t the start of 2018, one of the aspects, both personal and as a consumer, that I wanted to make a priority was to become more ethical in the choices of brands I support. I am against animal testing, yet I still had makeup and products where the brands are known for testing on animals. I moved shortly after the new year, so I took this as an opportunity to filter out and replace with brands that fit the type of lifestyle I want to live. I soon realized that this brand purge got me thinking about other values that make brands and companies ethical.
Ethical branding is different in all parts of the world. The first step is to examine your cultural sensitivity. For example, if you are a brand with a mission of providing artisans in the Middle East with access to the global market, you must be culturally sensitive of what you can and can’t share about these artisans. In some parts of the world, it is not culturally acceptable to share photographs of women’s faces. In this instance, you must examine how you can mindfully tell the story of their talented craftsmanship with respect to their cultural values. Similarly, if your project aims to positively impact the future of our environment through clothing made with organic cotton, you would want to collect any information you can about this industry. Spend time on organic cotton farms. Get to know the reality of the dangerous processes involved in making cotton that is not organic. Walk alongside the people who see the reality every day. From here, you will be able to determine the messaging that best describes your conscious project in the most educated light, with standards your brand will adhere to moving forward when crafting things such as blog posts, e-mail newsletters, and even social media posts. The why you began with is what draws a conscious consumer to your product. By definition, conscious consumerism is a movement of people who are looking to make an impact through the stories behind the products that they purchase. As the founder of a conscious project, you must first understand that the consumer is searching for that story that sets you apart. You must then approach your marketing from a unique standpoint.
Adhering to a standard of ethics in your project means examining how authentic and transparent you are with your audience. This can be carried out in a variety of ways:
1. Social Media: Creating real, lasting relationships within your industry has so much more value than the number of followers you’re aiming for. How amazing does it sound to have a room filled with 750 people who consistently engage with your product, love what you do, and have become part of your community? When you buy growth on social media, you are risking lowering the number of people who see your posts, and you are also acquiring followers who may have no interest in your content and never visit your page again. Along with this, Instagram Stories and Snapchat are a great way to get real with your audience and show them the behind-the-scenes of your project. We all know entrepreneurship isn’t always pretty. Some days are spent in pajamas, working on the couch with your dog. However, that’s real, that’s relatable, and that’s what your audience loves to see.
2. Original Shareable Content: The amount of content that is put in front of your face on a daily basis is astounding. From Twitter feeds, to Facebook posts, to scrolling through Instagram, our brain is asked to consume a ridiculous amount of information in one day. Sometimes, it starts to feel like we are seeing the same information posted over and over again, especially during busy seasons. As a conscious brand, the importance of creating original shareable content could be the one thing that determines whether you gain a new consumer or not. Create a fun video, shoot an editorial, or create a blog post or e-mail newsletter. You can even get a group of friends together to have a fun photoshoot - something that doesn’t require a large budget, but will give you great content. Consumers today want to see something different, something interesting, and/or something that catches their eye. Use your WHY, use your voice, and use your creativity to create content that no one has seen before, and that draws a new audience into what your project is doing.
3. Relationships: We are extremely lucky to be in a community that favors collaboration over competition. So many bloggers, influencers, and media platforms are using their voice to share projects that are promoting world change. Creating lasting relationships between your project and these voices is so much more authentic and meaningful than paying for advertisements. An influencer who believes at their core in your mission and wants to share it with their audience is incomparable to any form of paid advertising you can acquire. With that said, forming relationships with other brands in the ethical space is a great way to grow your community and network. If you’re a jewelry company, why not reach out to a clothing brand to help style their next shoot. Pulling from both of your collections can reach both of your target audiences through social media, while also creating a lasting relationship grounded in a passion for giving back.
Once you have begun to build your brand on a platform of authenticity and transparency, the trust that unfolds between your conscious audience and your project adds fuel to fire a movement passionate about your cause. While it may seem like our world is in constant disarray, it is encouraging to see so many kind-hearted and like-minded individuals come together to start companies, brands, nonprofits, and initiatives that will change the future of our world. At the core, we are all just people who want better, and if your project radiates change and hope, your audience will follow suit.
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