Creating an ethically aware brand isn't just about settling on a socially concious logo design or ensuring that a product's packaging design is as sustainable as can be. Instead, as our panel of experts reveal, ethical branding is all about staying true to what your company already stands for and striving to be relevant.
01. A point of difference
"We're living in a world of backlash culture where protest is rampant, from political rallies to social media storms," says the Future Laboratory's Kirsty Minns. "Lots of consumers want to get their voices heard, so ethical branding is all about making an emotional connection with those consumers – but first you need to know what the brand stands for.
"It's about having a point of view and a point of difference. The ethical dimension could be on a macro level, a really grand problem, but equally it might be something much smaller. [Even small, specialised causes] can still have quite a lot of traction."
02. To feel natural
"Brands shouldn't attach themselves to a cause just for the sake of it," cautions Tara Lawall, creative director of Droga5. "It has to feel like they have a right to comment and feel true to who they are as a company." As an example of a natural fit between a brand and a social message, she cites Droga5's client Honey Maid. "Honey Maid has always provided wholesome snacks to wholesome families, so shining a spotlight on modern, diverse families felt like a natural place for us."
03. To be fearless
"You can't be afraid of having an opinion or standing for a certain set of values," says Richard Beer of Don't Panic London, whose 'everything is not awesome' campaign for Greenpeace forced Lego to end its relationship with Shell due to the latter's advocacy of arctic drilling.
"I think that's one of the things that brands, and especially charities, are having to come to terms with. Greenpeace expects that a certain proportion of people will hate it, because that's how it rolls. But even if you're a 'normal' charity with a small budget, you can still make a really big impact as long as you’re willing to take risks."
The 'everything is not awesome' campaign won Don't Panic London a D&AD White Pencil and, says Beer, proved that "you don't need a lot of media buying – you just need to create a message that people want to share. And doing that requires you to be authentic and have an opinion."
This article was originally published in Computer Arts magazine issue 252.