diesel engines a while back.

What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising?

It is a vast topic since it ranges from advertising a product that has the potential to be harmful to people or to the environment, passing through the type of arguments that can be used even to advertise a harmless product and even the issue of advertising something in that you don’t believe in — even if there is nothing illegitimate about the product being promoted.

I would like to cite a concrete example. Júlio Ribeiro was an example of an ethical advertiser. When founding his own advertising agency, He put in the company’s bylaws that they would never accept business accounts from cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, or any Government agency. At the time, they were three of the 5 largest niche advertisers in the country. In a book, he said that his biggest existential crisis was when, as a copywriter at another agency, an advertiser asked for a cigarette campaign to target teenagers between 14 and 18. So the decision came to put this as an explicit requirement in the company’s bylaws. His attitude when founding Talent was genuinely ethical.

In 1992, a large Brazilian agency announced scissors aimed at children, which had Disney’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse images. The commercial consisted of a boy repeating for 30 seconds, “I have, you don’t!” while showing off the scissors. The product is legitimate, but the language, in one of the countries with the most remarkable social differences in the world, is, in addition to being unethical, of bad taste and atrocious lack of sensitivity. This commercial reinforced a consumerist and futile posture, valuing differences, not similarities. It is a classic example of unethical behavior.

Finally, some people that in other circumstances would never politically vote for candidate A or B. Thanks to competent publicists who work on their campaigns (even though they disagree with everything they argue), they may feel inclined to accept their political platform.

I imagine that the advertisers in question have intimate issues to resolve regarding their professional ethics and social responsibility. In short, do not wish for the other, what you do not want for yourself. This maxim works well for Publicists, marketers, and advertisers.

Alberto Adler is a Brazilian Scholar, a Visionary. He is a Pos-Graduation Professor for the Estácio de Sá University of Propaganda and Marketing. He is also a Planning Strategist on Advertising. His substantial professional experience and expertise involve both focused and eclectic backgrounds. Adler is a writer, a well-known researcher, a strategic Communication Planner, an expert on Strategic Communications and Market Intelligence. Adler is also a Business Mentor and a Leadership coach. Follow him on Facebook.



Alberto Adler

Alberto Adler is a Brazilian Scholar, a Visionary. He is a Pos-Graduation Professor. Adler is also a Business Mentor and a Leadership coach.