By Ben Moreland, Asuno.
Whether you are starting an ethical brand from the ground up, or evolving your current brand to do more social good. Here’s how to do it, and some insight into the pitfalls to watch out for.
Begin with building your brand brief, what you aim to achieve, what your social responsibility angle is and how you are going to approach it.
Since you are starting an ethical brand, make this the first decision – how is it going to be ethical? Invoke a buy-one-give-one philosophy, donate profits to charity, or help save the world through recycling materials are just some ideas you can adopt. Decide which path your brand will take and build up from there.
Now you have the social good idea formed, next is to formulate a plan on how to make that idea a reality. Let’s take recycling as an example, our oceans get polluted with 1.4 billion pounds of trash that is damaging to the environment and the sea-life that comes into contact with it*. But did you know some of this plastic waste can we re-used to create clothing, shoes and other useful fitness articles. With some creative recycling methods out there, we are now seeing an increase in materials being re-used, and less finding their way to landfills or our oceans.
Next step is to find manufacturers or charities (depending on which avenue you have decided to go down) who can support your idea. If your looking at charities, find some that resonate with your brand, or you have a strong emotion towards, customers react well with causes they believe in, or they have been affected by. You are aiming to reach your customers on an emotional level as well as their rational purchasing level.
As for manufacturers, you are preaching a socially good company, so all elements of your supply chain need to be equally responsible. Vet your manufacturers so they are not infringing on human rights, inadequate working conditions, or using unethical practices to source materials. There are many official ways to check; a visit to their factories, an external audit, or certifications they possess from previous checks.
So, now you’re well on your way to being the next great ethical fitness brand, with;
- Your idea
- Your charities and manufacturers, with agreements in place
- The clothing or equipment you’re going to sell
- The means to do good with the sale of each item
Congratulations for getting this far, but what’s next?
The hard part. Alongside all the other hardships of launching a business, the financials, marketing, stock management, website and social building, long working hours, stress and risk, you also have to convince your customers you are genuinely a brand out there to make a difference.
Humans are sceptical, its in our nature to question everything before we accept it, its part of our survival instinct. Early humans didn’t survive by taking things for face value, and those that did, didn’t last long. Even though you have the best intentions, there will always be questions.
During the launch of Asuno, we were asked why these charities, how much do you donate – why not more? How can you prove the money is going to those people, what about this cause, why not choose local charities?
As long as you have a clear goal and are confident in your approach customers will believe in you and your brand.
Next up, funding a start-up can be one of the hardest parts of getting launched. You have the clothing or equipment designed and ready to purchase, you have the marketing ads ready to go and your looking into trademarks to protect your great idea but haven’t decided how to successfully fund it.
Most entrepreneurs financially invest in their own brands but this is normally not enough, other options are available depending on what suits your product;
Crowdfunding – everyone donating a little can create a lot of funding. It’s a great premise, but be careful, it’s tricky, especially for a clothing brand. Be cautious about the lead times on crowdfunding, a lot of customers especially in the market for clothing are not willing to wait over a month for their product.
Start-up Loan – the usual way to gain funding, requiring a good business plan, good market research and a good personal credit history.
Equity Investment – if you can’t crowdfund, and you are unable to get a loan, look into equity investors, as long as you can convince them of the potential in your brand, backed up by strong financial forecasts and are willing to exchange a percentage of equity for an initial investment, this can be a viable funding option.
Last but not least, remember to involve your customers long past their purchase of your products, they are emotionally investing in your brand with every item, and they want to see what good they have done by supporting your company rather than any other generic fitness brand. Here’s a couple of ways to give back to your customers:
- Formulate metrics that your donations can provide with your charity partners, this gives your customers a quantified action, and prevents the “what next?” question.
- Give updates on social media and your website, show people the faces and locations that their donations are supporting.
- Personalise thank you messages from those helped, and hold celebration and charity events or auctions to boost donations and brand awareness.
Building an ethical brand is all about honesty, compassion and integrity. Be honest with your customers, show them your true compassion towards the causes you are supporting, and live up to the promises you make. With these key attributes in place your brand is set to become something great, the rest is up to you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben Moreland is co-founder of Asuno, a Manchester-based fitness and yoga clothing brand passionate about making an impact on the world. Using the city as inspiration, the team design beautiful, premium quality, functional fitness clothing that saves lives. Every item in the range is linked to an individual charity and each purchase provides a specific action from alleviating hunger to providing access to water and helping children build an identity.
Indiegogo Community Crowdfunding: https://igg.me/at/asuno