The Law On The Runway team has written multiple posts in the pasts about different legal marketing guidelines to follow for product origin claims and sustainability claims. Today, we thought it would be interesting to write a series about developing a strong brand identity. Here are some tips to align your brand with social, environmental and political causes you care about.
This post is meant to be taken as general information, not legal advice. If you have any questions concerning the development of your brand’s identity, please contact an attorney.
Take the Time to Understand Your Company Before letting your customers know the underlying ethics and values of your brand, you should take the time to understand where your company currently stands. Look into your business from start to finish. What does your supply chain look like? Where do the materials you use come from? What are the values of the third-parties you work with? When owning a company that deals with subcontractors or other third-parties, it is easy to forget that the individuals we deal with on a regular basis have an impact on the way consumers perceive our business. Once you have a good understanding of your company, take the appropriate steps to turn it into the company you want.
Understand Your Customers After you’ve taken the time to get to know your business, you should allocate a generous amount of time to understanding your customers. What do they want? Why do they purchase from you? Is it because you are doing something different from your competitors? Is there something a characteristic or a part of your business that they would like to know more about? Think about these questions and build a brand development strategy that will answer your costumers’ needs and interrogations.
Construct a narrative A brand is only as strong as the story it tells. When discussing the causes you support, whether they’d be ethical manufacturing, eco-friendliness, or political causes that aren’t directly related to the product you are selling, make it real. Talk about real people and how what you are doing is affecting them on a daily basis (or how not doing anything is affecting them).
Produce Original Content One of the most valuable elements a company can use to develop its brand is original content. Think about the values and your company has and the causes it supports and create content around those. For instance, if ethical manufacturing is an important part of your company, you can write a blog post to inform your consumers about the human, economic and ecological impacts of fast fashion. If you care about planned parenthood, you can make a video about the benefits of such programs. Of course, if you are going to make any claims, make sure they are backed up by reliable data. You should also keep in mind that not everything you produce has to be self-promotional. It is important to make a link between your brand and the causes you support but putting your products at the center of all of your content is far from necessary.
Look into Different Business Structures and Certifications An efficient way to make sure your customers know about your business’ values is to apply for different types of certifications you can then put on your website. The Global Organic Textile Standard and the World Fair Trade Organization for instance are entities you can look into. Referring to established standards such as the Higg Index is also a useful way to make consumers understand where you stand (you can see our blog post about the Higg Index here). If you haven’t started your business yet but are already thinking about your future brand’s identity, forming a “B Corp” could be an interesting path to look into (once again, you can read about “B Corps” on our blog).
Get Your Customers Involved Customers need to feel like they are also part of the narrative you are constructing. Thankfully, social media has made this a lot easier than it was before. Listen to your customers needs and wants, reply to their comments on your blog posts or on social media. Take the time to answer their questions and do it frequently. Everlane’s “Transparency Tuesdays,” where they answer people’s questions on Snapchat and Instagram, are a good example of how you can get your customers to be part of the brand you are building. You can also organize events, live Facebook chats, conferences, etc. There are a multitude of ways to involve your customers.
Be Consistent Words are important but you should make sure your actions aren’t in contradiction with your sayings. If you are supporting a political cause, make sure everyone on your team is on board. If they aren’t, you should make sure their social media presence won’t affect your brand (you could for instance ask them to add in their bio that their sayings and opinions are theirs and are not in any way related to you company). If you want to be seen as an eco-friendly brand, try to reduce the waste you are producing in your offices. If you have a brick and mortar location, you could email receipts to your clients instead of printing them or print them on recyclable paper. Think about the commercialization of your product from beginning to end and about the way you do business on a day to day basis.
Be Transparent Finally, do not hide anything from your customers. No business is perfect and people would rather hear about the ways you are improving your company than find out through a third-party that your company is not as genuine as you make it out to be. At the end of the day, admitting your weaknesses and talking about the impacts your business has makes you real and reminds customers that your company is not just an intangible entity, but rather one that is made of actual human beings, just like them (remember Patagonia’s Black Friday ad?)
As with all Law on the Runway posts, please use this as general information, not as legal advice. If you have any questions, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org.