Brands Taking A Stand explores the important and growing correlation between ethical brands and discerning consumers. We really hope you enjoy this brief explanation of an important symbiotic relationship.
According to a study by international marketing firm Edelman, there’s a rapidly increasing trend for consumers to buy from brands with values matching their own. They found that 57% of UK buyers currently make such choices. This is an increase of 21 points since their last calculation.
The Edelman ‘Earned Brand’ survey quizzed 8000 people across 8 markets. It found that this rise in ‘belief-driven’ buying means choosing brands matching your political, environmental or social beliefs. It could also mean avoiding companies whose ethos clashes with your own.
The study also explored how consumers see the changing role of companies. There is a growing belief that brands had an increasingly important role in societal change. 54% of the survey participants felt brands were actually better equipped to solve national problems than governments.
“This is the birth of brand democracy,” said Richard Edelman (CEO of Edelman). “Consumers are electing brands as their change agents and brands are being pushed to go beyond their classic business interests to become advocates.”
It is a fascinating trend that we also see reflected widely in outdoor brands. While many have openly publicised their ethical credentials since their very early days, surveys like this show that others may need to consider focussing more on this in their future marketing.
This is especially relevant in advertising. The study found that just about as many consumers will make buying choices based around a companies values based advert when compared to a product based advert.
Companies need to be clear on their ethos and values and they need to communicate these effectively to customers. In some cases they are doing this well, but in others they need to work harder at getting this message across. 60% of respondents to the survey said that brands should make it easier to see their values and positions on important issues.
The Edelman survey makes fascinating reading and brands will do well to pay attention. Of course, this study focuses on marketing. It would have been really interesting to get some input on how a companies ethos affects customer loyalty and how much a brand’s pricing affects customer choice. What percentage of customers are willing to pay more for products from a brand with a strong ethical ethos?
This study wasn’t specifically focussed on the outdoor sector. Again, it would be very interesting to see a study that was. Many outdoor brands, for example, were born from their creators love of the natural world and so often they seek to use their company to help protect that environment and take a clear stance on issues.
In the recent past I have been privileged to talk to degree students about the history, development and ethos of Peak Mountaineering. We focussed our discussions on our environmental stance and I always enjoy chewing this over with the students It is extremely rewarding to see how aware they are of the need for brands to have a clear ethos.
These are young people educated in this area, but it is interesting to again compare this to the Edelman study. The research found it was the younger end of the age spectrum most likely to choose according to a brand ethos.
I am proud of Peak Mountaineering’s credentials. We always look to do more, but it is great if our little company can be one of the brands making a stand. Maybe we can even have some role in influencing the industry. We have never tracked how many clients select us for this reason, but it is certainly an integral part of who we are. Please do read about our environmental ethos here.
The Edelman survey certainly rung true for me. Brand ethos comes into all my business and consumer choices. I’ve also long studied other influential brands to guide and shape my business practices. I consider a brand’s ethos and related credentials before any purchase. This could be whether a garment is made from sustainable materials, but will include consideration of a companies wider ethos.
I have written in detail about Patagonia many times in the past. I consider them a shining light in both the outdoor industry and the wider business world. If you chart their company history you will know that their focus has always been about sustainability and environmental activism.
They have made tough choices and have always been willing to put themselves on the line for their beliefs. Their mission statement is clear. They want to make the best products they can and yet their activities have also considerably broadened from manufacture.
A cynical view would be that they are marketing savvy and know publicising their activism will increase sales. Maybe, but company owner Yvon Chouinard has been in business a long time. He has openly declared that the only reason he remains in business is to use his business as an influencer. Patagonia do through every aspect of their business practices – some financial and some through influencing the actions of others.
For one financial example, one year Patagonia gave the income from all their $10 million of Black Friday sales to environmental causes. As influencers and political activists they have made no secret of their opposition to Donald Trump’s environmental policies. They have also been very vocal in the run up to the Trump/Biden election.
It is very evident that consumers like companies like Patagonia with values matching their own. Such businesses are moving into central roles as political influencers. While we may not all have Patagonia’s financial clout, we can all learn something from their activities. How can we follow their lead while also forging our own path. Brands taking a stand has never been more significant. What an exciting time to be in business!