How can brands support important causes and remain authentic?

Patagonia Branded Sign

How can brands support important causes and remain authentic?

It’s a fine line that Rebecca Brooks explores in her first full-length article, “Bold Business: Brands Take A Stand And Win”, as a new member of the Forbes Agency Council. Taking inspiration from a recent large donation to environmental causes by Patagonia (backing up the company’s long-term commitment to sustainability), she writes about how consumers react when brands align their actions with their brand promise.

When brands with clear value systems authentically support those values with action, it can resonate with their target audiences. In a recent study, we found that although many consumers don’t make politically based purchases, they do choose brands that reflect their personalities. Patagonia’s move, then, could bolster support from people who also consider themselves environmentally aware.

However, if a brand makes a move like this and it is out of character, it can backfire. She writes: “If the move is not authentic to the brand, then consumers can see right through it. PepsiCo’s attempt to jump into the Black Lives Matter conversation last summer resulted in a pulled advertisement and a public apology.”

It’s important that brands looking to make a statement with a large donation or public support of a specific cause take a step back first. They must examine their brand promise and existing values to make sure that any actions are aligned. “Reaching consumers with passion and authenticity is key when getting involved in political or cultural issues.”

After mentioning some other brands that are doing it right – such as those that are B-corp certified – she touches on other ways brands may try to build loyalty. In today’s belief-based shopping world, the best way may be to appeal to a customer’s personal beliefs. “When a brand has a clear value system and supports those values through action, consumers take note.”

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