The Email Marketer’s Guide to Responsible Marketing

Responsible marketing can mean different things to different people.

A simple Google search will show up a variety of topics covered, from data through to supporting ethical causes.

At Pure360, we view responsible marketing as taking a customer-centric view in everything that we do. This means focusing on the customers’ wants and needs before our own. And avoiding any activity or behaviour that would be an abuse of their trust and expectations of us as a brand.

The theory is that by doing this, the benefits will come to us as a business in the form of long term customers, positive brand sentiment, increased brand awareness, and dedicated brand ambassadors.

And of course, it means that we become better marketers along the way.

In this guide, we will cover three key areas that email marketers should focus on to ensure responsible marketing – data privacy, empathy, and ethical marketing. We will explain what they mean for email marketers, and how they can ensure responsible marketing in each area.

For responsible marketing, better starts here.

What is responsible marketing?

Let’s begin by breaking down what responsible marketing actually is.

As mentioned, we view responsible marketing as falling into three main categories, which are:

Data privacy

Data privacy has been a contentious subject for many years, particularly since the launch of GDPR. Meaning that consumers have a heightened awareness of how brands handle their data. And the privacy which many wish to retain.

As an increasing amount of consumers turn to online shopping, the importance of handling data in a responsible manner has never been so essential for brands. Many of which are having to work harder to gain consumers’ trust.

And any breach of their data security, unsolicited emails, or bad personalisation immediately triggers consumers to ask a brand how they are managing their data.

And rightly so. Consumers have been bombarded with stories of scams, data loss, and identity theft.

They are conscious, worried, and in some cases scared of the power that brands can hold with their data. So it’s up to the brand to offer reassurance and act responsibly.


By communicating empathy, a band is showing they are all about the customer.

In terms of marketing, empathy means understanding your audiences values, emotions, challenges, and needs. And tailoring your business to meet them. Instead of simply focusing on what will sell.

The past few years have raised everyone’s awareness of empathy within marketing.

We have all been through a pandemic. Protested that Black Lives Matter. And followed the Me Too Movement. Amongst many other causes.

And these historic events all showed us that brands that don’t get empathy right receive significant backlash.

Because today, empathy needs to be at the heart and soul of all marketing activity, communications, branding, and strategy. A lack of empathy shows a lack of understanding and respect for an audience. Something that consumers simply won’t, and don’t, have to put up with anymore.

Ethical marketing 

Modern-day consumers are increasingly aware of the impact they, and businesses, have on wider society.

They no longer just demand lower prices and better customer service. They also want brands to show commitment to improving social, economic, and environmental causes.

Sustainability, for instance, is a key concern for consumers and brands alike. As well as governments around the world.

For instance, as well as considering their physical products and packaging, brands need to consider how sustainable their tools, platforms, partners, and third parties are.

If brands are not making efforts to run a sustainable, ethically minded business, they will soon be called out by consumers.

How to conduct email marketing responsibly

Now you understand the concept of responsible marketing, let’s look at how email marketers can go about achieving it. And offer their recipients the best possible experience.

Be data savvy

Data is one of the most considerable areas when it comes to responsible marketing, especially for email marketers. It is at the core of everything they do. And it’s important they get it right, but unfortunately, it can be easy to get wrong.

If you would like further information about using data responsibly, check out our GDPR series.

Collect data appropriately

Due to GDPR, collecting data is no longer such a simple process. And whilst many marketers may grumble over the difficulties GDPR has brought them. We are firm believers that enforcing responsible data collection is better for us all in the long term.

When it comes to collecting data appropriately, there are some clear guidelines that marketers should follow.

  • Unbundled – consent must be separate from all other terms and conditions, and not based on any preconditions.
  • Active – consumers must actively opt-in to consent to share their data, this means no longer using pre-checked opt-in boxes.
  • Clear – request for consent of data must be clear and explicit, in a way that is simple to understand
  • Named – you must provide the name of your business and any third parties you are requesting consent on behalf of.
  • Easy to withdraw – the consumer must be able to opt-out or withdraw their consent easily, and you must make them clearly aware of how to do this.
  • Documented – all businesses must keep a record of what each consumer has consented to, what they were told, and when and how they provided consent.

Newsletter sign up Example - Zara

Protect consumers’ data

The golden mantra of data usage in marketing is ‘if you can’t protect it, don’t collect it’.

If a consumer has trusted you enough to hand over their personal details, then it is your responsibility as a brand to keep it safe and secure.

Unfortunately, all too often you will hear about a data breach that eliminates all sense of security consumers felt when handing over their data. Therefore, as well as gathering data ethically, brands need to have a solid data protection strategy in place. One that ensures only authorised individuals have access to data. And that all systems which can also access the data have appropriate security measures.

