Have you noticed lately that a lot of marketing campaigns have included ethical messages or themes? From brands that base their business model on giving to others, Like TOMS Shoes famous One for One campaign, to brands that just see the advantages of positioning themselves in line with societal movements (we’ll never forget the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi Commercial), becoming socially aware and responsible is the new trend. As millennials become the core audience for many brands, their issues and concerns are being, understandably, more catered to. The Pew Research Centre finds that millennials (and the slightly younger Gen Z) care most out of all generations about inclusivity, diversity, climate change and gender equality and other gender and race issues. Working against marketers, however, is also the layer of scepticism that this group holds, which makes them slightly harder to convince. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 found that economic pessimism was common among millennials, in addition to the scepticism of businesses. On the other hand, millennials indicated their willingness to patronise and support brands that recognise their impact on society and reflect positive values. So, it would make sense for brands to start considering their corporate social responsibility. Overall, there has been an increasing shift, in all generations, towards ethical consumption. According to a national study conducted by McCrindle, an Australian social research group, consumers are more likely to purchase a product from a brand that supports a social or ethical cause. They found that 8 in 10 shoppers would purchase from a brand that supports someone in need, or a charity, over a brand that does not. They also found that supporting the environment or animals specifically ranked higher among consumers considering ethical brands with 77% indicating they would support a brand that helps these causes. Don’t feel the need to jump on the bandwagon? As long as your practices demonstrate common sense and morality, your brand can still be seen in a positive light. However, the internet has enabled online communities to have a voice against certain issues. These act as community-driven watch-dogs for brands, and sometimes even have the power to make a change. Two popular Instagram accounts that stand for this very purpose include:
@esteelaundryThis is a community-driven beauty-focused account that calls out make-up and skincare brands for unethical practices and inappropriate marketing.@diet_pradaThis account is also community-driven, but more focused on fashion related practices. They recently called out Kim Kardashian’s new shapewear brand “Kimono” for culturally appropriating the traditional Japanese garment of the same name. It’s worth noting that Kim has announced that her brand will be changing its name after much disapproval from the public - the power of the people!
Ethical Marketing Campaigns
Ethical marketing campaigns come in different tones and genres. They may be subtle, or they may lay it on thick. They may be clever and quirky, or they may be extremely depressing and bleak. No matter the approach, they all have the same objective: to position their brand well amongst competitors. Let’s have a look at some of the best and most iconic marketing campaigns with strong ethical undertones.
Patagonia: Don’t buy this jacket.
Consumerism in itself is a major concern for society, especially with fashion and apparel boutiques popping up left, right and centre. Patagonia, a premium outdoor clothing brand, has become relatively well-known for its unorthodox approach to marketing its apparel in solution to overconsumption. In their 2011 campaign, they literally asked consumers to not buy their jacket. Their overall message communicated that people shouldn’t buy items unless they need them. On top of promoting healthy consumer behaviours, the company has implemented policies to help consumers be more conscious of their wasteful practices. The company offers free repairs on lifetime warranty items, they donate their Black Friday sales to grassroots green organisations, and they pledge 1% of their annual revenue to environmental organisations. So, not only do they talk the talk, but they walk the walk.
H&M: Be a fashion recycler.
Email marketing is highly successful if done right. You need to anticipate key events and movements to provide timely marketing. However, environmental issues never fall off the agenda, which is why this form of ethical marketing is a viable option for many businesses. One major fashion retailer that adopted this practice is H&M. To highlight their eco-friendly practices and therefore, their corporate social responsibility, the fashion giant shared key messages via email to their customers. The campaign, titled ‘Be a fashion recycler’, invited customers to drop off their unwanted textiles and clothing to their nearest store. The campaign promotes H&M’s ongoing Garment Collection Program, which works towards creating a more sustainable future.
Nike: Believe in Something.
