As Patagonia’s Alex Weller states, “You can’t reverse into a mission and values through marketing. The organizations that are struggling with this are probably the ones that are thinking about marketing first.”
What you say about yourself isn’t as important as what you do
I personally love what Patagonia stands for and how it holds true to those values (like donating its $10M Trump tax refund to environmental groups). Their unequivocal devotion to a cause is apparent.
As brands seek to ‘stand for something’, they have been putting themselves on the record for divisive issues even further from their core operations, like Nike’s support of Colin Kaepernick, Gillette’s anthem against toxic masculinity, and 84 Lumber’s Superbowl ad showing openness to migrants. The best case results: a visceral debate, masses of earned media, the almost obligatory burning or defacing of the product – and then, in many cases, overall brand lift, brand affinity, and increased sales & shareholder value.
But talking-the-talk without walking-the-walk is so easy to sniff out, it often causes more backlash than it’s worth (think: Kendall Jenner’s tone-deaf Pepsi ad, or Audi’s 2017 Super Bowl ad about women’s equality without anywhere near close to equity on their board).
Some brands are understandably gun shy to put themselves on the record and face the glaring public spotlight. Not all brands have nailed the “why” or have a raison d’etre that feels right to them. In those cases, you don’t have to SAY something. DO something. DO the right thing. And DO what your customer is demanding of you. You can start small and grow from there.
Your actions and choices as an organization are far more telling than your public messages.
Consider single use plastics. Think: straws, wrappers, packages, lids. Individually, they’re convenient and clean. As a whole, they’re literally littering the earth– and its effects are mounting.The sustainability of this is obviously dubious. The public sentiment on plastics usage is shifting quickly towards ‘extreme concern’ in some parts of the world (particularly the UK). And as such, many brands are choosing to DO something about it.