Why Ethics Will Play a Huge Role in Digital Marketing Post-Covid-19

                                                     Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

The Covid-19 outbreak is a history-defining moment for the world, in much the same way as the two world wars and the Great Depression were in the 20th century.

As the world struggles to adapt to a post-Covid economy, it’s imperative that businesses find resourceful marketing ideas that not only help their performance, but also to benefit society as a whole.

Ethical marketing is not a new concept, having played a part in many huge online sales campaigns up until now, but it could be time for it to take centre stage. 

Here’s how a shift to a more principled digital marketing approach will prove to be an effective business strategy following the crisis.

Purpose-led strategy

The backbone to any ethical marketing drive is to develop a strong purpose-led strategy. 

But first, what is a purpose-led strategy? 

According to Bill Theofilou, senior managing director for Accenture Strategy, it is based on solving a problem for a consumer, and reflecting their values and beliefs.

Developing a deep relationship with customers in this way is something that is likely to become crucial in a post-Covid society. 

People will seek brands that contribute to a better world, and firms that behave ethically, through conduct towards staff and contributing to good causes, will resonate more. Businesses that do the opposite may well suffer a grave hit to their reputation. 

A shift in focus

Some of the biggest companies in the world are already leading the way. Coca Cola recently placed a huge ad in Times Square promoting social distancing, while Unilever’s Dove focused their Real Beauty campaign on the mask-marked faces of health workers under the tagline ‘Courage is Beautiful.

It marks the start of a wider trend, which has resulted in a number of manufacturing facilities, such as distilleries, contributing protective equipment and sanitary products to frontline workers. Quite simply, the public is demanding more social awareness from companies.

The entertainment industry is playing a big part in this drive. Initiatives such as the Sony relief fund, which has pledged $100 million in the fight against the disease, are becoming customary among large businesses in the field. 

In the UK, the first ever virtual Grand National took place in April, raising millions for the country’s health service (NHS), and, while it’ll never replace the real thing, there’ll almost certainly be an increase in online punters in the future: as well as much-needed awareness of how important the NHS is to the country.

In other areas of the betting industry, land-based casinos are taking a hit after being forced to close temporarily.  Many people find the rapidly-improving virtual equivalent almost as exciting and may stick with them after the crisis subsides.

 A knock-on effect of this could be a focus on online safety. Sites that follow responsible gambling guidelines will be looked on more favourably than those that don’t. 

It’s part of a wider trend in ethical gambling which has seen concerted efforts from countries, such as Sweden and the UK. Both countries have recently introduced tougher gambling regulation in an attempt to fight unscrupulous practices and betting addiction.

In the fashion industry, lesser-known brands have shown a charitable spirit. TOMs shoes, for example, have upscaled their buy-one-give-one campaign that has donated almost 100 pairs of million shoes to disadvantaged people. Underwear producer ThirdLove are even donating a 1,000 sets of bras to US health workers, alongside thousands of surgical masks. Both companies’ websites are dedicating their landing pages to the heroic efforts of these workers.

Digital marketers will need to adapt to the trend, as well as its resulting change in consumer behaviour, and could benefit from taking a more ethical approach as people appreciate the effort to keep them safe as they play online.

Making positive use of online media

Of course, not every business can reach out to millions of people, but even for smaller firms, it’s clear that a more ethically-driven focus is going to shape the marketing landscape for years to come. 

Online advertising has had a reputation for pursuing clicks; ‘click-bait’ articles, being a prime example of this. The average person is the daily target of many online ads, something that has sacrificed building long-term trust with the customer. However, this could change. 

Changing the nature of these ads, focusing on empathy and generosity, could make a huge impact. Making a donation to charity every time someone watches the ad, or buys the product, is one such way; or highlighting an important ethical issue within the ad to raise awareness.

An active social media presence is also going to prove essential. Tutorials and daily tips on topics such as ‘how to stay healthy’ are ways businesses can demonstrate that they have good intentions in mind, as well as putting an emphasis on human well-being. Companies that do this are more likely to build their reputation and perform well.

An eye on a post-Covid world

The current trend towards a more ethical style of marketing is not a fad. Several studies suggest that this is something that was already underway before Covid struck the planet: the outbreak has merely accelerated it.

Resonating with a customer’s moral side is not just a question of looking good as a company, it will also determine a business’s success in the long term. An ethical outlook will most likely generate a higher level of engagement in a post-Covid society – it’ll also give the company pride in what they’re doing. 

