Ethical branding: why social responsibility is important in marketing
The concepts of ethics and social responsibility can often seem to be mere buzz-words in the midst of marketing jargon. While it is true that some companies feel obliged to appear ethical and socially responsible when it comes to branding, simply talking the talk doesn’t add value to your marketing strategy or company image.
When embraced fully and used to its full potential, corporate social responsibility and ethical branding can be gold dust for your business and add flare, originality and honesty to your marketing and communications strategy. Here’s why here at OTB we believe ethical branding and social responsibility is so important, and a sneak peek at those who are doing it well.
REAP WHAT YOU SOW
One of the biggest problems with branding a business as ethical comes when the reality doesn’t match the image. Using words such as ethical, responsible, sustainable, conscious, isn’t enough in itself to improve your company’s ethical credentials. But by putting the time and effort into creating a strong, clear strategy which combines these two separate entities, it is possible to reap real benefits from being at the forefront of socially responsible marketing.
Industry experts EthicalCorp.com are a key advocate of this view that you need to practice what you preach. They argue that in recent years ethics and identity have gone unmatched with behaviour, and consequently marketing has become disjointed and meaningless. They claim the solution is to ‘bring the gurus of branding and ethics into one team to ensure that the brand’s story and ideals are continuously developed, communicated and, most importantly, realised.’
In seeking to unify branding and ethics, and by seeing marketing as a form of education and relationship development rather than purely as a tool to drive sales, a business can successfully combine the two concepts to create a strong ethos and image which the consumer can relate to.
WATCH AND LEARN
For every example of a business which struggles to get the right mix in ethical branding, there are many who do it well. Learning from some of the biggest names in global business can always provide interesting insights into marketing practice and inspire innovative ideas that you can use in your own context.
A great recent example of a blue-chip brand trail-blazing the ethical campaign is Ben and Jerry’s, the well-known ice-cream brand owned by Unilever and known for its quirky brand, unique approach to marketing and, of course, delicious ice cream! Marketing Magazine recently published an article about Ben and Jerry’s latest venture to support young start-ups with investment and industry support…
Not only does Ben and Jerry’s have an integrated social responsibility strategy aptly entitled ‘Join our Core’, which since 2012 has been supporting entrepreneurs with socially responsible businesses in need of crowd-funding, it has cleverly positioned itself as a down-to-earth, easily accessible brand that is in touch with the needs of local communities and cooperates with other socially-responsible companies.
Perhaps the best way to really kick-start your journey towards becoming an ethical brand is simply to go for it. Start out by analysing what ethical credentials you and your business already have, and think outside the box to discover new innovative ways to expand these efforts into new arenas. When it comes to combining this with your marketing strategy, why not take a leaf out of cosmetic company Lush’s book, who through strong practices and minimalistic marketing have developed a high-level of consumer trust in their ethics, without actually littering their web pages and packaging with buzz-words and jargon? Create a clean, crisp campaign that speaks for itself, and you’re sure to see the benefits for your brand before long.