Ethical brands. Why so lazy?

I read with interest an article in The Age this weekend reporting on recent research from Sydney’s University of Technology around consumer behaviour with ethical products.

“Shoppers who dismiss fair trade, organic and cruelty-free products say they are sceptical about the claims, confused by the labelling, and worried about being ripped off, research shows.”

It reminded me of a conversation I had with an Organic winemaker recently, who was of the opinion that the label ‘Organic’ was kind of dead, becoming devoid of meaning to consumers.

I tend to agree with him, because in the end it’s just a label.

Too many brands seem to think they can just rely on a label like ‘Organic’ or ‘Free Trade’ to sell their product, without putting any effort into uncovering and communicating their own brand’s unique story. I think this lazy approach branding has contributed to the consumer scepticism towards many ethical products.

“Paul Burke, lead author and senior marketing lecturer, said ethical consumption could be boosted by better marketing strategies and clarification around labelling rules.”

Any brand can become Organic or Free Trade if they choose to, but that’s got to be only part of the brand story. If that’s all you stand for, then it’s not really much these days and people will be sceptical if a brand’s deeper purpose isn’t really there. If your cotton is fair trade, what does that mean to you? If your wine is organic, I want to hear more about the benefits in a way that I can relate to. Engage me in your story.

The most important question every brand must ask of itself is ‘Why should people care?’ For many brands it’s a difficult question, for ethical brands it’s a no-brainer!

It’s up to these ethical brands tell their stories in more interesting ways, communicate the benefits of their ethical products more effectively, with more passion and creativity, and differentiate themselves to show they really stand for more than just a label.


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