29
Jun
Beth Davies

Pride 2021: Tokenistic campaigns just won’t fly anymore

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June is Pride Month, a time for celebrating the diverse accomplishments, identities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. With 2020 seeing the queer community face a disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it is perhaps more important than ever for us to show our support and allyship.

Over the years, Pride has become an opportunity for brands to express their support for equal rights and representation, investing heavily in sponsorships, ads, and pride-themed products. But we know consumers are turning a critical eye to the companies they buy from, and brands need to go further than just wrapping merchandise up in rainbow packaging and calling it a day.

So-called ‘rainbow washing’ or ‘pink washing’ is too often the route that organisations take, and many major brands haven’t maintained a consistent enough relationship with LGBTQ+ communities to last Pride Month without some scrutiny. To be honest, it can be a difficult to hold back the cynicism, when even Pret rebrands as ‘Pride a Manger’.

Some 2021 Pride campaigns have certainly struck the wrong chord. Take Bud Light, which brought out an advert replacing the letters in the acronym LGBTQ with ‘Let’s Grab Beers Tonight, Queens’. An ad that erases identities in favour of selling beer, surely had to be designed without any queer people in the room. Also attracting criticism is Skittles, for its attempt at meaningful action which consisted of donating a portion of product proceeds to the media advocacy group, GLAAD. The problem? Skittles limited donations to less than 0.03% of sales during Pride month. 2020 brought with it an increased focus on diversity and inclusion, and tokenistic marketing just won’t fly anymore.

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25
May
Georgie Howlett

Can fashion change its ways?

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Clothes are wrapped up in our identity. What we wear says something about us – whether we care about that or not. Over the centuries, clothes have symbolised status. Our outfit can affect our mood. We have special clothes for special occasions. Clothes can be a socio-political statement. And some people can’t afford clothes.

For quite some time, second-hand clothing has been broadly seen as second-rate. There have always been those creative individuals with a flair for unearthing vintage gems in a charity shop, but now society is reaching a tipping point. As someone who is fascinated by human behaviour and how to encourage habits that help the planet, I have been watching this gather momentum over the last few years.

Motivated by ‘voting with their wallet’ and reducing their carbon footprint, individuals have already been pushing change within other sectors e.g. single-use plastics, organic or local food, fairtrade supply chains. But we’ve been a little slower on the clothing front because it’s a hard habit to kick. As I said, clothes are deeply connected to our identity. And the fashion cycle is strong.

But the impact of the clothing industry is becoming harder to ignore: 350,000 tonnes of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill each year in the UK, and it takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for one pair of jeans. Depressingly, the fashion industry is actually responsible for a huge chunk of global water pollution – it consumes more energy than shipping and aviation combined, and by 2050 is anticipated to be responsible for 25% of the world’s remaining carbon budget.

Better late than never, second-hand is experiencing a much-needed makeover. Driven by early adopters and influencers like Michaela Coel and Maquita Oliver, demand is sky-rocketing, with Gen Z at the helm of social norming pre-loved. Brands are having to adapt to put sustainability at the top of the agenda. (The significance of purpose / ESG / sustainability in the boardroom is something that we’ve seen grow steadily with clients across all sectors.)

I’d like to offer some proof points that show businesses need to go beyond organic fabrics and ethical supply chains and embrace a truly circular approach:

  • While brands like Mud Jeans have pioneered circular thinking for some time, mainstream brands are now joining the movement. Cos, owned by H&M, has launched a resale service on its website, Asos has seen vintage sales rise by 92% and Asda announced recently that it will sell second hand clothing in 50 supermarkets
  • Trend-setting teens have been trading clothes on Depop, Vinted, and Nuw, and renting through apps like Hurr and ByRotation in rising numbers – younger generations are taking their thrift hacks and tutorials to TikTok
  • Websites and apps that sell used clothing, such as Loopster and Kidclo, are growing fast, and eBay has sold over 60 million used items in the last year

We’re not there yet, though. The global apparel market is worth $1.5 trillion and is growing. A recent article on Bloomberg highlights that “while #thrifthaul and #knitting have a not-insignificant 456 million and 478 million views respectively on TikTok, #Sheinhaul — in which users showcase purchases from the ultra-cheap, ultra-fast fashion store SHEIN — has 2.3 billion”. And despite Boohoo being exposed for serious ethical failings, it’s still trading and successfully.

The other behaviour to watch out for is that, with the pre-loved market easing the conscience, people will continue to buy new, under the premise that they will re-sell rather than throw away. Charities and leading voices in this sector need to keep the focus on starting with second-hand, rather than easing the psychological burden with ‘recycling’. In the end, recycling is the last of the three pillars around addressing our problem with waste – the first two are ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’.

But I’m optimistic. Sustainable habits are taking root, and even though this overhaul of the fashion industry will take more than one generation, it feels like a shift that is here to stay.

01
Apr
Georgie Howlett

Can we afford purpose in a recession?

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Yesterday I got out of my (virtual) four walls for a panel discussion organised by Pimento, about whether businesses can afford purpose in a recession – though it inevitably explored so much more.

In short, it’s a resounding ‘yes’ from me. The business benefit is clear, with socially driven brands outperforming ones that aren’t, 91% of millennials saying they’d switch to a purpose-driven product over a competitor, and millennials (who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025) looking for socially responsible employers. Bigger than that, it’s just a better way to be as a business.

To be clear on what I think ‘purpose’ is. It’s the reason for being, beyond profit. It’s how, as a business, you act as a force for good. It’s not just running your business ethically, it’s the north star (or as Beth Pope better articulated on the panel yesterday, the catalyst for change) that drives your whole organisation from the inside, out. It spans the nuts and bolts of how you do business (operations), how you run your business (culture) and how you are a positive force in the outside world (brand). Critically, it’s not just the latter.

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11
Jan
Grace French

We Believe that ‘Better’ is on the horizon – so we’re helping brands get there

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Why we’re joining forces with LONDON Advertising and Pimento to offer reduced fees for new clients in January.

As the reality of lockdown 3.0 sets in, and with conversations already taking place about it being extended ‘til Easter, it can be all too easy to feel gloomy about 2021. Wasn’t it meant to be ‘better’ than 2020?

The sense of unease amongst individuals and businesses is all too understandable. But with vaccines being rolled out, ‘better’ is coming – and in the meantime we as a nation we must strive to come out of January with an energy and optimism to see us through the coming months.

In a year of lockdown and decreased interaction, communication has proven itself to be a lifeline for many. Relationships between many brands and their consumers have been cemented or shattered in a tense landscape.

Over the next few months, we will see more brands examining their positioning and their purpose, the changes they want to make happen, and how this fits into a post-Covid world. With a collective sense that there are lessons to be learnt from the pandemic – both positive and negative – this time of introspection is critical, and will lay the groundwork for more meaningful comms going forward.

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