Brands are building stronger connections with consumers by taking a stand on the world's most pressing issues. Over the last few years, sustainability efforts have taken center stage—it's become a cause of utmost importance for companies and consumers alike.
In fact, a recent study from Cone Communications found that consumers prioritize brands that take corporate social responsibility seriously: 87% of consumers surveyed said they will purchase a product because a brand advocated for a cause they care about, while 76% said they will not purchase a product if the brand supports an issue contrary to their beliefs.
This is in line with a recent study conducted by Bynder, that found community involvement or "doing good" presents a huge opportunity for organizations to convert the 23% of consumers who say their needs from a brand are not being met. This is a great thing for the planet, as brands are more likely to dedicate resources to sustainability efforts, and in turn, have the opportunity to form deeper connections with their audience.
In order to authentically build these relationships, brands must embrace brand activism by acting on societal issues that are in line with their values. As more companies are embedding sustainability initiatives into all aspects of the business, they should look for inspiration from the brands that do this right. Here are a few of my favorite examples.
Patagonia has been making headlines after the company shortened its mission statement, making it more direct and urgent in order to align with today’s increasingly urgent environmental issues. This brand has always been an advocate for environmentally friendly practices, and its new mission makes this even clearer:
“We’re in business to save our home planet.”
As any branding expert knows, your mission statement must act as a north star for everything that you do, something Patagonia takes seriously.
Earlier this year, Patagonia’s CEO announced they would donate their $10 million tax cut (a result of Trump’s controversial corporate tax cuts) to fight climate change. Even more recently, Patagonia pledged to stop creating branded fleece vests for corporations that weren’t aligned with their values.
The brand has been making good on its promise to use its resources to save the planet, something that has clearly resonated with consumers as the company continues to grow, with revenue quadrupling in the last 10 years to about $1 billion.
Patagonia’s products are made for outdoor enthusiasts—people who hike, explore and value all that our planet has to offer. But the wider appeal of their bold brand messaging that puts environmental issues at the forefront of everything they do has extended their customer base to more than just the outdoor-lovers; it's attracting mainstream appeal.
For National Geographic, photography has always been a vital tool to help achieve its mission to use science, exploration, education and storytelling to change the world. To spread the word on issues of global importance, National Geographic turned to Instagram as a way to help break down barriers and build a community of photographers who want to tell important stories about our planet. Instagram was a natural channel for the magazine to invest in, allowing them to build a group of loyal followers passionate about the world around them.
National Geographic’s magazine editor, Susan Goldberg, recognized that visual storytelling plays a very important role in educating their audience. In an interview last summer, she claimed:
“A lot of people want to run screaming from the room when you put the words 'climate change' together. They don’t want to hear about it. But what we can do is pull people into the stories with our visual storytelling, our incredibly unique approach.”
The team saw this first-hand when they launched a campaign that blended digital and traditional mediums. Last year, the magazine published a cover story on the impact plastic is having on our environment, launching a social campaign alongside their photojournalism efforts. The campaign resulted in over 40,000 pledges and 600 million impressions across campaign content.
Their first-person "through the lens" mission to educate and inspire has clearly resonated, as earlier this year, National Geographic became the first brand to top 100 million followers on Instagram.
Bynder was privileged to host NatGeo's VP of Global Brand Strategy, Emanuele Madeddu, at last year's OnBrand, who delved into the strategy behind their captivating brand campaigns—check out his full talk below.
From a young age, Stella McCartney vowed to never use leather, fur or feathers in any of her designs. At the time, she was ridiculed for her stance and her decision was contested by the entire fashion industry.
Fast forward to today, and other major fashion houses like Gucci, Burberry and Armani have all taken a page from Stella’s book and pledged to go fur-free. Los Angeles, well known for its fashion-forward residents, has officially gone fur-free, banning its sale entirely. London Fashion Week went fur-free too. Now, Stella McCartney is no longer mocked, but admired for her commitment to ethical and sustainable fashion.
Today, the innovative fashion designer is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and has committed to using eco-friendly materials, including recycled polyester, organic cotton, and regenerated cashmere. The fashion house also took a look at its supply chain, implementing waste-reduction strategies and measuring their greenhouse gas emissions.
Stella McCartney’s stance has made her well-known in the fashion industry, and it’s clear that consumers admire her brand for its dedication to doing good: recent UK sales were up 31% and profits up 42% just last year. Sustainability had a clear positive impact on Stella McCartney’s bottom line, likely because she took a strong stance before it was trendy to do so. It’s a clear example of sticking to what you and your brand believe in, and trusting that authenticity is the right decision for the future of your brand.
Prioritizing the planet over profits
The brands we admire are ones that take a stand, make a vocal commitment to do better with their mission and actually follow through. It may seem daunting, but using a brand platform for good can inspire and incite action across communities and future generations. Consumers are inspired by leaders and brands who challenge the status quo and in this case, prioritize the future of our planet over profits.