Cancel OK

Be careful linking your brand to a cause

Headshot of Greg Johnson, Produce Blue Book's Director of media development.
Greg Johnson is VP of Media for Blue Book Services


That should be your first response when someone inside – or more likely – outside your company suggests you associate your brand with a cause.

As society turns toward making everything political, there’s more risk than reward in advocating for any side of an issue. People are tired of everything being political.

This awareness is coming out this week as Gillette risks its brand by challenging traditional masculinity.

Here in the produce industry, we already grow, market and sell a healthy product, so there’s a natural halo around our business. And we have an unlimited consumer market because everyone eats.

Business people’s first line of thinking should be about the business.

However, if you decide to associate your brand with a cause, there are a few things to consider.

-Who is your customer? For most consumer brands, the customer is the consumer. That’s not the case in fresh produce. In this industry, most customers are retailers, wholesalers or distributors who sell the fruit and vegetable to the consumer. Could advocating a cause conflict with this customer’s message?

-Do you have the means to get noticed? National brands with large advertising budgets can get the attention they need to advocate a cause. The produce industry has very few national brands. Does your brand have a way to reach a large audience with your cause?

-What’s an appropriate issue? Fresh produce companies can be on the right side of a number of issues, such as food waste, environmental protection, healthy living, etc. A cause has to be a natural fit with a brand. Consumers can sense inauthenticity.

-Does this cause separate you from competitors? There’s no point in advocating a cause if you’re just a copycat. Choose a cause that consumers will associate with your brand, not the generic version of your product or worse, a competitor.

When a brand advocates a position, it’s a big risk. There are some brands who have done this successfully, but there are many more who have not. It’s more likely you’ll push away an existing customer than gain one who wasn’t one before.

Just say no.


Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services Inc.