Back on the soap box


Simon Houpt

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Of all the person-to-person sales offerings through the years – say, “Would you like fries with that?” or “Can I knock $50 off the price for you?” – one of the strangest in years has to be, “Would you like a horror story with your hand cream?”

This month, as customers at the Body Shop traipse through the store's cheerful aisles sampling the Earth-friendly emollients, lipsticks and face washes, salespeople are approaching them to ask if they have heard about the company's campaign to halt global sex trafficking.

Since its founding in the mid-1970s, the Body Shop has always aligned itself with liberal causes, from saving whales to halting domestic violence. But this may be the most fraught issue it has ever tackled.

“I think we've always looked at challenging issues,” said Shelley Simmons, the company's director of values, Americas. “I think this is probably the most challenging issue we've taken on because it is so shocking.”

And the company is treading carefully. Though the campaign is getting prominent placement on its website, shoppers in its stores are not confronted with any details of sex trafficking unless they accept a pamphlet. In some of the more sensitive markets, such as Saudi Arabia, the company is not even using the word sex.

Still, the campaign represents a return to the roots of the Body Shop, which moved away from emphasizing its causes after it was acquired by L'Oréal in 2006. And it is coming at a time when the entire field of cause marketing, by which companies embrace ethical practices or align themselves with cause-oriented non-profits, is exploding.

Hardly a day goes by without a marketer announcing a new socially oriented initiative. In the spring, the soup company Campbell gave away more than 20 million tomato plant seeds to consumers and students through an American gardening organization. The maker of Hellman's mayonnaise is promising to donate up to $25,000 if Canadian customers do their part for the local food movement. Pampers is donating the cost of one tetanus vaccine for a pregnant American for each package it sells of specially marked diapers. Tide runs a mobile Laundromat for families affected by natural disasters.

Last week, Cadbury Canada kicked off an online contest by which customers could help a charity win $100,000. This week, the chocolate maker announced it was converting its flagship Dairy Milk bar to fair trade cocoa, pledging to pay its farmers in Ghana an above-market price for their beans.

Philanthropy in the service of brand buffing, of course, goes back hundreds of years, if not thousands. (Certainly, the Medici banking family wasn't hurt by their support of otherwise-starving Renaissance-era artists.) But a confluence of factors has led to businesses getting religion in the last few years. And it's good timing, because the exploding interest in philanthropy comes as many non-profits have seen the source of their primary support – private foundations that were perhaps too heavily invested in the markets – seriously stumble over the past year.

Perhaps the greatest pressure on businesses to embrace ethics has come from the Internet, which has given a wide platform to eagle-eyed Ralph Nader wannabes lying in wait for companies to make a misstep.

“There is tremendous transparency in business,” says Carol Cone, the chairman and founder of Cone Inc., a Boston-based strategic communications firm specializing in social engagement. “Businesses need to develop trust with customers, and transparency has allowed us as citizens to really look inside companies.”

Ms. Cone notes that, at the same time, those most likely to spend time online – the so-called millennial demographic of under-25-year-olds, who number around 75 million in the United States alone, “are the most socially conscious generation since World War II.”

But as businesses have flooded into philanthropy, consumers are becoming increasingly skeptical of their commitment. A recent study by Cone Inc. found that the number of people who had told a friend or family member about a product after hearing of a company's commitment to social issues fell from 43 per cent in 2004 to 30 per cent in 2007.

“It's because of the ‘ribbonization' of America,” Ms. Cone said. “What we saw with weakening word of mouth is slapping a ribbon on something doesn't break through any more. Programs need to have depth. Consumers are looking for a significant commitment over time.”

Like a flitting lover who wants to take things to the next level, companies have to be sure of their intentions before they jump in, lest they be accused of green washing (a mild but unconvincing embrace of environmental values) or pink washing (a dalliance with women's issues such as breast cancer).

“What consumers look for is ethos,” says Chris Arnold, the founder of Creative Orchestra, an ethically driven London-based advertising agency, and the author of the forthcoming Ethical Marketing and the New Consumer . “This is why branding in a way is dead, because branding is an old-fashioned mentality towards reputation. It's a bit like a layer of makeup and a nice dress: It may look good, but if very quickly you discover the woman wearing it is a bitch, you don't want to see her again,” he says.

“We judge people by their personal values. The people you inherently like are the ones who share your values. It's the same with companies,” Mr. Arnold adds. “Brands need to remember that, at the end of the day, if people don't like you, you're dead.”

Mr. Arnold notes that companies with a caring ethos often have trouble tooting their own horns. “Truly caring companies don't want to brag,” he says. “There's a modesty to genuine, caring companies. It's like really nice people; they don't tell you they're nice.” That's one of the keys to the Body Shop's success in the area: It has found a way to brag without it seeming like bragging.

But there is hope for everyone, even companies that have strayed from their missions. After getting beaten up for its ties to sweatshop labour practices during the 1990s, Nike has clawed its way back into public affections. Now, through its eponymous foundation, Nike is the major sponsor of an initiative, blessed by the United Nations, known as the Girl Effect, which helps seed grassroots change in the developing world.

“Companies [such as Nike] that have a reawakening are brilliant,” Mr. Arnold says. “It's a bit like being caught with your trousers down: You don't ever let it happen again.”





Cause-based marketing makes a resurgence as companies go to greater lengths to be socially responsible corporate citizens


The "Body Shop" has a long history of using "Feminist Issues" to "sell products". Their promotion of feminist doctrines are effectively a campaign to promote hatred towards men, its a very politically correct campaign but at what a cost.

Every man I know who has been a victim of Ontario's Male Gender Apartheid war on men, refuses to buy anything at "The Body Shop".

"the Campaigns" are generally similar to "when did you last stop hitting your wife" ie, assuming you are, this campaign, assumes Globe Sex Trafficking is not just ongoing (Obvious it still is, ) but alludes "the body shop" deserves your business because they are have such pure motives".

This has always been a winning cause since prior to "The Man Act of 1910", which has been a classic legal case about how idealistic causes are ABUSED.

After the Man Act of 1910, the act was used as a criminal charge to use on any male who crossed a state line in the company of a female.

Now, Ontario effectively has a Male Sharia Law, of Male Gender Apartheid that deprives men of their legal rights, all thanks to a Flagrant ABUSE of legal principles.

Body Shop customers should use legal reasoning before buying their products, "Does the prejudice of their promotion outweigh the probative value"?

The Body shop's promotion, relies on "Woolly Reasoning" they figure every one will just follow like sheep who would also follow each other right off a cliff.

The Body shop's promotion is not just highly prejudicial, its effectively a wolf hiding in sheep's clothing.