How brands influence social values?

Remarks on ethics and the social impact of brands.

What defines “good”

We grew up with Hollywood movies. We learned that the good guys fight the bad ones (and they always win). But who defines what is good or not? Ethics is far more complicated than we think and “good” is always an object of intellectual conflict.

Every society has its own system of values. A value that is considered positive here, today, maybe would not in a different time or place. For example, If you were living in Rome in 1633 it would be totally unacceptable to say that the earth is moving. And if you are a woman in S.Arabia in 2017 it is totally unacceptable to travel without the approval of your husband.

Ethical rules are also gradually changing within a certain society. The development of technology and economy create new trends. These currents are usually expressed by groups of intellectuals. People who maintain a critical attitude towards the existing. They enlighten societies from different sides, discover new concepts and opportunities.

The role of brands

Brands, on the other hand, are generated within a certain system of values. Due to their inherent connection with the existing universe, it is impossible to introduce new ethics. What they can do, depending on their target audience, is to support existing or emerging ones.

Brands can not, therefore, create the mental space in which intellectuals operate. They confirm and highlight already established or upcoming values.

Take for example Adidas Originals successful campaign. Being authentic as a positive value is not an Adidas’s discovery. It is the result of an ideological debate that has its roots in the industrial revolution. From Duchamp’s urinal up to Warhol’s pop art. In the age of mass production being unique and distinct is a widely accepted value. Adidas supports this idea and thus establishes it.

Some brands choose to support more upcoming and controversial ideas. Provided that their targeted audience is a current or potential player of these values. For example, Benneton has a long tradition of socially provocative campaigns. This is a strategic choice for the company’s communication, targeting progressive audiences.

How brands establish values

Once, a brand defines its values it has to communicate them. Through advertising these ideas spread among society. They become part of the so-called public sphere.

No one can predict whether a value will merge into a certain society or not. The public sphere is full of strong, and many times conflicting currents.

However, brands can always offer a starting point for public debates. They can support upcoming ethics and help them find their place in the existing space of experience.


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