Episode 20 | 28.05.2024

Ethics in Marketing: Why a ‘Person-First’ Approach is Non-Negotiable

This week we’re joined by Margaret Ward, founder and strategist at Claddagh Creative and a devoted advocate for ethical marketing. Margaret shares her expertise on implementing “person-first” marketing, stressing the importance of aligning company values with ethical practices. She discusses strategies for creating impactful and sustainable marketing campaigns, and provides insights from her journey from aspiring midwife to marketer.

Listen to the full podcast episode on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

In the current business climate, the responsibility of companies to “be good” extends beyond profit-making. This responsibility encompasses ethical business practices, environmental sustainability, community engagement, and fair treatment of employees. This broader notion of corporate responsibility was explored in depth during a recent episode of The Responsible Edge Podcast. Host Charlie Martin engaged with Margaret Ward, founder of Claddagh Creative, to discuss how businesses can achieve growth with integrity.

Margaret Ward’s journey to founding Claddagh Creative is a testament to her commitment to ethical marketing and sustainability. As she described in the podcast, her path was not straightforward. Initially aspiring to be a midwife or nurse, Margaret’s career trajectory changed due to personal circumstances, leading her to discover a passion for marketing.

“My journey technically starts when I was like 16 years old… I always knew I wanted to help people, and when I discovered marketing, I realised it was a way to help people in different ways.”

Margaret’s diverse experiences, from internships at digital agencies to working in fast fashion and sustainable businesses, shaped her understanding of what ethical marketing should be. She launched Claddagh Creative in 2020 with the mission to work with ethical and sustainable brands, focusing on creating a positive global impact through holistic and transparent marketing strategies.

 

The Core of Ethical Marketing

Margaret’s philosophy at Claddagh Creative revolves around the concept of “person-first” marketing. This approach emphasises treating clients, their audiences, and the community with respect and integrity. One of the critical strategies she implemented to ensure ethical practices was to avoid having direct account managers. Instead, team members who work directly on the accounts also manage client relationships.

“We do technically have account managers, but they’re people who work directly on the account as well,” Margaret explained.

“This way, we ensure that there are no mixed messages and the client’s story is fully understood and conveyed.”

Margaret’s insistence on this approach stems from her observations in the industry. She noted that traditional agencies often have account managers whose sole job is to keep clients happy, leading to potential communication gaps and a lack of in-depth understanding of the client’s needs.

 

Accountability and Transparency

A significant theme in the conversation was the importance of accountability and transparency in business practices. Margaret emphasised the need for businesses to back up their sustainability claims with concrete actions and data. This principle is embedded in Claddagh Creative’s thorough onboarding process.

“Our onboarding process is quite thorough. Clients have to answer about 60 to 70 questions in different areas, with around 15 being specific to ensuring they are genuinely committed to sustainability,” Margaret said. “If they can’t back up their claims, we guide them to invest time into understanding and improving their practices.”

This rigorous vetting process not only helps maintain the integrity of Claddagh Creative’s work but also encourages clients to critically evaluate and enhance their sustainability efforts.

 

Person-First Approach to Business

One of the most compelling aspects of Margaret’s approach is her focus on the people behind the business. She believes that ethical marketing is not just about the end consumer but also about treating employees and partners with respect and dignity.

“People will go the extra mile if they feel respected and nurtured,” Margaret stated. “It’s about engaging people, which means capturing what makes us human. Our clients’ teams are a reflection of their values, and by treating them well, we see better work and stronger relationships.”

Margaret’s person-first approach aligns closely with the ideas presented in the Forbes article discussed during the podcast. The article highlighted that companies should prioritise high-impact areas, hold themselves accountable, and put their people first to be better corporate citizens.

 

High-Impact Areas and Sustainable Practices

Margaret’s work with Claddagh Creative is a practical example of focusing on high-impact areas. She collaborates with clients to create ethical marketing strategies that resonate with their core values and drive significant positive impact.

One of her clients, PROTSAAH, a Swiss-based jewellery brand, exemplifies this approach. “They work with incredible artisans, and their focus is not just on creating beautiful products but also on ensuring fair treatment and support for their artisans,” Margaret shared. “This holistic approach is what makes their business truly sustainable.”

 

The Future of Ethical Marketing

Looking ahead, Margaret envisions a future where authenticity and personalisation are at the forefront of marketing strategies. She believes that businesses must move away from mass marketing tactics and focus on building genuine relationships with their customers.

“People want to feel like they are more than just a number,”

Margaret said. “Using data to personalise experiences and truly understand your customers’ needs will be key to building long-lasting relationships.”

This perspective aligns with the growing trend of conscious consumerism, where consumers increasingly prioritise ethical and sustainable practices in their purchasing decisions.

 

The Responsibility to Be Good

The conversation with Margaret Ward on The Responsible Edge Podcast highlights the multifaceted nature of corporate responsibility. It underscores that being “good” in business is not just about ethical marketing but also about treating people with respect, holding oneself accountable, and focusing on impactful areas.

As Margaret aptly put it,

“If you want to get to your goal, don’t hold yourself back. Trust your gut and always strive to be a good person in everything you do.”

In an era where stakeholders demand transparency and ethical practices, businesses must rise to the challenge and embrace their responsibility to be good. By doing so, they can achieve sustainable growth, build trust with their customers, and make a positive impact on the world.

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