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Hi, I'm Tara, a Graphic Designer helping sustainable organisations visually communicate their mission, values and messages through design.
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5 Steps to Building an Ethical Brand Identity That Performs

Jul 22, 2022 • Tara Pigott

If you’re on a journey to building an ethical or mission-led business/not-for-profit, you might be thinking about how you can best leverage your brand to set you apart from your competition and generate interest and support.

Building a powerful brand is a great way for an ethical business or mission-led start-up to differentiate themselves and become known and respected.

This article will outline 5 steps you can take to ensure your ethical or mission-led brand performs, generating you credibility, memorability and trust.

5 Steps to an Ethical Brand

1. Identify Your Brand’s Positioning

Brand positioning refers to how your brand fits into the market and minds of the public.

What do you exist to do? How are you different from your competitors? What are your distinct values that set you apart? What problems of your target audience are you solving?

If you don’t know how you differ from other existing brands or why your target audience would pick you, you will really struggle marketing and selling yourself.

As an ethical brand, you have something distinct to bring as you aren’t just any other business. This makes it easier for you to carve out a place in the market that sets you apart and justifies the need for your existence.

Once you’ve established how you will position yourself in the market and minds of the public, steps 2-5 will become much easier.

2. Assess Your Services and Products

It almost goes without saying that to build an ethical brand you need to provide ethical services or products. However, given the rise in greenwashing, this is a truly crucial step that we can’t miss.

You don’t want to be contributing to consumerism and flooding the market with more products than we really need. Therefore, consider if your product is really necessary and how you’re going to create it so that it aligns with your values and minimises negative impact at every stage of the supply chain.

Even if you are a service provider, try to work with companies and freelancers who align with your values. Are they transparent in their processes? Are they working towards a similar mission to yours?

It’s also important to look at the ethics of your online presence. How much CO2 is your website emitting? (check here) Can you use more ethical companies as opposed to big tech who aim to monopolise and don’t respect privacy? How ethical is your email marketing strategy?

Furthermore, be sure to respect the copyrights of creative works and bank with ethical banks.

3. Provide Credibility and Transparency

Step 2 is where you put in all the hard work, now step 3 is where you prove to the public that you are credible and aren’t using greenwashing tactics to sell your product or service.

You need to make them trust you and have no doubt about your intentions.

One way to do this is to include a section on your website where you openly display your processes, suppliers, and any other ethical policies such as donation of profits, activism or your support to the community.

It’s important to be open and honest in this section and outline your shortcomings and the areas you plan to improve. This will help your audience to trust you and be confident about your intentions.

Credibility can also be achieved by actively engaging in campaigns related to your specific values, and raising awareness of the justice issues your brand is trying to fight on social media. This shows that you are more than just talk, but are actively engaged in working towards change.

You can further add credibility to your claims by registering for ESGmark or Better Business Act to show that your business or organisation has been verified by an external party. You can also display your Ecologi score, and the amount of CO2 your website emits, on your website.

4. Build your Brand’s Visual Identity

A brand’s visual identity is comprised of its logos, colour palette, brand marks, fonts, photography style, patterns, and overall visual style.

Because the visual aspects of your brand are likely to be one of the first impressions a potential customer will get of your business/not-for-profit, you need to make sure these visuals accurately reflect who you are and make them want to learn more about you, your products or services.

A messy and non-strategic brand identity can lead to a potential customer feeling confused and apprehensive to go any further. And as they say, you only have one chance to make a good first impression.

So does your visual identity help the observer to understand what you do, yet not blend in with the competition? Does it appeal to your target audience? Does it communicate your values and mission? Does it reflect the high quality products or services you provide?

Furthermore, a solid brand identity is also needed to ensure the consistency of your visual communication. The colours, fonts and style you use for your communications increase your brand recognition and enable people to identify and remember you.

Working with a professional brand designer can help you to get this just right.

5. Build your Communication Strategy

Now that you have completed steps 1-4, its time to put it all together to get the word out there about your business/not-for-profit.

Firstly, figure out what channels your target audience are using and where they'd go to look for the product or service you’re offering. Any presumptions you make about your target audience you need to test and either validate or dismiss. Therefore, you’ll want to conduct some target market research to find this out.

Once you figure out the best channels to use, you should focus on a positive tone of communication rather than doom-inducing negative communication which research has shown to scare people and is ineffective at making people act

Your communication and content should also be accessible and inclusive with the terms you use. You shouldn’t be using highly technical or scientific jargon to sell your product - this sort of information should be available to those who want to know more, but not front and centre of your marketing strategy.

Finally, be authentic and relatable. People like to buy from people.

If they can see the real people behind your business/not-for-profit, and you share personal and relatable stories, people will feel more comfortable to buy from you.

The Take Home Message

As an ethical or mission-led business/not-for-profit, increasing the strength of your brand is a great strategy to help you become more prominent in the minds of the public.

A well designed brand will help you to be perceived as credible, trustworthy and relatable, resulting in more people wanting to get involved with your mission or to purchase your product or service.

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Picture of Tara Pigott, Graphic & Brand Designer, smiling and holding a cup of coffee
Hi, I'm Tara! I design brands for positive impact businesses and change makers.
Learn more
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