Brands with a Conscience: Managing Brand Purpose

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It has been a tumultuous couple of years. Trump, Brexit, #MeToo, and similar movements have caused substantial political and social upheaval. This has forced conversations around diversity, equality and the environment. Brands are keen to get involved in the conversation too, using brand purpose to explore what matters to them. But talk is no longer enough.

Increasingly, consumers are turning to brands that demonstrate a brand purpose beyond profit. Brands that are using their position to push change are finding success over their competitors.

Brand purpose used correctly with collaboration

Authenticity is key to crafting an effective, socially conscious brand purpose. One example of executing an authentic brand purpose is to partner with a charity or campaign.

Lacoste have recently collaborated with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to shine a light on endangered animals – swapping the crocodile for ten of the world’s most endangered species. The polo shirt launch is the start of a three year ‘Save the Species’ campaign.

As well as creating a range of polo shirts to highlight the specific endangered animals, Lacoste have produced the same amount of shirts to represent the number of animals that are left in existence. This includes a worryingly small amount of 30 shirts for the Vaquita Porpoises.

It’s a creative collaboration that has had a positive impact on their brand awareness and with 100% of the profits going towards animal conservation, it will genuinely make a difference.

Brand purpose used correctly with longevity

Smirnoff have been collaborating on a gender equality focused campaign for the last year, hoping to double the amount of female festival headliners by 2020.

Brand Purpose: Concert Image by Abigail Lynn

In partnership with THUMP and Broadly, the vodka brand has created the ‘Equalizing Music’ initiative. The long-running campaign will see a series of projects encouraging women in the music industry. Their most recent project is in collaboration with Spotify:

‘The Smirnoff Equalizer analyzes Spotify users’ listening habits to provide them with a percentage breakdown of the number of men versus women artists they have listened to in the previous six months before providing an equalized playlist tailored just for them, where artists of both genders are equally represented.’ – Diageo 

Rather than pushing a product, sponsoring a cause creates a bigger impact. It will come across as more authentic with audiences.

Brand purpose with an agenda

Authenticity is the core of brand purpose. As digital-native consumers are more aware of strategic marketing and agenda than ever before, misusing brand purpose to market yourself will cause a backlash.

Brand Purpose Agenda: Women's March by Giacomo Ferroni

International Women’s Day presented an opportunity for brands to get involved with gender politics. However, many found themselves criticized for using tone-deaf strategies to promote products, rather than support the issue.

Is the Jane Walker’ campaign really in support of progression, or is it an attempt to broaden Johnnie Walker’s Black Label consumer market?

Is BrewDog’s Pink IPA really a satirical swing at the gender pay gap, or is it leaning on the same gendered marketing tools that companies have been using for years to sell products to women? When the product promotion was met with criticism on twitter, Brewdog were able to use reactive marketing strategies to explain themselves and rectify their reputation.

Starbucks have touted that they’re making environmentally conscious decisions with their business. However, with constant press surrounding tax avoidance the message of ‘we’re promoting a responsible business falls flat.

Companies with a conscience are going to see success. Consumers and customers want authenticity. Now, more than ever before, brands will need to prove that they don’t merely support progress in culture, industry and society but actively enforce change too.


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