In a world more accustomed to seeing brands positioned as symbols of self-expression or statements of accomplishment, ethical branding hasn’t been one of the most prominent tools used by marketers. Often associated with corporate social responsibility or philanthropy, ethical branding has the potential to be so much more.
Being ‘ethical’ relates to your ‘moral compass’. It describes certain actions as being either morally right or wrong with regard to established codes of conduct set by society. So, it should follow that promoting a brand in a manner that is morally acceptable also be considered as ethical branding. That is why ethical branding falls under ‘tactful creative storytelling‘.
Ethical Branding Can Be Approached From Two Angles
1) From a communication perspective i.e. with reference to content and messaging the brand sends out.
2) From a philanthropic perspective i.e. with reference to giving back or promoting the welfare of mankind and the environment.
How we choose to talk to our audience, the messages we craft, the type of content we distribute, all need to align with the moral compass of the brand. For instance, a brand that considers itself respectful of peoples choices and ways of life may alter its creative assets for a country that is deep-rooted in religious beliefs or holds a conservative view to avoid anything that qualifies as objectionable.
When we think of what a brand does for society, we watch for its obligations to humanity and the planet. For instance, how does it improve the human race? or how will it preserve natural resources for future generations? Even then, it is not ethical branding unless the act is conducted and promoted ethically.
It is imperative that there be a long-term commitment to philanthropic gestures. There also needs to be some common thread between the brand and the cause it supports. Otherwise, the connection won’t register with customers and the brand fails to capitalize.
How Do We Define Ethical Branding?
Ethical branding is the promotion of a company, person, concept, product or service in a manner that is (1) morally correct, (2) does no harm to human or animal life, or the planet, and (3) contributes to the greater good of mankind.
Ethical branding helps position the brand in front of a socially and environmentally aware audience. It is necessary not only because it is the right thing to do but also as a secondary benefit i.e. it contributes to the positive image of the brand.
A blog post, a photo on Instagram, a short video or air time on television does not deliver the full potential of ethical branding. Unfortunately, most companies don’t see the long-term equity in these efforts and usually miss out on the opportunity.
Efforts must stem from an authentic or genuine purpose. The story of that purpose is important and that story must be used to sell the brand. In some cases, it may be the entire reason behind a brand’s existence. In others, it could be used as a supporting proposition.
Ways To Connect
There are several ways through which a brand can demonstrate its commitment to society that doesn’t necessarily begin with the signing of a check. The brand could highlight ways in which it is reducing the impact on the environment by implementing energy-efficient or eco-friendly methods in production and supply-chain activities, using bio-degradable materials, exercises proper disposal or recycling of wastage, conservation, reforestation and regenerative practices, advocates for better worker rights, offers educational initiatives in areas of operation, runs child-care facilities for working parents etc. A good resource for some examples on such efforts may be found in this article – Business Insider.
Brands can even help educate customers on ethical practices with regard to their products. Brands can raise awareness of issues that could contribute to a better planet. Let’s have a look at two practical applications of ethical branding in the real world.
Of particular importance is the “UN Global Compact“, created by the United Nations in 2000. It highlights 17 sustainable development goals that companies may pursue with reference to human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption. A wealth of information is available on their website to help businesses in this endeavor. Click on the link below for more.
Businesses need to focus on the betterment of society and the planet, now and for generations to come. Today, people resonate with and prefer to do business with companies that showcase their responsibility in giving back to society rather than operating as heartless profit-generating engines.
Brands can make use of such initiatives either as a direct result of or as a supplemental benefit to being purchased. It could even be a deciding factor in an overcrowded, feature-saturated market space.
If branding is the art of managing perception, then ethical branding is the art of injecting soul in the business world.