Ethical Brands: What Does Your Brand Stand For?

Ethical Brands: What Does Your Brand Stand For?

Several years ago, as VP of Marketing The Body Shop North America, I became acquainted with the philosophy of its founder Dame Anita Roddick. Anita believed that one of the roles of business and ethical brands was to help affect social change. More than just raising money, she believed that it was an ethical brand’s responsibility to raise awareness and support causes to affect social change.
Purchasing products from The Body Shop meant that you were not only doing good for yourself, but you were also supporting a cause that was important and meaningful. Through our purchasing power, we as consumers could bring about meaningful change. No Animal Testing, preserving the environment, raising awareness of HIV and AIDS and Stopping Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People were just some of the causes she championed raising awareness and dollars.
Anita and her company took a stand and made it known what their beliefs were and what she and her ethical brand were against.

Over the past year this idea of ethical brands using their power to raise awareness and really stand for something has taken on new meaning.
More and more through the power of social media and a never ending news cycle, we have seen that customers are both rewarding and punishing brands based on their beliefs.

Last year when Uber was perceived as being tone def regarding President Trump’s Muslim immigration ban 200,000 people deleted their app. Conversely, Lyft was quick to come out with a message of support and alliance with their immigrant work force and benefited from Ubers misstep.
When Nordstrom dropped its Ivanka Trump merchandise there were calls to either boycott or support the brand depending on your politics. Ads during this years Super Bowl from Nike, 84 Lumber, and AirBNB all had messages of inclusion and acceptance.
If we can be equals here, we can be equals everywhere. #EQUALITY #nike.
These ethical brands took a stand and let their customers know what they believed in.

This should be sending a powerful message to brands regardless of their politics. As a brand, standing for something you believe in that has a higher purpose is powerful.
I am often told that it is not a good idea to mix politics (or religion) and business. For the most part I agree as any brand needs to appeal to a wide range of customers.
I do however think that on issues like social injustice and equality, brands are going to be pressed to make their beliefs and what they stand for known. For me, it is less about a particular political party or individual, but more about your core beliefs and values as a brand and as a customer.

We want to know that the products and services we buy share our same values and if they don’t or if they won’t make it known, customers will show their displeasure through their purchase behavior. What this means for brands is that they will be forced to take a stand. Brands that don’t have a clear POV will suffer as more progressive competitors put a stake in the ground. Just look at Uber.
What this means for customers is that like that mosquito, every one of us can make a difference. In small ways, in our every day life, we can use our collective buying power to bring about change and support the ethical brands and products that we believe share our values.
As co-founder of Metalmark Partners, I truly believe that this will change the way brands market and position themselves as nothing motivates change like the power of the almighty dollar.
Anita would be proud.

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