When you think about responsible marketing, concepts like corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainability, cause-related marketing, inclusive marketing and many others might come to mind. But what does it really mean to be a responsible marketer, and why is it important?
We sat down with Lisa Loftis, Principal Product Marketing Manager at SAS, and presenter at Simpler Media Group’s CMSWire Connect conference, to learn more.
“I’m very proud to work for SAS because of what they’re doing in responsible marketing,” said Loftis. “For example, through our Data for Good program, we’ve committed to using data and analytics to solve humanitarian issues around poverty, health, human rights, education and the environment. We make our software available through a crowdsourcing app to help do this. Not only do we focus on how you can use AI to improve business, but also how you can use it to improve society.”
SAS is an analytics and marketing software and solutions provider based in Cary, NC, and a sponsor of the CMSWire Connect conference, held May 10-12, 2023. During the conference, Loftis presented the session, “CDP – Mr. Irrelevant or the GOAT” and hosted a roundtable discussion on responsible marketing. Here, she shares with us some of her insights around responsible marketing, including what it means, the benefits for both companies and society, and tips for implementing these practices in your own organization.
What Is Responsible Marketing?
CMSWire: From using AI responsibly to engaging in sustainable business practices, responsible marketing covers a lot of ground. What does responsible marketing mean to you?
Lisa Loftis: At SAS, we have a framework to talk about responsible marketing. Because it means a lot of things, we break it up into two categories. The first is responsible use of customer data and technology, which includes legal and ethical compliance, balancing personalization and privacy, and protecting vulnerable audiences. The second is the responsible use of resources such as optimizing marketing assets, measuring marketing value, and promoting corporate social responsibility. So, it’s a broad definition.
CMSWire: How is responsible marketing related to sustainable marketing and corporate social responsibility?
Loftis: There are two aspects to think about here. The first is using marketing’s platform to communicate that a brand’s business model is focused on acting responsibly to society. This includes economic responsibility (using funds and budgets responsibly, which is a big issue today), social responsibility (DEI: diversity, equity and inclusion) and environmental responsibility (the sustainability component). When communicated effectively, these help you develop a positive brand image, among other things.
The other important aspect is safeguarding audiences and ensuring that your AI models are free from bias. For SAS, this is one of the most important tenets of responsible marketing. This ensures you have policies, criteria and governance in place across marketing activities to protect those with vulnerabilities based on age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, or some other characteristic. It could mean avoiding engagement with them — such as not marketing cigarettes or vapes to children — or making sure that marketing doesn’t incorporate bias that excludes audiences. For example, some social media platforms are under regulatory fire for using analytics and AI to build advertising audiences for jobs that leave out certain groups of people.
Why and How to Practice Responsible Marketing
CMSWire: What are the biggest benefits organizations realize from practicing responsible marketing?
Loftis: In addition to pure brand image, you can create competitive differentiation through data, with the right balance of privacy and personalization. In a world where customers can switch allegiances and loyalties very easily, communicating that customer data is used in a transparent manner creates trust and loyalty, which is a long-term benefit. According to a study we did with the CEO Council — Cracking Tomorrow’s CX Code — about 80% of consumers surveyed said they would provide personal data to a brand if they felt like they were getting something of value in return — even though most of them felt like they didn’t have control over their data. So, that exchange is critical, especially considering the deprecation of third-party data and the need to focus on first-party data. And it’s a huge differentiator. On the other hand, if you’re optimizing your marketing resources, you can make better, more agile business decisions that help you speed up time to market.
CMSWire: What are some of the major challenges for organizations that want to engage in responsible marketing practices, and how can these be overcome?
Loftis: I think the biggest challenge is prioritizing what they need to focus on. This means identifying what responsible marketing means to the organization first. It’s an organizational transformation that requires not only marketing, but legal, product development and human resources. You need an end-to-end corporate look at roles and responsibilities to do this.
Top Tips to Get Started
CMSWire: With increasing expectations around the impact organizations can have on society and the environment—as well as pending regulations—can businesses be successful if they don’t practice responsible marketing?
Loftis: Personally, I think that responsible marketing practices are going to become table stakes — if they’re not already — for three reasons. First, optimizing resources, providing value and empowering people is really Business School 101. We’ve labeled it responsible marketing, and it is, but that’s what they teach you in terms of how to run a company effectively and efficiently. Next, are privacy practices and transparency—these are non-negotiable. Finally, sustainability and DEI are no-brainers, if for no other reason our employees and colleagues are human beings and deserve to be treated as such.
CMSWire: What are your top recommendations for organizations looking to adopt responsible marketing practices?
Loftis: This is a hard question to answer because things move so quickly. The more widely technology gets rolled out and the faster it gets rolled out, the more important it is to have that governance framework in place that we talked about earlier. This will help you better anticipate any issues that might come up and deal with them appropriately. On the other hand, if technology is rolled out and governed in the right way, there’s potential to do tremendous good. We’re already seeing this in programs like Data for Good, and with marketing organizations using technology like generative AI to promote creativity, expand their horizons and bring in additional points of view.
SAS was a Visionary-level sponsor of the CMSWire CONNECT conference. To learn more, visit CMSWire CONNECT.