And if a data breach does occur, ensure that you don’t waste any time in taking action. Communicate with all of the affected parties immediately, and inform them of the measures you are taking to ensure a breach doesn’t happen again.

Use data correctly

It should go without saying, but to be a responsible email marketer, you should use the data you have access to appropriately.

First and foremost, this means only using it in the way that the consumer explicitly consented to. Meaning, if they signed up for a newsletter and only a newsletter, you cannot start sending them promotions from third party affiliates.

Instead, focus on offering clear benefits to the consumer now that they have handed over their data. You can achieve this by using the data in the most effective way. For instance, implementing email personalisation to only email them about the products, services, and events that the recipient is actually going to be interested in.

This not only offers the recipient an unparalleled, personalised experience. But also proves to them that you are using their data in a way that benefits them.

Birthday email example

Show empathy

Sending the right email message is also key to responsible marketing. This means ensuring your communications do not cause offence or upset. And are in line with your recipients’ values and expectations.

Put your customers first

When it comes to showing empathy in your email marketing, the one thing you need to remember is to put your customers at the heart and soul of everything you do.

This means using the data you have collected responsibly to identify their wants and needs, and directly targeting them. This can also be complemented by ongoing research into your industry and keeping your finger on the pulse of the latest developments and trends.

Use this information to structure your email comms around how your product or solution can address their needs. Identify the pain points and then join the dots back to your business, and how you can help.

Build personas

Personas are key to further understanding your audience. And not simply what they want to buy.

They provide a snapshot of your target audience’s personality. Their goals, challenges, family life, hobbies, favourite brands, etc. You can really get creative with the information that is most useful to you and your marketing.

And you don’t need to just create one persona. If you have different types of consumers, then you can create one for each.

Then utilise these personas to ensure your emails are appealing to them. Are you promoting the right products? Using the right tone of voice? Incorporating the right imagery?

Personas should adapt and change over time as your audience does. So keep them up to date, and ensure they are always reflected in your marketing

Email Marketing Personas

Image Source – Smart Insights

Tone of voice

Getting your tone of voice spot-on is essential during challenging times.

Emotions are high, people are on edge, and the last thing you want to do during a crisis or sensitive moment is offend your recipients.

The best way to judge your tone of voice is to listen.

Listen to your audience, monitor social media buzz, and get a second opinion before hitting send.

Include personalisation

One of our favourite statistics is that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalised experiences.

By utilising personalisation in your email marketing, you are proving to your recipients that you are paying attention to them, addressing their needs, and using their data correctly.

This results in your email communications targeting them with only the offers, products, and promotions that they are interested in. Instead of bombarding them with communications that are irrelevant, and making them feel misunderstood by your brand.

Personalisation Example - Email Marketing

Be ethical

Last but not least, as well as showing consideration to their individual recipients, it’s important for marketers to consider the ‘wider picture’ when it comes to their email. Namely, the rest of the world, and the challenges they are going through.

Environmental consciousness

73% of millennials are willing to pay extra for sustainable products. And with millennials expected to make up 50% of the global consumer market come 2025, being environmentally conscious is essential for any brand.

Earth is facing an environmental crisis, and this is drastically influencing buying decisions. So much so, that consumers are choosing to support businesses that are using, or moving to use, environmentally safe practices in everything that they do.

Email marketing already has the benefit of being an environmentally friendly channel. Unlike more traditional forms of marketing, there is the little physical resource needed (other than marketers themselves). There is no paper wasted, and no printing ink is required.

Even so, email marketers shouldn’t rest on their laurels. To maintain an environmental consciousness, they should consider and review the suppliers, brands, and platforms that they work with to ensure they are like-minded businesses.

Brand Example

Show support, if you mean it

Modern-day consumers want brands to use their power and network to support ethical causes, whether that be environmental or humanitarian.

So if your consumers are passionate about a cause, then as a brand you should learn how you can support them. Bear in mind, this support should be genuine, and well thought out. The last thing a brand wants is to be accused of ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ simply for promotional and branding purposes.

Email is a key channel when it comes to showing support for ethical causes. It allows brands to directly communicate their support to an already engaged audience, without getting lost in the noise that other mediums, such as social media, suffer from.

And it offers the space and design options for brands to truly get their message across, without having to squeeze it into a character limit.

Lastly, by using specific tactics in these emails, you can make them more personal to the individual. When broaching sensitive subjects, something as simple as a first name in the email can have a big impact. Brands can also use dynamic content to ensure they are using the correct language or currency. And can go as far as to use geotargeting to promote resources or events that support the cause, and are local to the individual recipient.

Supporting meaningful causes

Would you like learn more about Pure360?

Great. It’s never too late to get started.

At Pure360, we can support brands in all areas of responsible marketing. Including data capture and usage, GDPR, campaigns and tone of voice, and personalisation.

To find out more, get in touch with our friendly team of experts today.


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