The one question that businesses should be asking themselves in the months to come is not ‘what can we get from society?’ but ‘what can society get from our marketing campaign’?

Here’s a Subtle Trick to Add Power to Your Writing

Laurie Lee was the master of it. You can be too

By Dan Marriott.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

They say some writers paint pictures with their words.

If so, Laurie Lee created masterpieces worthy of the Louvre: great sweeping works of vivid colours and characters that dance into life.

He was a poet at heart; a wordsmith who used his talent to fill readers’ minds with bright scenes of his past; but he could also write hauntingly beautiful novels.

Reading his seminal work Cider with Rosie brings that home. It’s a roller coaster ride of childhood recollections in the idyllic English countryside, where Lee hits you with a stream of lucid memories and a sense of childlike wonder at the world around him.

Taking pride of place in his literary arsenal is the ever-powerful simile.

Lee was a master of it, using it to evoke emotion and nostalgia, and to paint vivid scenes in the reader’s mind.

If you’re struggling to inject a spark into your writing, then well-worked similes can infuse your words with energy.

But how can you use them to maximum effect?

Here’s a look at how Laurie Lee did it.

Pack them with emotion

‘It was knife-edged, dark and a wicked green, thick as a forest and alive with grasshoppers that leapt through the air like monkeys

Knives, forest, monkeys. It could be an action movie, but Lee uses that sense of danger to etch out his feelings of being dropped off a handcart into a patch of long grass as a toddler.

Note how much work the similes do here. Comparing the grass to a ‘thick forest’ instantly gives a sense of both danger and rural beauty, while monkey-like grasshoppers convey the narrator’s small size, as well as the surrounding chaos.

Takeaway point: Use similes to illustrate multiple emotions in just a few words.

Choose the right verb

Another hazard of a damp, rural English upbringing — water. Floods of it.

With his family’s house built into the side of a hill, the young Lee stares in wonder as great gloops of it seep into their kitchen during a particularly heavy deluge.

‘It slid down the steps like a thick cream custard’

The viscous texture of a thick cream custard shows just how much debris it must have carried; sweeping mud and sediment along with it.

As such, the verb he uses is perfect: this syrupy water doesn’t flow, it ‘slides’. A languid motion that also carries a threat; a hint at something out of control, like a car ‘slides’ across ice, for example.

They may be subtle, but minor details such as this help the scene jump off the page at the reader.

Takeaway point: Pair the simile with a suitable verb to really hit home.

Be unconventional

Lee had a gift for making mundane actions appear miraculous.

Here, he starts by giving water a divine status — appearing ‘pure’ out of the ground — before hitting us with a stunning analogy:

You could pump it in pure blue gulps out of the ground, you could swing on the pump handle and it came out sparkling like liquid sky.

Comparing it to the sky, another natural element, reflects his child-like wonder at the water’s glistening light and sense of infinity.

‘Sparkling like liquid sky’ may sound like a psychedelic Beatles lyric, but it makes you feel as if a remarkable event is taking place when, to an onlooker, it’s just a child playing with water.

Takeaway point: Don’t be afraid to push the boat out. Left-field similes can be the best ones.

Let there be light

Light is a powerful tool to use to add drama to your writing. In Lee’s case, he uses it to illustrate the brightness of a rural world, free from the pollution and artificial lighting that dominates city life.

‘I remember, too, the light on the slopes, long shadows in tufts and hollows, with cattle, brilliant as painted china…

The contrast of the long shadows and the white cattle brings to life a vivid natural scene in the reader’s mind. Decorated china, or porcelain, is traditionally seen as a thing of beauty, as well as a status symbol, and adds prestige to something as humble as a country animal.

Takeaway point: Using light and shadows works wonders when setting the scene. Add a well-worked simile to empathise this.

Describe motion accurately

When writing about movement, we’re often spoiled for choice. A bird can glide or swoop, a tree can rock or sway.

Lee lets a simile to do the work for him:

Bees blew like cake crumbs through the golden air

Of course, he could have just said ‘the bees were blown through the air’ — but this sounds like they’re being propelled by the wind.

By comparing them to cake crumbs, he captures their lightweight motion perfectly, drifting lazily in the summer haze.

More subtly, seeing them as the dark colour of cake crumbs suggests he’s looking at them in the sunlight, or the ‘golden air’ that he describes.

With Laurie Lee, these similes are just the tip of a creative iceberg: his stories are crammed with metaphors, striking imagery, and fascinating characters.

