People in vegan houses shouldn't throw bacon

Abbie Love

Abbie is an energetic and passionate professional with diverse industry skills and experience, both internationally and in Australia. Her knowledge spans the core 'usual suspects' of media, advertising and marketing, along with a more unique application of advocacy, consumer experiences, and word of mouth. She is currently a strategist at Ikon Communications, a full-service strategy agency working across a multitude of local and international brands and industries.

Picture this. You’re at a Gourmerican burger joint chomping a cheeseburger, when an outspoken vegan friend starts preaching that you’re killing the planet.

Last week, that same vegan downed a pricey glass of pinot before their flight to a far-flung destination, armed with their strongest mossie repellant and first aid kit. Anything amiss?

I say it screams of hypocrisy. When your bold actions or loud opinions don’t mirror your values, it’s hard to take this kind of strong stance seriously.

But this isn’t just about preaching vegans. Brands beware: People today are more likely to sniff out insincerity than ever. And in today’s connected world, the consequences aren’t pretty.

The question of ‘authenticity’ is rising on everyone’s lips. Does that brand really believe in this cause or is it a bid to push product? Does that ‘influencer’ really #love this product (more than the one last week)? Did this journalist rant about deforestation then rave about a new product laden with uncertified palm oil?

Before we blindly promote our values, we should pause for a moment. A digital footprint is forever. Flakiness is captured on cookies. Vegans can be captured on camera wearing leather shoes. And car brands can be busted for knowingly misreporting emission tests.

Are you really being authentic?

A brand that hints hypocricy rarely gets away with it. Successful brands are those who sincerely symbolise their values and ensure their communications reflect this, not jump on a beligerant belief bandwagon.

Take Patagonia. The brand consistently practices what it preaches. Its core business values encompass what it does, who it represents and how the company goes about it. Which in turn, shapes the marketing strategy - not the other way round. For example, Patagonia’s ‘Worn Wear’ campaign has traction because the company means it. Just like the brand meant it five years ago with ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’. People love it because it rings true time and time again.

Then there’s Disney, which secured the coveted status of this year’s ‘most authentic brand[1]’. The company has stood by Walt Disney’s mission statement to be ‘the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information’ for over 90 years.

Disney live and breathe what they do, from the magic on screen to the spirited ‘cast members’ (aka employees) at Disney World. Entertainment at the company core, with the customer in mind. This has dictated what the company does, from production to acquisition, and the brand remains synomymous with entertainment for kids and adults worldwide.

Trust takes time to earn, and can be broken in seconds.

In the case of ‘The Preaching Vegan’, it’s frustrating that creature byproducts, dairy-filtered wine, carbon impact and blocking a mozzie’s food source are all deemed irrelevant. Perhaps because they don’t fit with their desired life choices?

For the record, I have nothing against the choice to forego animal products – except when it’s served with a side of inauthenticity. The same principle extends to brands and businesses, and I’m not alone. If you’re going to make a stance and preach, then you better be sure you’re actually doing it.

Brands should have beliefs and be brave with them. Just don’t be blindsided by them. Recognise the blurred lines that surround all values, and even by acknowling your efforts to achieve your goal you’ll be given a darn sight more respect.

We could all take time to discover, not dismiss, alternate perspectives. Aim to enlighten not lecture. Represent real passion and work towards a real value, not a flighting fancy.

Until then – meat lovers, don’t bother trying to make a carnivore joke with a vegan.

3 tips for authenticity

  1. Filter for Flakiness: Your brand architecture is there for a reason. Use it as a filter to ensure consistancy in what you say today, tomorrow and the future.
  2. Fact over Fiction: Being genuine will earn you respect. Only say 100% sustainability if you are, otherwise be honest that you’re working towards it.
  3. Evolution not confusion: It’s great to evolve as part of a thought through or long term plan, but doing a 180 overnight is not going to do you any favours.

Tags: brand strategy

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