It’s often the brave brands who go on to make a real impact in the world by making bold decisions that have the potential to go wrong.
Bravery comes in many forms, from radically standing out from their competition to fearlessly standing up for what they believe in.
Even well-established brands can fall into the trap of becoming too safe, too predictable, and, dare we say it, a bit boring. It can be hard to be brave when you have an army of shareholders peering over your shoulder, but a bold move can pay dividends. You can reconnect with your existing customer base, reaffirming their beliefs or pushing them in an entirely new direction.
Brave brands are usually rewarded with a massive uplift on social media, followed by coverage from their peers and traditional media outlets. This part will be outside your control, so planning for all eventualities is essential.
Patagonia began life as a one-person operation in 1965 when rock climber Yvon Chouinard sold his handmade climbing pitons to other climbers. He made them reusable, unlike the soft iron ones that climbers typically left in the rock. Word spread quickly, and he became a market leader in the mountaineering sphere, with a real interest growing in their brand clothing that appealed to non-climbers.
The company expressed their ethical stance from early on. One of the first steps that they took towards conservation and sustainability was donating 1% of the sales to the environment. This led to the non-profit organization ‘One Percent for the Planet’, created by Yvon Chouinard and Craig Matthews in 2002 and a great brand and simple logo design in its own right. Now, more than 1,200 members from 48 countries are a part of it.
Upon hearing how damaging the cotton industry has been on our planet, Patagonia switched to more sustainably farmed organic cotton. They even go as far as pushing their loyal customer base not to buy their new products. It sounds mad at first, but they’d rather you repair or exchange your existing item of clothing. They now own the largest garment repair centre in North America and vow to ‘repair every single piece of Patagonia, no matter how old it is, indefinitely.’
More recently, they’ve begun to dip their toes into politics, campaigning against the repeal of environmentally-friendly legislation.
Sports campaigns are usually fronted by the lithe young sporting stars of the moment, but Sports England adopted a very different approach with their This Girl Can campaign in January 2015.
Despite the efforts of sports brands and the health and fitness industry, 1.75 million fewer women than men were exercising regularly in 2014 – a worryingly large and stubborn gender gap in England’s exercise participation levels. The campaign aimed to inspire women aged 14-40 to get regular physical activity.
The brand campaign design did away with the aspirational sporting celebrities, replacing them with average women of all ages, shapes, sizes and physical abilities participating in sport. They focussed on a unifying barrier to exercise – the fear of judgement. They showed a side of exercise that hadn’t previously featured in campaigns like this: jiggling bodies, red faces, swimming costumes riding up, uphill cycling struggles and more. The message was clear – this is what sport looks like for many people, and that’s great!
The core film has racked up over 50 million views, and almost 3 million women claim that the campaign has inspired them to return to or begin exercising without a 6-pack in sight.
Lush has often hit the headlines for crossing the line between retailer and advocate over the years. They have run several high-profile campaigns highlighting global environmental and humanitarian issues. This is why it came as a big surprise in 2019 when they said they were turning their backs on its UK social media.
The decision was fuelled by the changing algorithms that prioritised paid content, reducing the potential for organic reach. They believed their best content was getting lost behind a paywall, so they decided to take a stand.
In their statement, they said:
“Lush has always been made up of many voices, and it’s time for all of them to be heard. We don’t want to limit ourselves to holding conversations in one place, we want social to be placed back in the hands of our communities – from our founders to our friends. We’re a community, and we always have been. We believe we can make more noise using all of our voices globally because when we do, we drive change, challenge norms and create a cosmetic revolution. We want social to be more about passions and less about likes.”
This move paid off quickly. The brand saw increased platform engagement, pushing for greater interaction with their stores and staff.
Our UK accounts will be closing, however, you will still be able to follow #lushcommunity and also our makers and inventors on Instagram! ~ Shauni
— LUSH UK (@LushLtd) April 8, 2019
Ok, we’re not sure if this one is bravery, stupidity, or just plain wrong. At a date nowhere near April 1, Weetabix posted a haunting image: two Weetabix generously topped with baked beans. Social media erupted with disgust and intrigue as everyone from big brands to celebrities weighed in on whether this was a delicious suggestion or a blasphemous breakfast. The Beans on Bix campaign was only meant to be a bit of fun, but it ended up being one of the most talked about ads of the year.
Costing less than £5,000 to execute, it boosted the company’s spontaneous brand awareness by 40% on 2020 and even caused a 15% increase in sales on Valentine’s weekend as customers recreated the breakfast idea.
— Weetabix (@weetabix) February 9, 2021
How can your brand be braver?
- Follow your gut when making decisions, even if it clashes with your head
- Hold up your hands when those instincts are wrong, and learn from your mistakes
- Trust your teams to make decisions without constantly having to feedback to their superiors – it’ll help them build confidence in the branding and logo design
- Stand up for what your brand believes in, even if it might cost you a few customers
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