Three ways to embed brand purpose into a business
The significance of brand purpose has grown in recent years with conscious consumers increasingly expecting brands to take action on political, social and environmental issues. But COVID-19 is elevating brand purpose to the top of the priority list.
The pandemic is causing both consumers and businesses to reconsider the companies and brands they buy from and work with, and to prioritise those that demonstrate social responsibility, ethical practices and a purpose beyond pure profit. More than two-fifths of UK consumers believe the COVID-19 outbreak will fundamentally change their shopping habits, according to an EY survey, with 25% willing to pay more for trusted brands, 24% willing to pay more for ethical products and 57% likely to purchase from companies that actively support the community.
Brands can no longer pay lip service to ethics and purpose; they need to take positive action that permeates their organisation. Here are just three ways to ensure brand purpose runs deep rather than a being superficial afterthought.
Transparent supply chains
Many brands, particularly in the fashion industry, have complex, fragmented global supply chains involving multiple third parties and suppliers. This situation can make it difficult for brands to control factors such as working conditions or environmental management and can enable devastating practices such as modern slavery to continue.
The first step for brands is to fully understand their own supply chains and to publicly disclose information about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts. To this end, the Fashion Transparency Index ranks top fashion brands by how much they disclose about their supply chains, and in this year’s index some of the most transparent fashion brands are H&M, Adidas and Esprit. Of course, being transparent doesn’t in itself make a brand ethical, but it is a vital step on the road to full accountability that all brands must take.
In addition to physical supply chains, brands must also be aware of their media supply chains and understand where their advertising budgets are being spent. Brand priorities in advertising are often about reaching as many eyeballs as they can for the lowest possible price, which may result in spending budgets with low quality, sensationalist media providers that rely on click-bait, rather than investing in publications that deliver valuable, high-quality content.
Even worse, digital content can be a powerful tool for unethically influencing public opinion. When a user engages with an article that puts forward a particular viewpoint, for instance, recommendation algorithms will serve similar content to maintain their attention and boost ad revenues, ultimately reinforcing that viewpoint. By funding this type of digital content through irresponsible investment of ad budgets, brands can find themselves inadvertently funding fake news and hate speech, ultimately giving support to dangerous or damaging points of view. As Accenture’s Amir Malik explained during a recent AOP webinar, “the adtech evolution has outpaced the ethics of advertising in the digital ecosystem.”
Digital advertising is a highly effective way for brands to reach and engage consumers, but they must be conscious of the power of their ad dollars and ensure they are being spent in an ethical and responsible manner.
Many brands and businesses are associating themselves with charities or good causes and this is, of course, a positive trend. But in today’s world it’s not enough for brands simply to sponsor a fundraiser, donate a few pence from a specific product to charity, or pay lip service to a controversial topic if these actions aren’t aligned with their core business values.
A brand’s purpose needs to be part of its DNA and truly integral to how the business operates – not something dreamed up by the marketing department – as consumers are learning to separate brands that just say the right things from those that really take action. Tony’s Chocolonely, for example, is built entirely on its mission to address the unfair distribution of value and power in cocoa production, and to remove child labour and slave labour from the chocolate supply chain.
Patagonia is another example of a powerful brand with purpose at its core. Its business model is built around minimising environmental impact by building quality products that can used for a long time and recycled rather than replaced, by changing business practises to do less harm and more good, and by taking real action on environmental issues facing the planet. The brand has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment since 1985 and is now a member of 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that contribute a portion of total annual sales to grassroots environmental groups.
Ethics are now a vital consideration for brands, and those that put purpose at the heart of their organisation are more likely to connect with consumers at an emotional level and prosper in the current climate. To find out how more about how GingerMay helps business brands in the tech sector communicate their values and purpose, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.