The importance of authenticity when advertising your brand as socially conscious.

In recent years we’ve thankfully seen a shift in how we market brands and products to women. No longer are women’s insecurities preyed on, but instead they’re told that they’re “beautiful as they are” and our brand “understands them as women”. This is an important step forward for the advertising industry, as we (whether we like to admit it or not) most definitely have an impact on society (both positive and negative). However with this new, more socially progressive messaging, comes brands who are jumping on the bandwagon, saying that they’re more accepting of women, people of colour or perhaps even the LGBT community, when their actions as a company very much contradict this. Let’s take a look at this new ad from H&M: On the surface this ad is perfection. It’s beautifully shot, evoking strong emotions of empowerment, while skilfully sliding in the product making it natural to the protagonist’s lives. It doesn’t show models, it shows real people, doing real things. Indeed, when I first saw this ad, I couldn’t help but think that this was a real step forward for the fashion industry – one that has undoubtedly had negative impacts on society through the pushing of an unrealistic body image(s). However, H&M as a company has had a litany of scandals come out against them. In their Cambodian factories, women have being fired for getting pregnant and sexual harassment is common practice. Similarly those working in Indian factories, which by in large are women, are paid such small wages that they have no choice but to live in impoverished areas at the outskirts of production hubs. These women are often forced work long hours, and when they try to unionize they’re often threatened by police, or even fired. Adding to this inauthenticity is a personal observation – when going into an H&M store, one isn’t greeted by instore advertising featuring the heroic women in their advertisement, but instead we see models. So what does this all mean? In one sense, H&M have struck gold with their new ad campaign. It doesn’t use the old tactics of preying on female insecurities to sell the clothing. Instead it sends a powerful message to females worldwide. “You can be what you want to be, and that’s ok” This on one level is great. We should be preaching this idea to all women. We shouldn’t be telling females that they need this product and that product to make themselves fit the status quo. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, and we along with brands should celebrate the world’s diversity. So in many ways, hats off to H&M for pouring what looks to be a lot of cash into a campaign that advertises their new autumn collection. But… and it’s a big but… H&M is subliminally selling the idea that they’re “for women”, when as a company they’re not. They’re just white washing over the fact that as a they’re complicate in some abhorrent human rights violations against women. There is just a clear disconnect that runs with the brands messaging and what it does in real life, and this could be very damaging to them in the long run. Why? Because like so many their brands they’re going for the elusive millennial target market. The target market that wants authentic relationships with brands, and is very quick to turn on brands that aren’t. And this is where H&M have a problem on their hands. Not only will millennials end up seeing through the bullshit – indeed, maybe they already have, considering the comments section on youtube is turned off – but there is no truth behind their messaging. It isn’t authentic and there’s no truth behind it. When we create campaigns, or help brands refresh their image, we always search for a brand truth. Something that allows us to create an authentic brand platform, which a brand can build from and evolve with over time. By doing this, we help brands create meaningful relationships with consumers that will last for years to come. Sure you might see a spike in sales because your brand has jumped on the latest trend, but this will very rarely, if at all, create advocates for your brand. Meaning that you’ll be constantly scrounging to be relevant, and eventually fall behind the eight ball.