As far as traditions are concerned, we have just emerged from a period of repentance. The calm and restraint of Holy Week has traditionally been considered a time for self-discipline and self-reflection. What have we not been doing right? What things could we improve? These are just a few of the questions that spring up. This does not only happen to individuals -- brands also examine their consciences.
This is also the case if we consider the latest trends in global brand management. After decades of discourse about evil companies capable of doing anything and everything to make a bit of money, people have started to become aware of the need to work for the common good. And not just any old deed is good enough: a worldwide study by Accenture & Havas Media revealed that 72% of people believe that companies don’t do enough for the planet and society in general. Consumer skepticism has succeeded in ensuring that brands see the benefit of really making a difference and being about action rather than just talk. The effects of many initiatives are starting to be seen via something once seen as unthinkable for a brand: sacrifice.
The good of the individual, the community and the planet
Signs of what was once unheard of are appearing everywhere: downsizing, changes, slogans and product recalls. What is this new age and what is it in reaction to?
Sacrifice for the sake of the individual: British supermarket chain, Tesco, recently announced that it would be removing all chocolate and sweets from cash register areas. Results of a study done by the company clearly revealed that this part of stores was at the root of impulse purchases. In a country in which child obesity is increasing annually and now considered of epidemic proportions, the campaign was seen as a natural response to global awareness and was much appreciated by customers.
Sacrifice for the community: the brand that perhaps most epitomizes Ireland, the beer giant, Guinness, withdrew it sponsorship of New York’s traditional Saint Patrick Day parades in 2014. This was no minor occasion as it is the day Ireland is celebrated the world over. The reason? LGTB groups in Boston had been denied participation with their emblems and flags. “Guinness has a strong tradition of supporting diversity and equality among human beings. We hoped that the exclusive policy would be withdrawn this year”, said a representative of the company who made it clear that there would be no backing down. Six months later, authorities reassessed their policy for the parade this year.
Sacrifice for the planet: after an extensive campaign orchestrated by animal rights organization, PETA, it came to light that angora wool caused unnecessary suffering to rabbits. The video revealing these facts went viral shortly after being released and millions of signatures were collected all over the world demanding a clear response from brands that reap the benefits of its production. The result? The world’s most popular clothing brands, H&M, Top Shop, Mango and ASOS, among others, came to an unprecedented agreement: to withdraw all garments containing angora and ban sales of such products in several European countries.
So it’s not really so much about making large-scale public welfare gestures as it is about making occasional sacrifices in order to contribute to overall improvement. Consumers have changed and now demand social responsibility and the possibility of consuming with a clear conscience. Brands that are willing to identify potential sacrifices that are truly constructive and not just to put on a show and who are able to offer them to their clientele are, in the long run, creating an improved image and promising future for themselves.