Complicating Ethical Marketing Success Stories

Complicating Ethical Marketing Success Stories


That’s right. The weirdos at Greyphin are talking about ethics again. There’s just one last thing we wanted to say before we drop the mic and move on. So far we’ve stressed how marketing truly matters in the big picture, and how ethical decision making begins in the marketing department. We wanted to end with a list of ethical marketing success stories to demonstrate that this kind of work is more common than you might think, but there was a problem. Labelling any brand as a success story suggests there's a finish line, a point at which the work is done, and that's just not true. Every brand we considered still has public criticisms or more steps to take. That, we realized, is the point. It's not about perfection. It's about continually trying to improve.

In previous blogs, we showcased brands like Patagonia and Dave’s Killer Bread to show what purpose-driven marketing looks like when it’s done well. Now we'd like to do something different. Here we highlight similar brands, ones we love not just for the positive change they're attempting, but also because they know they still have work to do.  




The original cruelty-free company for bath products. LUSH was not only a trailblazer for honesty in marketing and responsible crafting, the brand has also expanded their mission as the years go by. Turns out, they're not okay with settling for having the most ethical products on the market. They are now turning their attention to their digital practices to protect the digital rights of their customers. 



Starbucks is a brand people love to criticize, and some of those criticisms have been totally fair, such as concerns about contributions to single-use plastic and treatment of workers. But you know what? The folks over there have consistently upped their standards for ethical operations, especially when it comes to environmentalism and ethical packaging and farming. They continue to strive for better, and that's what we're after. 


Trader Joe's 

From the ethical sourcing and packaging of goods to responsible business practices in-store, ethics are at the core of this grocery chain. They also know they still have room to grow. They know they have ridiculous, frustrating parking lots, according to their podcast, which we love by the way. And more significantly, they know stores like theirs can be over-stimulating, so they're making efforts to design and encourage more neurodiverse-inclusive shopping experiences. We appreciate this kind of intentionality about their products and business model.



Upon the cancellation of its "wear a pair, share a pair" mission in 2019, the shoe brand TOMS saw a lot of backlash. Despite the poor financial situation the company was in, plenty of people argued that the BOGO scheme was just fair-weather activism for brand recognition that, once achieved, no longer needed to be earned. Plenty others argued that the giving negatively impacted the creators of shoes in the areas where donations were being made. It seems like TOMS was in an un-win-able situation. But these days, the brand has shifted their giving model to a percentage of their profits, enabling them to expand their positive impact to areas including mental health, the environment, and social change. 



It may be surprising to see a bank on this list, but not if you know anyone who uses this particular bank. As if an intense dedication to their customers isn't enough, USAA tailors their work to military service members and their families, often helping them through the difficulties of deployments, relocation, and other challenges that come with this kind of calling. The bank is by no means perfect. It has lately seen scrutiny for failing to fix security against money laundering accounts. But they're not settling for the status-quo. We look forward to seeing what kind of future their new Chief Transformation Officer brings


And now, the “wrap it up” light is flashing, so we’ve exhausted our soapbox time on ethics, but we hope complicating these ethical marketing success stories leaves you with the understanding that the marketing world is changing. These companies are not perfect, but ethics isn't about perfection. It's about trying to be better tomorrow than you were today while inspiring others to do the same. It's about constantly thinking about your actions and impact and trying to improve them. And ethical marketing isn’t just the future; it’s the present. If you aren’t getting started, you’re falling behind. 

Don't want to do it on your own? You know who to call. 


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