Branding Bud: Brands That Bridge

Branding Bud: Brands That Bridge

Evermore aware of rising social tensions and historic inequalities, consumers are looking to brands and businesses to take meaningful action that brings people together, heals divides, rights wrongs and promotes harmony.

Social tension, prejudice and inequality have always been with us. So what makes this trend crucial now? With many losing faith in politics, millions around the world see established public institutions — national and local governments, the EU, the UN — struggling to meet the challenges we face in 2016. For many, traditional politics seem outdated, narrow and polarizing. Now, consumers are looking to new solutions to shared social challenges.

69% of people trust businesses to keep pace with a changing world, while only 47% of people trust governments to do the same.

Making Sense Of It All

The world has become rich, connected and globalized beyond the dreams of our grandparents. But along with that comes new and extremely complex challenges. Think the global movement (and outsourcing) of labor; and/or the rise of new kinds of extremism. Those complex issues can create the kind of uncertainty that drives social tensions, tribalism, racism and simple hatred.

The world has always contained people who want to spread division and sow disharmony. But now, we live in a 24/7 immersive media culture. And mainstream media knows that the fastest route to eyeballs and clicks is to give more attention to divisive personalities. The consequences? With all the focus on disharmony, perhaps there is an opportunity for brands to deliver messages that promote social tolerance and cohesion.

A Moral Compass

Once, consumer status was all about affluence. Today, it’s less about ‘what I have’ and much more about ‘who I am’: creative, connected, tasteful and, yes, ethical. Millions want to show others that they are ethically conscious, and that means engaging with brands that have — and communicate — the right values when it comes to social issues.

Lest we forget the outcry that ensued when Starbucks tried to address the debate around racial inequality in the US by getting baristas to scrawl ‘Race Together’ on coffee cups. True harmony is not only sincere, it’s constructive, meaningful and mindful.

Smirnoff Vodka: Parterns To Raise Awareness Of Immigration
Smirnoff Vodka: Parterns To Raise Awareness Of Immigration

Any parent — or any casual observer of American culture for that matter — knows that bullying is a major problem in U.S. schools. From classic schoolyard fights to the brave new world of online humiliation, 47 percent of girls and 34 percent of boys aged 12–17 say they’ve been tormented by their peers in some way, according to a survey quoted in The New York Times. Anti-bullying campaigns have increased in popularity over the years as a result, and it seems many major brands have taken notice.

Harmony Campaigns

Though the following ‘cause’ or ‘harmony’ campaigns are from recognizable brands, many of the strategies can be executed by cannabis brands with great success — especially because of the abundance of social injustices related to the segment. Take a look at how large brands use social rifts to place and position their products.

Smirnoff Vodka: Partners To Raise Awareness Of Immigration

Immigration is a topic at the top of the political agenda in the United States right now. And it’s sure to be a divisive issue in the coming presidential election in November. The ideal subject then, for a smart brand, is to take a stand on immigration. In June 2016, Smirnoff Vodka partnered with street artist Morley — known for his trademark ‘statement poster’ works — to create a campaign promoting compassion for immigrants. Morley interviewed ten real immigrants and used quotes from those interviews to make ten eye-catching posters, which were displayed on bus stops around Los Angeles.

TOMS: One Day Without Shoes

TOMS community has helped turn a simple idea into a powerful reality. Groups like TOMS Campus Club Programs gets college students all over the United States involved with events that educate others on conscious consumerism and social entrepreneurism. Their movement is made up of many parts, including One Day Without Shoes and World Sight Day — annual days to raise awareness for the global issues of poverty, avoidable blindness and visual impairment. Ticket To Give gives you an opportunity to join them on a Giving Trip and distribute TOMS Shoes to children in the field. And if you’re looking for other ways to get involved, their Community Team has lots of ideas.


Uber: Share Our Strength

Uber launched its program to help a variety of causes including vets to find jobs, homes for cats and dogs, as well as clothes collection for the needy. They’ve done an excellent job using their app and customer base for social good. Uber’s latest program with Share Our Strength was a success. Their initial goal was to provide three million meals for children in need by allowing riders to make a $5 donation within the Uber app to support No Kid Hungry. Within four days, the Uber community donated enough money to provide five million meals.


The LUSH Charity Pot

The concept is simple. When you buy a Charity Pot body lotion, all the money from the sale goes to the nonprofit featured on the lid. Since 2007, the promotion has raised nearly $6 million for over 600 nonprofits. LUSH is supporting small nonprofits. These organizations often sit on the sidelines of cause marketing and watch the dollars flow to big charities like American Cancer Society, The Salvation Army and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. More companies should make giving to small nonprofits a priority. Most of those nonprofits are animal welfare, environmental conservation, and humanitarian causes with annual revenues below $500,000.

“We find these groups when they need a lift up, and ideally, after a year, we hope to get them in a position where they don’t need us anymore”
-Lush Spokesperson

Canna Concerns

Addressing social issues and bridging societal gaps is just one of our obligations to the community we live in and around. How we approach our issues is up to us. While brewers in Colorado regularly donate to charities, it’s more difficult for cannabis companies to do the same. Local breweries, such as New Belgium and Odell Brewing Co., have gifted in the millions to local organizations and have long been hailed for their charitable actions in the community.

Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana has brought a new player to the philanthropic table, and many area nonprofits are unsure as to how to handle the industry’s desire to give back. Most nonprofits contacted by the Coloradoan noted the sensitive nature in the form of public perception surrounding pot philanthropy and a need to fine tune policies before they’re made public.

It’s not just societal taboo that plays a role in nonprofit reluctance to accept donations from marijuana entities. There’s also a lingering possibility that donations from the industry could be seized if the federal government decided to overrule state legalization.

Bottom Line: Brands can bridge. Brands can make a difference. Let’s take care of those that are less fortunate and need our industry’s help and support.

Originally published at Dope Magazine.

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