Marketers get a bit of a bad rap – we like to accuse them of constantly manipulating us, and we blame them for making us buy things we don’t need.

As designers, we work very closely with marketers. Branding is the lifeblood of a good marketing campaign. So while we may not sit in the same department, our worlds collide on a regular basis. At Presence, we believe strongly in an ethical approach to marketing (and to business overall).
But what is ethical marketing?
Is it marketing that is ethical – that is, marketing that is honest, transparent, truthful? Or is it marketing done for ethical businesses?
Is that a business that is honest, transparent and truthful? Or a business that has in place sustainable and environmentally friendly practices? It’s all of the above.

Here at Presence, we get high on etymology – the study of language and how the meanings of words change over time. So let’s remind ourselves what “ethical” actually means. Ethics are essentially your moral principles – the concepts you use to determine what’s right or wrong. The word ethos is sometimes used to describe one’s character. So it all has to do with your beliefs and behaviours around right and wrong.

When something is described as unethical, we understand it to be wrong or unacceptable. If you’ve ever had any dealings with a university or other educational institution, you’ll know they have ethics departments – whole departments of people who are responsible for ensuring that all stakeholders operate in and are treated in a fair and just manner. There is a strong element of governance, then, when we talk about ethics.

With this in mind, then, ethical marketing is the way products and services are brought to market (promoted and exchanged for some sort of accepted currency) in a fair and just way.
Shouldn’t everyone be marketing ethically?
They should. But not everyone does.

We wouldn’t have price wars, falsely limited stock, poor quality products or unanswered customer emails if everyone operated ethically. In our experience, the companies that market ethically are the same companies that drive all of their functions ethically. They hire ethically. They source materials ethically. They manufacture ethically. They treat customers and suppliers ethically. They are driven from a place of purpose, not just profit.
Where do branding and design fit into all of this?
If any of this sounds like stuff you say around your workplace – or if it sounds like an approach you want for your business but don’t know how to start on the ethical marketing pathway – get in touch with us.

New Zealand is home to a ton of ethical brands across all sectors – not just the organic wool brands and the “green” products. Ethical marketing is ethical business. It’s about doing what’s right for humans, the environment, the planet – even if you’re only starting on that journey. We’d love to join you.


We’re excited about working with businesses that want to make a difference. It’s a lofty goal to say we’re in business to leave the word a better place – but we're definitely in business to support those who are!

If sustainability, environmental awareness or reducing your impact are areas you’re exploring in your work, then we’d love to talk to you. We’re especially fond of local enterprises and small businesses with a community focus.
Lets Chat!


What is Ethical Marketing?

Promoting the value that your business creates at every level of supply.

What does that mean? Well if you make small positive choices such as using a sustainable material over plastic for your packaging, then you've created more value for our world than those who choose plastic. Marketing and Branding are all about promoting the value your business creates, which is how you sell your product or service to customers. So by adding more positive choices to your business, you add more value, and by adding more value, you can ethically promote your business without greenwashing or any other fancy buzzwords for lying.

That's ethical marketing. Honest marketing to honest people.

How do Branding and design fit into ethical marketing?

Branding is the core of any marketing campaign. If marketing was flirting with someone at a bar, branding is having a shower and getting a haircut beforehand. Branding is what ties all marketing and design together, and marketing without visual and consistent design is just an essay that not many people will be likely to read.

Having eye-catching design and a brand that is recognisable is core to moving forward with marketing for your business, and as such, sets the precedent for the marketing. If you brand isn't centered around the ethical marketing you're aiming to produce, then it isn't working in your favour. Connecting the ethical marketing with your brand design is vital to communicate vale effectively and consistently.

Is sustainability a part of ethical marketing?

Corporate Social Responsibility isn't necessarily "you should be making the world a better place". It is simply "you shouldn't be making it worse," so if your business involves pollution or the exploitation of people's time or money, then there is no way you can possibly do any ethical marketing.

If your business is unsustainable or doesn't believe in the responsibility it has to the society that enables it, then it becomes impossible to market your business on the value it provides, especially since it clearly saps more than it gives.

This is Ethical Marketing, promoting the value that your business creates at every level of supply.

HOW do we become more sustainable or ethical as a business?

That entirely depends on your business. It may be a good idea to sit down with a sustainable business advisor to see what their thoughts are, but there are always some great ways to start.

An easy place to start is to try source local. Using local goods typically means that you can guarantee the quality of goods and the treatment of workers in a much better space.

Remove plastic! Cut down on as much as you can, as plastic kills thousands of animals a year and poisons our environment. If you can avoid plastic, then you definitely should!

If your goal is something a bit more lofty, you could track down your supply chain, see where your materials or goods are coming from and finding out if the people working there are treated well or if that company produces a lot of pollution etc.

There are a lot of ways your products or services could become better for the people and environment around you!