In Brands We Trust: Living in The Age of Brand Enlightenment

Brand trust matters. Edelman’s online poll of 34,000 adults from around the globe found “nearly two-thirds of consumers identifying themselves as belief-driven buyers.”


Brands and the impact they wield through paid and earned media have a huge responsibility in shaping and moving culture forward, manifested superficially in the clothes we wear to the psychologic impact in the way we think. America was built on free speech, but an UNRESTRICTED reach of propaganda for hate speech like holocaust deniers and racist rhetoric can be dangerous. Facebook is the gatekeeper of our media. They decide who sees what and how.

Stop Hate For Profit is a national campaign supported by equal rights groups like the ADL and NAACP leaning on Facebook to take responsibility for the proliferation of hate speech. Brands like Patagonia and North Face support this campaign to hold Facebook accountable. Brands today have the power to move culture forward. Today, most consumers want to know the values behind the brands they choose to buy from. Their humanity and values can be seen in the paid messages targeted to your newsfeed or the initiatives they support.

A 2003 article published in Adage entitled African-American Representation in Advertising reported it wasn’t until the civil rights movement in the 60’s that brands finally showed people of color as equals. In 1963, New York Telephone Company runs an ad featuring a well-dressed black man. In 1972, Kodak features a black Santa Claus. I imagine if brands were first and not the final bellwether of our collective consciousness, we might have a more just society. While brands can always do better, brands like Proctor and Gamble with their #WeSeeEqual Initiative have made huge inroads and commitments to making the world a better, more sustainable, more equal place to thrive.

Where a brands values were once cloaked in secrecy–Mercedes and its work for the Nazi’s during World War II–social media makes this impossible. (To note, Mercedes made huge reparations in the post war era. When I was a baby and traveled to Israel, every taxi was a beautiful Mercedes.) Transparency, and thus, brand trust, are becoming a cost of entry for brands. Where a brand stands–whether it supports or doesn’t support climate change, racial equality, or equal pay matters. But this new era of transparency, I believe, will make brands stronger. I don’t imagine a world where there will be a conservative and liberal isle in the supermarket. I believe that brands will stand for what is right because it’s good for business and for humanity.

I believe brands can do good while doing well.

National and global brands have a responsibility to reflect and to stand by the communities that consume their products. And while these large initiatives are a start, the real challenge is deploying those initiatives across the organization so that they come to life and create impact–in real time. Because brands are silo’d, brand values can take years to affect culture. However, what if we created better ways of working across the silos that exist within brands? Could change can happen faster? A resounding yes.


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