Missionary Brands

I’m hearing a lot of talk lately about ethical brands, which I’m banking will be a long-term trend, particularly for those products and services which don’t demand a price premium. These ethical brands tend to be mainly focused around either the green agenda or fair trade. We hear less noise about brands taking on social or cultural issues. However, this is a brand direction I think will be hugely influential in the future.

Adam Morgan, who spoke at one of our recent Spark sessions with Cawley Nea TBWA, outlines several types of challenger brands, one of which is “The Missionary”. These are brands which have a view about the world and passionately want to share it. They challenge the fundamental belief system underpinning a category. Dove’s campaign for real beauty is a potent example of a missionary challenger, speaking out against the unrealistic imagery of women in an airbrushed industry.

This championing of “real women” is a consumer trend I’ve noticed gaining traction again. The end of the size zero model has been long heralded, but has had several false starts – one of which was the banning of size 0 models at the Madrid and Milan fashion shows, a move then rejected by London fashion leaders. Recently, the notion has been slowly creeping back into public interest.  

The picture above, of plus size model Lizzie Miller, has been in the Guardian’s “most read” section for the last week and caused a media storm when it was first printed in Glamour Magazine. They’ve followed this up with a piece about the formerly anorexic and now plus-size model Crystal Renn. Coupled with this, is the growing popularity of Gok Wan, a leader in the “democratisation of beauty” concept. Alongside his empowering “How to Look Good Naked “ programme, Gok has now started a UK petition aimed at getting body confidence on the school curriculum. The campaign aims to tackle the “body hatred epidemic”. Gok Wan is another missionary challenger.

Whether or not Dove or Gok Wan succeed in overturning pretty entrenched attitudes about beauty and body image, this cultural space is a really powerful one for brands to occupy. It requires total commitment and a fair amount of bravery, but it offers a platform for longterm and loyal consumer advocacy.

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  1. September 21st, 2010
  2. January 14th, 2011

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