Marketing Compliance is all about ensuring that your company’s marketing and advertising content and procedures aren’t in breach of any relevant laws or regulations.
It’s important because if your marketing isn’t compliant, you may suffer brand or reputational damage and/or legal and financial penalties.
Here in the UK, regulations deal with three main aspects of your marketing:
- The claims you make about your product (whether in advertising or product labelling) and the way you present it,
- The way you conduct your direct marketing and communications,
- The way you manage your customer’s data.
The UK Government publishes two advertising codes of practice (covering broadcast media and non-broadcast media) that supplement UK regulations about what advertisers can and can’t do.
Regulations state that you must be accurate and honest in your advertising and that you must not make misleading comparisons with a competitor’s product.
This means that you cannot:
- Give false or deceptive messages,
- Leave out important information, or
- Use aggressive sales techniques.
As well as providing an accurate and honest description of your product or service, your advertising must be socially responsible.
This means you cannot encourage illegal, unsafe or anti-social behaviour.
For certain product categories, your advertising may be subject to other restrictions. For example, in the food and beverage, health, alcohol or tobacco industries.
Direct and Honest Communications
In addition to the requirement that the messaging in your communications with your customers is accurate and honest, the means by which you communicate these messages to your customers is also subject to regulation.
These regulations vary according to the type of direct marketing (or communication method) you use.
For example, if you are communicating via email, the recipient must have agreed in advance to receive such communications and you must offer them a clear “opt-out” method in every communication.
Whatever direct marketing method you employ, the emphasis of the regulations is to ensure you operate a permission-based approach to marketing.
Good Data Management
Your third responsibility is to ensure good data management.
The rules differ in how they relate to individuals and corporate recipients, but in both cases you should be careful about from where you source data and you should ensure that you respect the wishes of those who choose opt out from your communications.
You should also check your lists against the central opt-out list that relates to your method of direct marketing. For example, the Telephone Preference Service and Fax Preference Service (operated by the Direct Marketing Association), the Email Preference Service and the Mailing Preference Service.
Aside from being good practice, checking your lists against these services also helps you to optimise your marketing budget and activity by helping you avoid sending information to people who don’t want it and who won’t read it.
A Consistent Approach
In many respects, technology is an aid to practitioners who wish to ensure their marketing is compliant; not least in making it easier to cross check data with suppression lists and manage subscriber databases more effectively.
However, as in so many cases, it presents new challenges too: ensuring that your messaging is consistent and compliant across the multitude of social platforms on which it might be shared is a huge task for any organisation.
- Make sure you are familiar and up-to-date with all the regulations that apply to your product, service and the marketing channels you use.
- Ensure your messaging is compliant with advertising standards.
- Ensure that all staff understand the regulations, especially anyone posting regularly to corporate social media accounts.
- Actively manage lists and databases in accordance with all relevant regulations.
If you are responsible for a company website you may also be interested in our website compliance article: Your Website and The Law.