Today's discerning customers have high expectations from the brands that they choose to associate with. According to the 2020 Consumer Culture Report, 71% of customers prefer to buy from brands that align with their values, while 83% of Millennials stress the importance of value alignment.

When values don't align, customers will shift quickly and are not afraid to permanently boycott brands because of their stance on issues.

Aside from ensuring sustainability — by reducing the impact on the environment and positively uplifting the communities in which they operate — it's important that your marketing efforts communicate those values effectively and authentically.

At the core of ethical marketing is authentic empathy and true purpose. When brands prioritise long-term values over short-term financial gain, they become more meaningful, trustworthy and build enduring loyalty.

Here are four ways that brands should demonstrate their values:

1. Get to know your customers

Step into your customers' shoes. Use analytics, surveys and customer feedback to gain an understanding of their demographics and behaviours. In addition, get out there and connect with customers.

Events, experiences (whether online or offline), customer service and social media are excellent vehicles to gain valuable insights into your customers as people not data sets.

2. Have authentic conversations

Customers will skip over highly processed content in the search for meaningful, authentic experiences and messages. Get your brand out of its glass case. Staid and monotonous key messaging according to static brand strategies can become irrelevant quickly. Be real, authentic — tell it like it is. Get your customers to do the talking for you.

3. Make emotional connections

The point isn't to drive customers to tears but to resonate with your brand. When brands commit to operating in a world they care about with content that is true and adds value, they will reap rewards that are beyond just the financial.

This includes owning your mistakes, for example, should you face quality or service issues, or let a customer down. Honesty is important, and so own your mistakes with authenticity. This humanises your brand and will earn you respect.

4. Journey with your customers

Pivot away from industry best practices and expected initiatives. Leave jargon out of it and rather seek out those real connections. Facilitate spaces for your customers to make their own memories with your brand at their side and be consistent in tone and sentiment across all touchpoints.

Consumers of all ages have evolved, particularly since the pandemic. People favour scrutiny and are less quick to part with their money; they are over insincere marketing initiatives and are less trusting of big business.

Your consumers are looking for real connections. The sooner brands get real with their customers and get real with their responsibility to the sustainability of the planet, the sooner they will not only make an impact in their people's lives but also on the greater good.

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