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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Koan No. 13

Koan No 13 on ethical branding

“Do you want fair trade or regular?” Stallholder Greenbelt Festival Aug Bankholiday 2004


I couldn’t quite believe he’d said it. So I checked – “Are you offering me a choice of fairly or unfairly traded?”

He looked like a rabbit in the headlights. Greenbelt festival has a strong strand of anti consumerism and trade justice. Anita Roddick no less was there at the weekend. “Yes” he said eventually. “So what’s the difference?” “Flavour – it tastes different. A lot of people prefer the other one.”

Just a reminder when developing so called ethical brands and ethical categories that these are ‘soft’ products which need regular and strict policing. What does fair trade mean? And is it applied reasonably consistently? How should fairly trade products be sold alongside other products? It may work for self service but is it OK for the vendor to offer me a choice? It felt odd particularly as the vendor didn’t seem clear about what he was offering. The same issue as with a brand but only more so because there is no visual ident just a phrase which can be bandied around by anybody – punters journos politicians so the meaning will alter and is likely to become ambiguous. How to protect it? Define it and brand it. Fairtrade needs to be more than a word.

I went back two days later. “Have you got any fairtrade coffee left?” “Sorry mate” he said. “We’ve run out”. Click on the images to find out more about the fairtrade logo.



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