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Ethical engagement is crucial for brand differentiation, conference reveals

By Aurore Moreau , 17-Mar-2010
Last updated on 17-Mar-2010 at 13:29 GMT

A conference held by the Matinales de la Cosmétique in Paris this week has underlined the importance of ethical engagement with consumers as a means of giving brands a purpose.

The fifth session in this monthly series of conferences - given by Dr Sylvain-Romain Cotte, founder of SRC Consulting and Bernard Gindre, president of consultancy agency Ethikentêt, - exposed some key methods and good practices of cause-related marketing for cosmetics players.

CSR adds resonance to a brand

Companies want to make their brands resonate more strongly with consumers and ethical engagement can help. Companies can approach this in a number of ways: they can respect regulations and labels, develop internal standards with additional constraints, such as eco-conception, recycling or ethical sourcing, or support a cause such as engaging in a non-profit cause associated with their products.

“A lot of companies have already worked a lot on CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] and sustainable development, however, they don’t communicate it”, Gindre said.

“Ethical engagement is a real factor of differentiation, going beyond product prices”, he added.

In addition, getting involved in CSR has another key consequence: cost reduction. This is achieved through reducing waste, together with water and energy consumption, or even reducing health costs thanks to improved working conditions.

Being coherent and transparent

Ethical engagement is meaningful because it supports products and can have an important impact on consumers. However, it has to be chosen with care, and be harmonious with the brand.

Brands that have a history of making concerted efforts to reduce ecological impacts or those that are sympathetic to the demands of a consumer have been the most successful.

Transparency is also a keyword in ethical engagement. There is no perfect way to approach this, but being transparent increases companies’ credibility, and consumers are sensitive to it.

Enhancing ethical engagement

“The way a brand’s ethical engagement is perceived by consumers is a driver for companies to get more and more involved,” Gindre said.

The traditional relationship between brands and consumers is evolving, which means companies are increasingly looking for ways to interact with consumers.

Likewise, motivating the employees to become involved in a cause can also become a strategic tool for human resources.

Furthermore, NGOs, foundations or associations are recognized by consumers as a trustworthy third party, which makes partnerships of this kind another key tool for success.

It is also important not to forget the financial aspect of donations, even if they should never be related to volume sales, Gindre added.

Some tools for ethical marketing

Product communication is not easy; especially finding a way to communicate on ethics with a simple message. Internet does not seem to be the most successful tool to use for this; however, it is essential for consumers to have an access to information on the brand’s ethical engagement.

Other actions such as global information campaigns, special operations or games are keys to mobilising consumers and to the campaign’s success.

“Ethical marketing opens new perspectives for brands. We’re going from being driven by needs to being driven by conscience”, Cotte concluded.

Les Matinales de la Cosmétique is organised once a month in Paris. The next two sessions will take place on 20 April, entitled: "Towards a new cosmetics: Trends and Regulatory Issues"; and on 25 May, entitled: “Bio-piracy: Myth or Reality...?”

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