Be nice or leave. An ethical marketing primer.

Be nice or leave. An ethical marketing primer.

I’ve got a story for you this week, because my staff heard my groans and you can, too.

One week after the Wine Marketing and Tourism conference, I received an email from an event sponsor. As 5forests was also a sponsor, I knew that the attendee email list had JUST gone out to sponsors the day before. This email said, “It was great talking to you last week…” and proceeded to outline how my business would benefit from their services. Except, I’m not a winery, and I’m in New Zealand, and most importantly I HAD NEVER TALKED TO THEM. THEN, soon thereafter, their newsletter lands in my inbox! A newsletter which I never signed up for and had zilcho applicability to me. As a marketer, and also as an event sponsor, I was irked.

So let’s have a wee chat about emails and ethics.

First, explicit opt-in is a must have for all your newsletters. Really, I mean it. I know that GDPR is EU legislation, but it applies to anyone who markets to EU citizens, and that includes American wineries. I was surprised-not-really that GDPR was not being talked about in the States, and then I was gobsmacked to experience that kind of spam first hand. Customers don’t like it either, and it certainly doesn’t establish trust. Readers, please, go forward and be my advocates with your friends and colleagues to change this practice.

Which brings me to my second point for the week:

Let’s talk about ethical marketing.

Ethical marketing is the foundation of how we practice at 5f, and I guess it’s easy for me to live in a bubble where I think this is the norm. But that’s naïve.

We work in alcohol. Whether we like to talk about it or not, we make and sell a product that can cause social ills. We need to be absolutely squeaky clean in how we sell our goods. So I’m just going to do a quick run through on the basics of ethical marketing, and it would be great if you could share this with your marketing team if they don’t read this newsletter, k?

1. Do follow your legislated code of ethics to a T, and then go a little further. Don’t wait until Age Gates or Ingredients are mandated by law. Get behind them now, because they are good for people.

2. Don’t sensationalize, and skip the clickbait. No half-truths or bedazzling headlines. Honest promises and accountability matter.

3. Don’t mislead. To be fair, I don’t think we are bad about this as an industry, mostly because legislation is already on us, but I have seen companies try to mislead with questionable claims about their social responsibility efforts. If you can’t get behind a cause 100%, then skip it. It’s gonna bite you in the ass otherwise.

4. Do treat your data with respect. Don’t buy, sell, or exploit data. And don’t use data to target vulnerable populations (this is especially important as we enter the age of predictive data and machine learning).

5. Don’t let your SEO company do something called black hat link building. Here’s a good definition: “Black hat link building is not designed to serve the user experience but instead simply to boost page rankings for a site by gaming search engine optimization rules.” We’ve actually had to go to bat for clients to get them out of pre-existing expensive SEO contracts because this practice is so widespread.

6. Don’t (publicly) badmouth your competitors. Look, I’m not a saint, and we all can do this in our closed spaces, but as an industry, we need to be a team. We have enough challenges without circling the wagons and firing inward.

The American Marketing Association has a great outline of ethical marketing practices. It’s short, printable, and the kind of thing that every office needs pinned above the water cooler. You can find that here.

And now, for some not-so-heavy news. I’m off to Verona in a couple of weeks for wine2wine. If anyone else is going, give me a shout so we can catch up for coffee, wine, sermonizing…

And, last but not least, I love that you are all chatty, too. I received over a dozen responses to last week’s newsletter about second generation marketing. I promise I’ll come back around to that in a future article.

The wine industry is full of wonderful, creative, inspiring people. Thanks for letting me have a tiny little corner of this home.

Portrait of Polly Hammond

Polly Hammond

Polly Hammond is the Founder and CEO of 5forests, which means every buck stops with her. As the public face of 5forests, she splits her time between Barcelona, Auckland, and California, consulting, writing, and speaking about the trends that impact today’s lifestyle businesses.