Yesterday was International Women's Day. On this particular day, the actions multiply, the tributes fuse, Instagram ignites. As a woman, we can't help but, despite all the torments that remain and despite the long road still to be covered, to smile a smile of hope in front of so much sisterhood and benevolence. Even if, we agree, the ultimate goal would be that "women's day" no longer has to be. But that's another debate.
At Salut Beauté, being of course women before being entrepreneurs, we quite naturally wanted to speak out and add our voices to this fight and this collective jubilation. But here it is: brands are not always welcome in the discussion.
We remember in particular the “controversy” which followed the operation of Louise Aubery (@mybetterself) around menstrual precariousness, supported by a large brand. The operation, a priori commendable, concrete and very useful, did not ultimately have the expected effects. Taxed as hypocritical, the action finally ignited Instagram in a debate which brings out the following questioning: can a brand be engaged?
so, to be or not to be engaged?
This controversy, whatever one thinks of it, questions the role that brands must (or can) play in our society.
What should be the role of brands? Can they position themselves? To be activists? Fighting for a vision?
What is certain is that speaking up as a brand is becoming more and more complicated, decried and finally discouraged.
Of course, it is often the wording of the "big brands" that rings false, that is criticized for its lack of authenticity and that annoys. However, should all these brands be silent? Admittedly, the purpose of a brand, what makes it survive and endure, is to sell. No one can doubt it, it's a fact. Starting from this premise, should any position taken by brands be considered contradictory and dishonest?
Let's remember to begin with that a brand that does not make money is a dead or dying brand, which will therefore never again be able to carry a message or have an impact. There is therefore a subtle balance to be found: to prosper while remaining credible in the messages conveyed. A balancing act you say? Completely. Because the more a brand "succeeds", the further its message can be disseminated. But the more successful she is, the less authentic she is seen and the more criticism she receives.
all we need is transparency
Let's try to analyze it. What ruffles our hair about the well-meaning campaigns of big brands?
Often, it is the abyssal void that can exist as soon as we try to dig a little. We are of course thinking of the “eco-responsible” collections of certain fast-fashion brands, brandished on billboards several meters high, without any real transparency on the mode of production of the said collections.
So that, even if they were (eco-responsible), we wouldn't know anything about it, the operation would still ring hollow and we would still have the impression of being taken for idiots .
So what is the solution ? Do nothing and be silent on environmental issues? In our opinion, the solution to eradicate green washing or any other type of washing is indeed transparency. Moreover, it should be mandatory (this is another debate that we will not develop here but which is also very important to us: why not regulate and control the actions of brands?).
the end more important than the means?
However, even if this type of operation were solely driven by commercial objectives, isn't it still important and life-saving that brands position themselves in this way? Does intention really matter at this point? Is Nike brandishing the "Black Lives Matter" slogan a bad thing, even if it's part of a marketing campaign? Isn't it a powerful message, after all, that even a brand like H&M is campaigning on eco-responsibility? We can legitimately ask the question.
Because it is ultimately these brands, those that are visible all over the world, that are capable of making an idea, a “mainstream” movement and therefore of anchoring it in people's minds. We took the example of eco-responsibility, but the same goes for feminist campaigns, around violence against women, menstrual precariousness, animal abuse and any subject related to a social issue or environmental.
We should add that it is often this type of brand that has the means to carry out large-scale operations (still the actions promised must actually be carried out, we agree).
a generational need to engage and do better
you've got the power
Finally, we will add this, because it is quickly forgotten: it is and will always be the consumers who will have the power. Consumers have the power to put a brand in the spotlight just as they have the power to destroy it. The consumer's choice to buy from a particular brand is a real political act. It is therefore up to him to give strength to the brands and players he considers capable of bringing about the change he expects, and to disseminate the values he supports. Because the most effective criticism will ultimately always reside in a very specific act: buying elsewhere.