Swedish food maker Oatly might have opened up the market for plant-based milks with provocative, yet humorous slogans like “made for humans” but as plant-based milks are going from niche into mainstream, they seem to be losing the traction. Oatly’s do-good-talk and down-to-earth marketing stand in dire contrast to suing competitors and taking investments from Trump-backing Blackstone. Or what about another purpose darling—or maybe rather dinosaur—Bodyshop? Does it come across as conscious compared to Lush or challenger brands like The Handmade Soap Company? When you throw the first stone as a value-driven or activist brand, you will be exposed as living in a glass house. Brand activism, like the big idealistic political movements of our time such as communism, will eventually fizzle out and demonstrate what we all know: we humans are flawed, and so are brands.
The stone-throwing will come back at you like a boomerang. So how bout changing perspective? What brands with success can do in an increasingly post-purpose market is to embrace the average American looking for simple solutions to live greener, save a buck, or to shut-up their teenager’s constant vegan rant. People are no longer buying what you do or why you do it (values have become a commodity), but instead who you can help them become: A caring dad teaching his son to stop buying bottled water and instead go for the push of the SodaStream button. An informed mother helping her daughter understand financial literacy one penny in the piggy bank at a time. Very few of us wake up in the morning with an ambition to save the world, we wake up to go take a pee and then we (sometimes) actively push the small flush button.
If your brand is a true activist, maybe it’s about time to stop pointing fingers like a chosen Patagonia-wearing self-righteous tribe, and instead create an inclusive movement truly enabling all Americans, all inhabitants of blue planet Earth to take part in the change. For me, inclusivity is a cornerstone of sustainability Or else, I’m afraid “that’s all folks” for your business—and our collective future.
Hear more from Thomas Kolster on the purpose marketing bubble at Ad Age Next: CMO next week. Register now and see the full agenda at AdAge.com/NextCMO.