Mastering Marketing Laws in Highly Regulated Industries

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Stephanie Williams

Content Team Manager

We recently put together an annual report for one of our most restricted clients, reflecting on the work we have done over the last 12 months, what worked (and what didn’t), and the results it achieved.

So, what is our secret to these killer results? Let us tell you all about it…

Working within UK Marketing Laws and Regulations

So, you have a product or service within a restricted category. Don’t panic! The marketing world is not closed to you, it just means you need to be clever with your strategy.

Warning, sales pitch incoming! However, should you need assistance in navigating the marketing laws surrounding your product/service we’re able to provide consultancy services that would do the majority of the below for you.

Either way, here are a few of our top tips for marketing a restricted product or service:

Understanding Advertising Laws and Regulations in Specific Industries

The first step, before you do anything else, is to research and fully understand what it means to be ‘regulated and ‘restricted’. The rules can be muddied and will vary slightly between products, but, in general, Google and social media channels want to keep people safe online so do not allow promotion of products or services they deem to be harmful. For example, you cannot run Google ads for the following:

  • Explosives – fireworks, grenades, bombs or equipment for making these items such as guides or software.
  • Weapons – guns or any functional device that discharges a projectile at high velocity, any part that enhances the functionality of a gun, instructions on assembly or enhancement. Furthermore, knives, brass knuckles, tasers, throwing stars, pepper spray… basically any form of weapon or instructional guides related to them.
  • Recreational drugs – any illegal substances as well as legal highs, pipes, bongs, or tip sharing forums.
  • Tobacco – cigarettes, cigars, snus, chewing tobacco, papers, filters and e-cigs.

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) also has an in-depth code of conduct that aims to ensure ads do not cause harm and offence, anything directed at children or featuring them is appropriate, and that marketing materials are not misleading.

Like Google’s policies, the Advertising Standards Authority rules also set out regulations for specific products such as medicine or medical devices, weight control and slimming products, gambling, food, financial products, lotteries, alcohol, and motoring to name a few.

For example, your marketing communications cannot show the use of a tobacco product in a positive light and must not contain anything that leads people to adopt unwise drinking styles or habits.

If you are hoping to market a product or service which you think may fall under one or more of these categories, we would encourage you to consult the regulations asap.

Be Careful with Your Wording

Beyond communications regulations ruling whether you can run paid promotions, there will also be dictations as to what you can and cannot say on your website pages, blogs, and social channels. Therefore, it is important to familiarise yourself with the do and do not says.

For example, if you are selling a tobacco cessation product, you cannot make health claims without substantiation using recognised scientific evidence, whereas you cannot use language that glamorises alcohol consumption amongst an audience below the legal limit.

Consider Other Channels

Okay, so you cannot sponsor posts, run search ads, or adopt many of your typical tactics, but with a little out-of-the-box thinking you could have just as great success.

Remember those lovely performance stats I mentioned earlier? Well, we achieved those results with a longtail-keyword focussed content strategy. If you’re looking for a quick win, then this approach is not for you. However, if you have patience and are keen to provide users with valuable, interesting content, then this could be just the ticket.

This should not be promotional or overly salesy but instead aimed at answering common FAQs, providing how-tos and generally providing value. If it should just happen to rank well on Google SERPs thanks to the optimisation, that’s a bonus!

It’s also worth considering influencer advertising. Whilst you may not be able to pay an influencer to promote your product or service, you may be able to send them your product and politely request they do a fair and impartial review of it.

Alternatively, consider event sponsorships and digital partnerships. Could you sponsor a festival or event with the added benefit of a backlink from its website and your logo widely shown across its digital channels?

Finding Navigating Marketing Laws Tricky?

Then let us be your guides. Get in touch with our friendly digital marketing service team to see how we can help boost your marketing performance.

We’re experienced in creating and delivering masterful marketing strategies in even the most regulated of industries. Don’t just take our word for it, read our case study for sports gambling site Free Super Tips.

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Stephanie Williams

Content Team Manager

After impressing Liberty on a work experience placement during her final year of university back in 2013, Steph was offered a role as a Junior Copywriter and joined the team after graduation. Since then, her hard work has seen her promoted multiple times to her current position leading the content team. She has a degree…

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