Second, the emergence of ethical marketing has been leading a new consumer-centric economy, reinforcing companies to adopt an integrated marketing communications approach.
As consequence of the changes occurred in the four global building blocks and the marketplace (digitalization, information technology, intellectual property, and communication systems) traditional mass marketing paradigm- mention above as the push model- was left behind. The rise of digital tools, consumer empowerment, environmental deterioration, overpopulation, social matters such as poverty and famine, and the demand–led scenario have made contemporary marketing attempt to balance profitability, customer needs, and public interests- this is well known as the societal marketing, an approach that seeks to preserve or enhance consumer and social well-being- thus, companies now are focused on adapting to consumer’ needs and develop appropriated communications and relationships. To do so, companies and managers are adopting an IMC approach since it makes it easier for companies to get where they want while meeting ethical concerns, this will be explained in detail below (Schultz, Patti and Kitchen, 2011).
To begin with, what relationship could there be between ethical marketing and IMC? Integrated marketing communications have been one of the major subjects discussed in the last decade, it consists in integrating all the means by which companies attempt to communicate, persuade and remind consumers about the products, services and brand identity. Schultz and Kitchen (2000) define it as:
“A strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coordinated measurable, persuasive brand communication programs over time with consumers, customers, prospects, and other targeted, relevant external and internal audiences”. (p.65)
Note that IMC is defined as a tactical process to communicate with the audience, thus the deep understanding of this audience is the main force behind its implementation which leads IMC approach to be more responsive to consumers that the traditional mass marketing of the past. Collecting the contributions made by Gronbacher in 1998, Moreno-Riano in 2005, Wojtyla in 1993, among others, Kliatchko (2009, p. 164) states that “adopting a personalist view of consumers in developing IMC programs will guarantee a positive, ethical portrayal of consumers in marketing communications materials”, unlike the individualist approach that is considered the opposed to solidarity since it tends to a life’s vision focused toward oneself, the personalism view is relational and foster solidarity; it highlights dignity and the value of the person. Therefore, ethical marketing is consistent with IMC principles as long as a personalist view is adopted; along with all company ‘practices, when communicating, the principles of fairness, transparency, and integrity should be embraced, the integration of both will lead to building strong ongoing relationships with the audience, create brand loyalty and consequently brand equity.
To illustrate let´s take a look at the beauty industry, brands like Glossier and the body shop are some of the startups following a personalistic view of consumers in its IMC, consistent with ethical marketing principles. Besides the current trend of beauty brands looking to be more inclusive in the way the show ethnic, age, and body diversity in their marketing campaigns, those brands are also worried about how they speak to and listen to consumers. Glossier, for instance, is a makeup brand launched in 2014 by Emily Weiss, after conducting interviews the founder realized that women were more attracted in learning about makeup products from women who inspired them, unlike the image economy in which beauty stereotypes pressed women, Glossier is letting consumers define what beauty means to them and based on this principle has integrated its marketing communications in a way consumers see themselves in the images. Also, the brand has been using digital tools such as social media among other channels to provide customers a direct connection and make the brand more accessible, it let consumers ask questions about the products and the company through email communications (ADWEEK, 2017). In addition to, there is an increasing demand for brand transparency, from ingredients sourcing to pricing. The body shop, for example, is considered a pioneer of corporate social responsibility by being one of the first companies to publish a complete report of its efforts and initiatives, the brand was created by Anita Roddick and stands up for animal rights, fair trade, human rights, environmental protection and women self-esteem.