Last year, Nike launched a new campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick with the slogan, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The ad campaign followed the controversy of Kaepernick not standing for America’s national anthem in protest of wrongdoings towards African Americans and minorities in America, a strong reference to police brutality which affected the lives of many young African Americans. Shortly after, Kaepernick was fired from his NFL team. The campaign was met with strong and polarised views from the public. Many showed support for Nike, for highlighting an important matter, and many disapproved of the political messaging from a sports brand. Many also took the time to create hilarious memes (pictured below). It just goes to show that sometimes people will not take your message as you intended and you have to be prepared for backlash.
Businesses Being Ethical
Creating marketing campaigns to highlight a business’ environmental and social responsibility is significantly easier to accomplish if that said business has already developed corporate ethical pillars to lean on. If you’re in need of some inspiration, a good idea is to look at the World Fair Trade Organisation’s 10 Principles of Fair Trade.
(Caption: Photo from World Fair Trade Organisation)
To see how these principles are enacted, we’ve highlighted some popular Australian and international brands that have incorporated some of these practices into their daily operations. As we’ve exclusively explored fashion brands, let’s stay on theme.
Witchery is an Australian fashion brand that specialises in women’s clothing, shoes and accessories. They have implemented environmental policies, namely reporting to the Carbon Disclosure Project of their direct and indirect carbon emissions. On top of meeting their emissions target in 2016, they have established their commitment to meeting science-based targets for emissions reduction. In regards to their fair trade practices, they trace their supply chain to check that no subcontracting has occurred, or if it has, it applies to the company’s standards, to ensure fair conditions to all workers. They received a ‘good’ rating in the 2018 Ethical Fashion Report against criteria including payment of a living wage, transparency and worker empowerment. Witchery’s only setback is its use of animals for material, particularly exotic animals such as mohair and alpaca.
Adidas is the world’s second-largest sportswear manufacturer (Nike is the largest) known for its iconic branding. Over the last few years, Adidas has implemented environmental and labour policies to promote fair trade and reduce environmental impact. In fact, their efforts greatly surpass Nike’s. Adidas is a founding member of the Better Cotton Initiative, a non-profit group that promotes better standards and practices in cotton farming (H&M, mentioned above, are also supporters of better cotton). They are also a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a global alliance of retailers, brands, suppliers, advocacy groups, labour unions and academics who fight for the sustainable production of textiles, apparel and footwear. Adidas has also made a public commitment to reduce its direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2020.
Kathmandu is the leading retailer of travel and outdoor adventure apparel in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Much like the previously mentioned brands, Kathmandu has also made significant commitments and changes to take responsibility and accountability of its unsustainable practices. To ensure fair labour practices, they trace their supply chain and publicly list some of their suppliers. They are also members of the Better Cotton Initiative. Kathmandu also uses a medium portion of recycled materials in the manufacturing of their apparel, namely recycled polyester and organic cotton. Finally, they have also resolved to minimise their greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in 2020.
Developing an Ethical Brand
Moving forward, it’s going to be important for brands to consider how they’ll position themselves amongst the ethical and social standards set by society. Getting ahead of the game and developing ethically and socially responsible policies and commitments is crucial for emerging brands as it allows them to have a selling point for customers. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a few short tips.
Consider your brand purpose - What are you selling? Why? What is the story of your origins? Develop ethical values and principles - What morals do you stand by? What is important to you in business and from a business?Review your products and services - Where can you improve? How? What can you do to be more sustainable, or to help others?Review supply chain and distribution - Are there any red flags - unpaid (or poorly paid) workers, poor working conditions, illegal practices? How can you show the accountability of these processes? Consider how you will communicate key messages - What do you want the audience to know? How will you communicate this? What channels will you use?Consider giving back to the community - How will you give back to your local community? Are there events you could sponsor? Are there charities or projects to donate to? ‘Anchor Digital is proficient at getting the right message out to the right crowd. If you need a little support in developing your next marketing campaign and making an impact on your audience, get in touch with us. We want to help.