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THE CHALLENGE OF COMMUNICATING YOUR ETHICAL BRAND

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by Brian McKay01/03/2017

Consumers today are more cynical and more educated than ever. They see through, and switch off when brands that are disingenuous in their marketing activity. Brands that are often more relatable, and resonate deeper with consumers, are those that have relevant values and principles which underpin everything they do.Because their stories start at the point of authenticity.

REMAINING TRUE TO VALUES

Ella’s Kitchen founder and chairman Paul Lindley, recently featured in an article in Marketing Weekly where he stated it is only ethical brands that will endure. Lindley created a range of baby food products based around the principles of sourcing, nutrition and taste. Since 2006 it has grown, and is now the market leader in the U.K. By sticking with what spurred him to create the business, Lindley has achieved success without ‘selling out’ on his founding values. Someone else who has been promoting the benefits of being seen as an ethical company is Jemima Bird, customer director at the Co-op. Bird, at the launch of it their most recent marketing campaign ‘It’s Good to be Different’ which celebrates the ethical way it sources food, said “People trust us in a way they don’t trust other retailers. It’s because we have always stood for sustainability, it isn’t just about suddenly jumping on a bandwagon and deciding ‘lets do the community thing next’. Shoppers see through that instantly unless you actually give back to the community.”

EXPANDING ON ETHICS 

The creation of trust, being seen to be ‘doing the right thing’, the development of relationships with customers, and maintaining brand consistency are just some of the pillars a brand needs to build  and elevate them in the eyes of their customers. What a brand does outside of their area of operations is now as important as a brands product or service. Ikea have taken this stance to heart. 76% of the cotton that it uses comes from sustainable sources, more than 700,000 solar panels have been installed on Ikea buildings worldwide and the group is committed to owning and operating 224 wind turbines.“Consumers have a much wider view on brands today, compared to five or 10 years ago.” says Magnus Holst, global manager of the Ikea Family loyalty scheme, “Today, they expect not only great products and services, but a company’s brand values are equally as important. Many consumers today actively choose brands they want to be identified with, regardless of their product or service offer. It’s about giving people a belief that there’s a purpose to what you’re doing beyond just making money,” he says. “Businesses are waking up to the fact that in order to engender trust and get people talking about them, they need to have an emotional, as well as a functional, relationship with consumers.”

THE CO-OP’S VIDEO

To effectively communicate all organisations require a marketing strategy that is broad enough to reach the target audience, in a way that only positively reinforces what they are doing. The Co-op’s ‘It’s Good to be Different’ used a video as part of that launch. 

The commercial shows people engaging with one another while eating ‘fair trade, British’ food, with the promotion of earning money back for your local community. In 30-seconds, it sums up what  the Co-op does ,and what it stands for. By connecting us visually with a range of people, familiar domestic and social situations all revolving around food, we –the audience– immediately become engaged, who hasn’t scoffed a cream topped meringue in the kitchen when no one else is watching (or wants to after seeing the advert)? The scripting, pacing and music all contribute to the joy that eating and sharing brings, supported by a voiceover summarising the virtues of shopping at The Co-op. The overall result is a tone that is more conversational – like an excited friend sharing the benefits of shopping at the Co-Op, it’s more human…more authentic.

WAITROSE AND COWS

Waitrose, another company built on strong brand values and wanting to promote their ethical positioning, launched a TV campaign to address both of these points.

The advert is simple. No music or voiceover, relying on ambient sound – the movement of a cow, its breathing, the pouring of milk, the whisking of cream, and the resulting ‘dollop’ on a glistening slice of chocolate cake. There are no actors, no gimmicks. Again, it is reliant on the images and the direction to convey their message. Rupert Thomas, marketing director, Waitrose, said: “We’ve always been proud of where our food comes from, and the care and commitment our farmers and suppliers put into producing it. We have never compromised on quality, and never will – but rather than telling customers what we do, we’ve decided to show them in an open and honest way.”

ETHICS IN FINANCE

In finance, a sector that has suffered from a poor reputation for sometime, many institutions are putting measures in place to create consumer trust, and as a result become more ethical in their practices. Triodos Bank claim to be 100% transparent, with Huw Davies, head of personal banking, sales and marketing at Triodos Bank, saying it lends money only to ethical firms. “We are a values-based business bank taking deposits from our savers and using them to lend to projects and organisations that are working for positive change such as global energy,” he explains. “It is a business with clear values that reflect in what we do and how we do it. Transparency is important, especially about how we use money.”

The video is in keeping with their message and is true to the brand image Triodos Bank want to project.

SUMMARY

Being ethical is more than just a statement. It is about doing the things that allows consumers to trust and respect the brand. The credibility lies in doing it all in authentic manner – not as a tick box exercise or to keep up with competitors. A brand needs to be as authentic in their communication as they are in their activities, a balancing act that, if the examples above are anything to go by, those that put profit before ethics may find themselves quite quickly lagging behind.

 

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