How to Create Compliant Digital Marketing Messages

Jul 11, 2019   |   Clock Icon 5 min read
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We’ve talked recently about some of the similarities that search engine optimization (SEO) and compliance have in service of a great customer experience. And you know that compliant marketing is ideal marketing. The question remains: How do you get started if you’re new to compliance? After all, select few marketers are lawyers, and vice-versa.

At Workshop Digital, we have clients in highly-regulated fields—as well as team members with experience dealing with compliance efforts in large organizations. While we strongly encourage you to consult your legal or compliance teams when it comes to compliant marketing in your industry, we’ve learned a thing or two from our time across the financial services, insurance, and legal marketing fields.

Ready to get started creating compliant digital marketing messages? Read on for our beginner-level tips.

Compliant digital marketing messages are clear about what the customer gets—or doesn’t

Misleading the customer is the easiest way to produce marketing copy or collateral that doesn’t fly with regulators (or legal counsel at your competitors). Worse yet, it’s an unfair experience for your customers to get information that doesn’t give them the full picture of your offer, promotion, or product. Building loyalty and return business relies on trust, first and foremost—so handle your customer’s attention with care when you have it.

The most compliant marketing messages tell your customer exactly what they’re getting when they spend money with you or provide you with their personal information. Tell them they’ll be getting a discount, but be clear about when the offer ends. If there’s an exclusion on a promotion for your most popular products, come right out and say it. If something’s really not “free” or “included”...well, you get the point.

It’s common knowledge that promotions and offers, especially in the digital space, are extremely competitive. Don’t get your team into hot water by not being up front with your customers.

Your industry’s marketing regulations are your biggest asset

Once you’ve ensured your digital marketing messages have the clearest, simplest message possible, you’re ready to subject them to the scrutiny of your industry’s regulations. If you’re in a large organization, you may be fortunate enough to have a legal and/or compliance team you can lean on for support. If this group is not already embedded in your team’s marketing workflow process, this is a great opportunity to start bridging the gap. For some of our clients, a seamless marketing and compliance workflow can substantially increase their speed-to-market—all while helping educate other teams on how to operationalize compliance. Your teams are allies, after all!

The regulatory world can seem scary or intimidating to the uninitiated. But truthfully, regulations in the marketing space are meant to be shared—and you should be able to find exactly what you need with a simple search. The following resources are great places to start:

  • Data Marketing & Analytics (Association of National Advertisers): This is a true treasure trove of resources for compliance marketing execution across channels. No matter where your firm markets, they most likely have a list of guidelines for you.
  • Digital Marketing Institute: Their list of steps to take in the wake of GDPR (is a great supplement to our GDPR piece) is a great checklist for ensuring that your internal processes are ready to pass muster and are positioned to support your tactical execution. They also drive home the point that a compliant marketing message always includes an up-to-date privacy policy and disclosures.
  • The Federal Trade Commission: The original backstop for compliance and protecting U.S. consumers. We recommend looking through their basics list (beware of nostalgic old resources in there!) and their guide for small businesses which is useful for a firm of any size.

If you can’t talk to a regulator, try to think like one

The regulator’s ultimate goal is to protect consumers by upholding existing regulations and laws. But if you’re not a lawyer, or don’t have a photographic memory of the above resources, how can you think like a regulator? You have your own job to do, after all.

Creating compliant marketing messages is not just about doing what's legal. It’s about doing right by your customer with the work you produce—regardless of the medium. Here's just a sampling of questions you can ask yourself when working with your team to put together a compliant slate of messaging for your next campaign:

  • Does the marketing collateral you produce make the customer’s life easier or more informed?
  • Does it add to their confidence in a buying decision?
  • Is it clear and coherent at the first read?
  • Is it clear what they’re getting from you and what they’re not?

Scrutinize your work. Get a second or third set of eyes on your ads. Think about what the consumer could misinterpret, and prepare for that possibility. Simplify what you say. Be as customer-focused as you can be.

Think like a regulator and you’ll be well on your way to developing compliant marketing messaging for the long haul.

How can compliance and SEO improve your customer experience?

Our guide discusses how digital marketing can help give your customers what they want.

Disclaimer: Workshop Digital is not a legal firm nor a consultant on legal or regulatory matters. We simply provide digital marketing with an eye toward compliant content and execution. If you believe your team requires the expertise of a legal or regulatory team, please retain those services. This article is not intended to provide legal or regulatory guidance whatsoever. Workshop Digital and its employees are not liable for any company’s legal or regulatory actions.

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Sarah Schneider