What is marketing compliance?
When you work in marketing, you’re surrounded by creatives. Producing content that really captures an audience is their specialty, but it’s crucial to remember that everything they produce is governed by strict rules and legalities known as marketing compliance.
Have you ever felt like you’ve been missold a product or service, or deceived as to what you’re getting? Compliance guidelines exist to prevent that from happening. The laws protect consumers from being lied to by a business. Additionally, they safeguard any private data collected by companies and allow people the freedom to choose which type of information they share.
Why is it important?
Brand integrity is paramount for any business and there’s not too much that can hurt your reputation more than breaching marketing compliance guidelines. Therefore, it’s essential that you’ve got a solid understanding of the standards to build customer trust and avoid hefty financial losses.
Breaking these laws is one of the most costly mistakes you could make, so here are some of the best tips to ensure that your business isn’t at risk.
1. Stay informed about compliance
While it may seem obvious that keeping on top of marketing compliance updates will help you keep within the guidelines, it’s worth emphasizing that it’s not just something you check once and tick off.
The rules surrounding compliance often change and no business is above the law. Google received a $2.7 billion fine for breaching marketing compliance standards. The company was shown to be favoring a partner site in search rankings. However, having fallen outside of the compliance rules, Google was subject to a seven-year investigation and a huge financial penalty.
The simplest way to avoid marketing compliance issues like this is to keep your business and employees educated on current guidelines. Introducing the rules to your employees and making them understand why they exist is just as important as adhering to them.
2. Design clear internal guidelines
If your marketing team doesn’t clearly understand marketing compliance, you’re more exposed to the risk of breaching it. To avoid this, it’s a great idea to create a set of internal guidelines so that every member of your team can refer back to them if they’re ever in doubt.
You can start by making the guidelines as simple as possible and sharing them with every member of your team. Confirm that employees understand the policy and abide by the rules set out, then review and approve your content as a team to make sure you identify any potential issues.
Keep on top of marketing compliance by reiterating its importance and the potential consequences if your team fails to adhere. Furthermore, ensure that you keep employees updated on any changes in the guidelines.
3. Be honest about product costs and details
If you’re selling a product or service, building trust is key to long-term relationships with your consumers. Therefore, it’s essential that you provide customers with full disclosure of the costs involved and any other final details.
The infamous ‘dieselgate’ scandal of 2015 saw Volkswagen settle for $242 million after false advertising claims surrounding their low-emission cars. The FTC stated: “Volkswagen deceived consumers by selling or leasing more than 550,000 diesel cars based on false claims that the cars were low-emission, environmentally friendly.”
Whether a business is deceitful about the total costs or health benefits of a product, consumers won’t simply sit by and do nothing about it. To avoid the repercussions of misleading products and services, don’t create unfair or deceptive claims - it pays to be honest.
4. Protect your data collection and management
Most businesses are collecting data from users, but remember that users choose to share data with you when they’re under the impression it will be used safely. You are responsible for informing users exactly how their data will be used.
Moreover, how you manage your users’ data is significant. Home Depot suffered one of the largest security breaches ever, in which hackers stole 56 million debit and credit card details from customer data. This cost Home Depot $179 million in a settlement with customers and credit card companies.
Companies often choose to invest in compliance software to encrypt data and protect it from unauthorized third parties. Encrypting data means making your data unreadable to any unauthorized party attempting to access it, decreasing the chances of it being lost or stolen.
5. Uphold brand consistency
Successful businesses employ clear, consistent branding. Research shows that those with consistency are 3.5 times more likely to achieve excellent brand visibility than others with inconsistencies in their branding.
It’s useful to create a clear set of guidelines for your business to guarantee that all employees can turn to it when there are any doubts or questions. Subsequently, this will become a core resource within your marketing team.
Ensure your key decision makers are constantly involved in your marketing compliance process to help guarantee that your marketing is consistent in terms of brand identity and overall message.
6. Produce fair terms of service
Creating clear and fair terms of service is integral to marketing compliance. Companies found to have unreasonable terms of service can face fiscal penalties and suffer huge blows to their reputations.
As an example of unfair terms of service, Amazon received a $4 million fine for its terms of service that were deemed to be abusive to smaller businesses that relied on the platform. Following the fine, Amazon was given six months to change several clauses in its terms of service or face an additional fine for each day they remained the same.
Create a compliance team or outsource your compliance functionality
Given the potential consequences for businesses that breach marketing compliance guidelines, it may be pertinent to assemble a compliance team within your organization or consider outsourcing compliance to a third party.
Partnering with your legal team guarantees that your objectives are being met in a compliant manner. To this end, 34% of organizations outsource some or all of their compliance functionality.
By making compliance a priority, you can alleviate potential roadblocks and support business goals to be met in a more efficient way.
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