There was an online discussion on a brand’s page recently where somebody noted “not sure the political issues of the day should be part of your brand.”
I’ll be honest – since we were talking about equality, a fundamental human right, I took issue with it being deemed a political issue of the day. But more importantly, I couldn’t understand why you would want a brand you liked to be, well, apathetic.
I’m not sure who said it originally, and to be honest, a quick Google search just further muddied the waters but here it is “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.”
And it has never been so important for brands to stand for something as it is today.
I’m not alone in making sure that my consumerism isn’t at the expense of my values. I go out of my way to support brands that align with what I believe in. This means I purchase my toilet paper, paper towel and tissues from “Who gives a crap?” because 50% of their profits go to supporting hygiene and sanitation projects in developing countries, I buy the “Thank You” soap for similar reasons. I check out the “Ethical guide to fashion report” and the “Electronics Industry Trends Report” produced each year by Baptist World Aid Australia and I changed all my super funds to make sure I wasn’t support offshore processing.
I’m not saying I am perfect. I am not saying that I always get it right. My point is that I actively seek out brands that have values and ethics that align with my own.
And it’s not something that is the province of bleeding heart lefties like myself. In the USA, people make purchasing decisions based on their affiliation with the Republican party, and Pauline Hanson’s chip shop did some great business when she first came out as a card carrying member of “Racists are us” back in the day.
As a business owner, I have no problem with people that don’t want to do business with my company because of the social justice issues I am passionate about. I am also aware that there is some business I just don’t want – no matter how lucrative it might be. That is because my company’s brands are aligned to mine and that’s just the way it is when you run your own show.
That doesn’t mean I don’t recognise how complex determining what a brand stands for can be. Particularly in the global marketplace, ethics and values can be interpreted very differently. However, as a consumer, it is up to you to know the impact your purchases have on the world around you. Customers drive innovation now, not companies. Companies need to ensure that their brand is evolving in a way that reflects their customers, their communities and their cash-flow.
Likewise, people need to understand that they make statements by working for different brands. Sometimes, people might choose to work for a tobacco company because “a job is a job is a job”, but that doesn’t mean other people will view your decision with similar dispassion. Brands need to actively seek out employees that support what the brand stands for, not just employees who can do the job.
Brands need to accept that it is not what you do once in a while that matters, it is what you do every day. The true challenge for brands is owning that and making sure it becomes part of business as usual.