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Social Justice Marketers: What Are Brand Values?

Social Justice Marketers: What Are Brand Values?




The Wolf of Wall Street. The Social Network. American Psycho. What do all these films have in common? The successful businessman is a cold-hearted narcissist who will use others to get ahead and cut down anybody who gets in their way. Literally so, in the case of Patrick Bateman.


But is a cold, dead heart really a good thing in business?

The Age of Capitalism With a Conscience

In the tech-savvy era we live in, social awareness and responsibility are key. Determined to resolve all the problems created by former generations – global warming, gender inequality, structural racism, etc. – the so-called “snowflake” Gen-Z are redefining culture and society as we know it from behind their screens. And these youngsters aren’t just challenging the way we think; they are changing the way we buy.  

Experts claim that consumers nowadays consider a brand’s values and core beliefs before they buy. In fact, a recent Facebook study has shown that young buyers are more inclined to shop with brands that are open about where they stand on social and political issues. Not to mention, these consumers are 2x more likely to recommend a product to others based on the company’s values. Forget sex; having principles sells.

And this kind of value-driven marketing doesn’t just increase sales. According to almost half the UK, adverts have the power to bring about positive changes in society or even the world. Now maybe changing the world through advertising is a *bit* of a stretch, but we can see where they’re coming from.

As digital marketers, we’ve all got advertising campaigns that inspired us and influenced the way we thought. Dove’s Real Beauty. Nike’s Dream Crazy. Always’ #LikeAGirl. Cadbury’s drumming gorilla advert. The list could go on.

Check out some of our fave 2020 campaigns.

With this in mind, let’s look at what makes for a successful and impactful marketing campaign.

What Are ‘Brand Values’?

A brand is much more than its name, logo, and products. It’s a collective of ideas and objectives with a human workforce behind it. Brand values help communicate this to the target audience.  

Brand values are a set of principles that guides a business. As consumers, we can learn a lot about a business through their company values.

In essence, brand values tell us the story about a company. They are what the company cares about. They are evidence of human life behind the business model. Incorporating brand values into marketing strategy is a great way to develop an emotional connection with the target audience.

What is ‘Ethical Marketing’?

Ethical marketing is more of a philosophy than a marketing strategy. An ethical marketing approach rejects the cloak and dagger style of advertising, instead opting to choose honesty and transparency.

This openness can help a business build a community out of its consumers, as consumers will feel as though they are involving themselves with a trustworthy and open company. And with trust comes loyalty.

Businesses With Brand Values We Love

Here are some of our fave brands with fantastic brand values and an ethical marketing approach:

Inkifi – Brand Values = Sustainability

This UK-based photo printing service offers premium prints, photo books, and more. However, the fact that they put sustainability at the heart of what they do is what makes them truly stand out. Their use of sustainable, recycled, and reused materials means a minimal impact on the environment and a happy feeling for buyers!

Their transparency about their process is super refreshing, and they put a lot of focus on their customer base in their marketing. If you want to feel like your soul is drinking a cup of camomile tea, we’d highly recommend checking out their Instagram page.


Ben & Jerry’s – Brand Values = Human Rights Advocacy

Known mainly for delicious ice cream, of course, this multi-million-dollar ice cream company have notoriously refused to shy away from social causes and politics.

A brief overview of their website, and you’ll soon see that they are a values-driven brand advocating for issues such as marriage equality, climate change, and racial equality, to name a few. Delicious desserts AND principles? *swoon*.

Paddy & Scott’s – Brand Values = Ethical Farming & Transparency

The Suffolk-born coffee roasting company Paddy & Scott’s have pioneered what it means to be an ethical brand. Their drive for transparency in their supply chain is almost as refreshing as one of their freshly-brewed coffees.

They work directly with farmers worldwide, cutting out the conglomerate middlemen and ensuring a fairer wage for their workers. Not to mention, their social impact is phenomenal. Over the years, they’ve dedicated themselves to building schools, accessible water sources, and sanitation stations for the farm’s locals.


Lucy & Yak – Brand Values = Sustainability, Inclusivity, & Transparency

Along with spouting out some of the funkiest dungarees known to humankind, Lucy & Yak are also known for their honesty regarding their supply chain.

They visit all their garment factories in India and make sure that the workers are being paid and treated fairly. Not to mention, each tailor is listed on the website with a little bio, so you know who made your clothes and the story behind their journey. Find them on Instagram, where you will see them engaging with hard-hitting issues such as size inclusivity, sustainability, and neurodiversity in fashion.


Through a mixture of brand principles and ethical marketing, these companies have created a community of loyal consumers who love the brand almost as much as their products.

But, for every good brand, there is always going to be a couple of bad apples. It’s time to introduce ‘woke-washing’.

What is woke-washing, and why should it be avoided at ALL costs?

Woke-washing is when companies push forward an activist message which does not match their actions. For instance, a brand that claims to advocate for a marginalised cause when they are, in fact, contributing to it.

Woke-washing takes something human about a business – the core brand values – and makes them look exploitative and ingenuine. In a time where genuineness and human values are so essential to consumers, woke-washing has the potential to ruin a brand’s reputation.

On that note, let’s have a look at a classic example of woke-washing.

The Pepsi Debacle

The absolute chef’s kiss of disastrous woke-washing belongs to Pepsi.

Now, God only knows what Pepsi’s marketing team were thinking when they came up with the incredibly tone-deaf 2017 Kendall Jenner ad. Jumping unceremoniously off of the back of the BLM demonstrations, Pepsi’s ad saw a wealthy white woman seemingly solve police brutality with a soft beverage.

It’s safe to say that many people saw the advert as trivialising a very delicate issue without offering any form of critical perspective on it.

Immediately, there were calls to boycott the soft-drink company and social media tore the brand apart. Bernice King, daughter to civil rights founder Martin Luther King Jr., mocked the  campaign in a tweet reading, ‘If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.’ Yikes.

Afterwards, Pepsi responded to the backlash by pulling the ad and publishing an apology statement, claiming they’d ‘missed the mark’. But by then, the damage has already been done. Whilst this kind of controversy didn’t cause any actual long-standing financial harm to the beverage company, it did impact brand loyalty and reputation. Sales of the soft drink briefly dipped, and Pepsi took over nine months to rebuild its image among its more socially-conscious Millennial and Gen-Z consumers.

Final thoughts…

The world of business has historically been incompatible with ethics and social justice. But that world is changing to accommodate the greater good and the publics ever-evolving awareness. Brands are starting to care more about the social impact they have, and many are putting kindness, advocacy, and morals at the forefront of their business model. This type of value-centric marketing helps brands advance in the business market, as consumers yearn to buy from a personable and relatable company.

Advertising might not save the world, but with positive brand values and some honest marketing, it just might change someone’s mind.

If you want to see how we could help develop your brand’s relationship with its target audience, get in touch now! Contact us via our contact page and find out more about our paid social, PPC, design and content services.