For further reading, I strongly recommend getting a copy of Cider with Rosie, as well as ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’, a remarkable account of how he travelled through Spain on foot as a teenager in the 1930s.

Hopefully his work can inspire you to take your writing to the next level.

How We Can Avoid Another Pandemic – According to Bill Gates

By Dan Marriott

The COVID-19 outbreak has seen the onset of a global health crisis. Sweeping across the planet like wildfire it has infected millions of people, many of them fatally.

Amidst all the confused talk from public figures, there has been one high-profile voice that has remained constant since delivering a prescient TED talk in 2015

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, used the platform to warn the world of the imminent threat of a global pandemic. He said that countries around the world were not doing enough to prepare for it, with some even going as far as to cut funding for virus programmes.

His words have been proven true.

But there are positives to take out of this grave situation: we can take steps to avoid this happening again. This article is going to look at Gates’ recommendations in more detail to find out exactly how it could be done, according to the entrepreneur.

Investment in research

One notable feature of the crisis has been the number of myths about Covid-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus, that have circulated online. Misinformation is a threat and has further contributed to the spread.

Gates knows how to avoid this. He talks about identifying symptoms for the virus like you would for any illness or disorder, whether it be the common cold or even problem gambling—with science. 

To push this further, he says, there needs to be a sustained level of investment in biological research, particularly from richer countries. Vaccines need to be developed and tested quicker than the predicted 18-month period at the moment. Governments must carry out detailed simulations of future outbreaks so they can test different response methods and assess the results. 

There needs to be an emphasis on ‘germ games, not war games’, to quote Gates; with research and development being at the centre of international political discussion.

Investment in healthcare

One of the most serious effects of the 2020 outbreak has been the huge strain placed on health systems across the world, including in some of the richest countries. 

Nowhere is this more stark than in the U.S.A, where hospitals are struggling to afford important drugs and ventilators needed to help fight the virus; despite the country’s status as the richest on the planet. President Donald Trump even announced an extra $2 trillion spending on arms a few months prior to the outbreak, although the actual amount is believed to be lower.

Bill Gates has cited healthcare as the key weapon in tackling COVID-19, not guns and bombs. What’s more, he said it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the military spend of ‘G8 countries’, and also the estimated $2.7 trillion hit to the global economy as a result of the virus.

His suggested measures include:

  1. Investing in epidemiologists – medical expertise that was lacking during the Ebola outbreak
  2. Forming stockpiles of crucial equipment needed to treat and test patients
  3. Training up doctors and nurses to boost countries’ emergency response systems.

It wouldn’t just be rich countries that adopt this approach. According to Gates, it’s essential that poor countries do the same, as this is where the next outbreak could happen.

If they can’t afford it then rich countries should step in to help, as it will ultimately protect them, too.

Implement a military-style response system

The combined might of the global military forces is easily enough to destroy the planet many times over. Yet arms spending continues to escalate. Quite simply, we live in a world that is an expert in warfare.

However, we can use such knowledge to our advantage. ‘Not missiles, but microbes’ is Gates’ quote. Using a war response system, highly sophisticated army logistics could be used to deploy key medical personnel to emergency locations, allowing them to deal with patients quickly. 

It is something we know how to do already. NATO, for example, already has mobile units set up that train regularly for emergency situations, such as field hospitals, but this has to be stepped up significantly and implemented worldwide.

This type of task force would be known as a ‘medical response corps’, a highly effective team of experts who are on constant stand-by.

Combining the military with the medical could save countless lives.

Social distancing and technology

On a positive note, Gates has praised people who have carried out social distancing where they can, whether it be by staying indoors or following essential separation rules.

To avoid the spread of a future pandemic, these tactics would have to be adopted from the very start. While there are certain workers that will find them impossible to carry out much of the time, such as health professionals, the rise in teleworking and social technologies will help people to maintain their distance from each other.

Social technology informs people of outbreaks as they arise, and also to check on the health of vulnerable loved ones. It explains the rise of virtual platforms such as Zoom and House Party, and further progress in this field over the next few years will greatly help the fight.

“If there’s one positive thing that can come out of the Ebola epidemic,” Gates said in 2015 “it’s that it can serve as an early warning – a wake-up call to get ready.”

The world’s governments ignored Gates’ advice the first time around, with devastating consequences.

If they fail to take heed of his comments a second time, then we might be hit with a virus much worse than COVID-19, and this is something we can’t afford to contemplate.