Conscious of conscience: Does your brand have a soul?

Creating a product is just part of the story - what is its soul?

Words by Judy Deuchar, Head of Marketing/Programming at TVSN

Spending time recently with fledgling and experienced brands in New York and Los Angeles, has again reminded me of how important it is for a brand to have a soul to at first succeed, but also to survive long term. It feels like so many people are forgetting their conscience when trying to grow, elevate or rebrand.

Building your brand should and inevitably does, include a social brand view or outlook, whether at first planned or not. For example – you may be building a skincare line, but the brand owner or creator may be ethically minded, animal cruelty free minded or vegan – and as such – this influences the outcomes of actual product as well as the promotional path the brand takes.

In the last few years the social conscious issues have sometimes been the prime reason for the brand’s existence. Too often we see brands with great social conscience and responsibility but with not much product substance.

Social Conscience or responsibility is separate to brand values. Values are the core essence of what your brand stands for and they create deep meaningful relationships with your customer. It’s these values which stand the test of time over the years. A social conscience or social responsibility for your brand is where you align with ‘the good people’, it is where you show your brand helps to make a difference in the world and commits to a social value. From supply chain all the way through to Point of Sale. This trend is particularly prevalent amongst the millennial generation – looking to relate to ‘good’ people.

A couple of points to consider on building the social substance side and responsibility of your brand … over and above the ‘values’ you align with your brand.

An existing brand – are you trying to align yourself with a social conscience identity?

 Ask yourself what do you, the creator, brand owner, believe in – truly believe in. Is it rainforests, is it recycling, is it wind energy? Is it supporting African women? Now find a way to weave that into your brand. If your brand is based on something you love and have

created with a story that’s relevant to you – you will find this an easy fit! Much trickier if you have a brand which was created just because you thought that product was on trend. What’s truly important, not what you think should be important. Just because everyone is paraben free doesn’t mean you have to be. But have a good reason why you are not. I remember Dr Murad telling me once that there are more parabens in a bowl of strawberries than there are in all the moisturiser I would use in a year.

A new brand – your brand is based around a social conscious idea.

 For example, you only use clean water or only Fairtrade ingredients. Did you set out primarily to develop a range of Fairtrade ingredient-based products? If so, you have chosen your path, now your challenge is to make sure your products line up with that, that specific social conscious customer base and their actual real needs in skincare.

Is it relevant to your brand? Even a thread of relevance?

 Yo cannot easily be a sassy haircare brand for example, with great styling products, a city chic look and feel with a ‘Protect the Dolphins’ social conscious campaign. It just doesn’t gel – well, at least – it’s not an easy one to work with.

There is a wonderful skincare brand I have worked with for many years, originating out of the US. The creator is passionate about rescue animals and as such their products are PETA and Leaping Bunny approved. However, she didn’t stop there as it’s truly a passion of hers. She has started a rescue pet adoption sponsorship within her company. And with that being successful, she offers it as a program which she fully funds – for all her retailers. Her company will find pet rescue centres in your territory and then they fund advertising for a weekend where everyone who purchased an item will be able to go to the pre-arranged pet shelters and her company will pay for all the adoption fees, as well as vet and food bills for the first month. To complete the cycle, her company has paid for the adoption of over 11,000 rescue animals which brings us back to completing the cycle of authenticity of brand. Sales as a result have spiked as like-minded people buy her brand. Her skincare is for the over-45 market and for the women wiser in years who more than likely have, or have had, a special pet. It resonates. It’s authentic and truly delivers on the social conscience part.

An example of building relevant social consciousness into a brand is the use of hemp in skincare products. I was bombarded in the US with billboard advertising on all fronts – from hand creams, shower gels and a large variety of oils. We see it here in Australia and NZ as

well – with over 320 brand names registered with the name Hemp, in some form, in Australia alone, for skincare, as of end January. So, a new popular ingredient of the moment, but how do you marry a social conscience into a brand most masstige customers still feel a little flurry about. How do you make it socially acceptable and aligned with good citizenship? Having seen many of these new Hemp seed CBD Oil brands, it’s been interesting to see who stands out. I met with a brand recently which has a strong background in CBD knowledge as well as strong skincare knowledge. They have combined their brand with a social responsibility policy surrounding CBD and the setting up of treatment centres which focus on helping people and their illness with cannabinoids. Skincare is then a natural follow on. Hence truly going back to the origin of the Hemp ingredient and story.

Looking across all industries that I’m involved in, I can see that often the consumer is not always looking (or cares) for a specific cause to support per se, but is merely wanting to feel good about their purchase…feel that they have done something positive for humankind. The more the cause reflects the story and essence of your brand, the better the connection and sale.

Judy Deuchar, Head of Marketing/Programming at TVSN

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