Ethical branding is a great opportunity to capitalize on social movements while providing resources for real within our communities. When businesses tie their branding to an ethical cause, they are creating opportunities for conversion each and every time someone in their target audience takes up that cause.
Of course, ethical branding is much more than a cynical marketing ploy. It’s a chance to incorporate something you really care about into your day-to-day business. Whether you’re just starting a company or have been in business for years, there is always reward to be found for those that decide to take up arms for something they truly believe in.
It will enrich your life and make what could be an already fulfilling day job a dream job! The best part about ethical branding is that your cause is entirely up to you, and there’s always room for more charitable works in the economy.
So whether it’s environmentalism, animal adoption, women’s rights in the workplace, racial justice, you can feel good knowing there is a way to support people who are fixing problems you care about—even if you don’t have time to be their boots on the ground.
Here are 3 ways you can use ethical branding to expand your small business’ reach!
But first: what is ethical branding?
1. Ethical Branding
Ethical branding refers to a broad marketing strategy or philosophy that centers around creating public good out of private business.
Ethical marketing practices aim to frame the company as a conscientious player. The company creates a bond with their target audience through shared values. To actually see returns on investments in this space, companies must actually invest in the sustainable practices, production, labor, and supply chains they promise customers.
One common way companies participate in ethical branding is by pledging a certain percentage of their profits to support a charity that does X, Y, or Z with the money raised.
Trust and authority mean a lot in the ethical branding space. Just like in real life, trust is hard to win, and easy to lose. So companies that want to adopt an ethical marketing campaign should consider how committed they are to the cause.
(Re-)Shape Brand Around a Cause
Whether you’re starting from the ground up or looking to give your business a facelift, a solid ethical cause to rally your workers and customers behind is a great branding move.
If you are just starting a business, this is a HUGE choice to make. The cause should be naturally associated with your marketplace. You don’t want consumers to think you are shoehorning in a donation for every sale just so you can make a buck.
People love giving to charity: it makes them feel good about themselves. You want to do everything in your power to preserve that good feeling so they come to associate it with YOUR brand, too! Therefore, the success of this strategy is contingent on just how earnest your company seems to consumers.
Remember to always practice what you preach: if you are selling union made clothing, you are going to want to partner with retailers who are supportive of unions. Partnering with an anti-fair trade company would be disastrous in this instance, and consumers would chew you out for it. Otherwise, consumers will perceive you as disingenuous.
If you are trying to model an existing business around an ethical cause, either for the first time or you are shifting your ethical focus, you need to make it very clear to consumers why you are partnering with that cause.
How does it organically fit into your existing business? Why the sudden change? Did you JUST start caring?
The only way you can make a rebrand of this nature work to your advantage is by successfully convincing consumers that 1. You actually care about the cause and are not just participating in it for money and 2. They should care about it, too, despite never having cared about it before.
Isolate One Facet of Production or Service to Showcase
For a lot of businesses (and small or startup businesses especially), there just isn’t room in the budget to dedicate a flat rate of EVERY product sold to a cause. On top of that, rebranding is a ton of work, or maybe you are a nascent company that doesn’t want to risk putting all their eggs in the ethical branding basket.
These notions are good signs that you are not ready to completely upend your brand for a cause. But you can do good in smaller ways! For instance, you can showcase a product associated with the ethical quandary in question. You can donate the proceeds of that product and incentivize people to convert by discounting it.
For extra profit, you can offer your own add-ons, the proceeds of which may or may not go to the given charity depending on the nature of the product or business.
Temporary ethical branding campaigns are perfect for companies just trying to get their feet wet in ethical marketing.