Another nail in the coffin of ethical brands

Hot on the tracks of the recent post about Cadbury making its Dairy Milk chocolate all fair trade comes news that Mars are dialling up ethical values on their core business. In the latest ad of their corporate branding campaign, Raising the Bar, they make 2 claims:
– From early 2010 Galaxy will source its cocoa beans from Rainforest Alliance farms
– Mars is the first company to commit to having the entire cocoa supply certified by the Rainforest Alliance 2020
This is further evidence of the "mainstreaming" of ethical products by the big brands. Great to see if you give a hoot about the environment and 3rd world farmers. Not so great if you are a niche brand like Divine chocoloate where fair trade is more than a reason to believe, its your reason to be.

Worth noting some interesting points about the Mars campaign itself:
1. Stamina: I like the fact this is an ongoing campaign, not just a one-off. Earlier executions were used to launch the campaign, and talked about how all the company's products were free of "nasties" (artificial colours and ingredients)
Picture 1

2. BSR is becoming a "table stake": the Mars campaign is another sign that if you are a big brand and don't have a clear stance on "BSR"
(brand social responsibility), then you are in danger of being left
behind. Social and environmental policies are becoming the norm.

3. Corporate brand vs. product brand: interesting how Mars is focusing its BSR message on the parent brand, not the product brands. I think in this case it works, as there is a lot of commonality in base ingredients (i.e. chocoloate). It would be a waste of resource to have a fair trade message on each brand.

However, the case for company brand communication is less obvious to me in a case like Unilever, then there is a huge range of products, including some with conflicting positionings (Dove = real women without sterotypes; Axe = sterotypical women without clothing)

4. Who's the target? I wondered what the payback was on this campaign, as I didn't think your average choccie shopper would a) be reading the Sunday Times, b) care much about the message.

However, this is perhaps missing the point. The ads are probably targetted not at end consumers, but rather at:
– Exmployees: making them feel good, after getting so much bad press
– Potential new hires: make them feel more positive about the company
– Opinion formers: show Mars as a force for good, not an evil empire