Brick by brick: when brands support causes

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Most big brands do not do politics and perhaps that is not surprising.

As much as they may want to be seen to be doing the right thing, and win hearts and minds in the process, they usually want to avoid alienating potential customers too.

And companies are made up of a diverse range of individuals with differing opinions and outlooks. It can be hard for a brand to get all its stakeholders behind a common cause.

So when brands do get involved with campaigns they usually choose great causes that are non-controversial. Pampers donates vaccines to Unicef. The Football League is in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK. At a local level we at Hotfoot Design support Neuro Dropin in Lancaster with pro bono design, digital and marketing support.

While Product Red has raised $150 million to date for HIV and Aids through tie-ins with companies like Nike, Coca-Cola and Apple, this only happened after a huge public awareness campaign and a number of high profile and much loved celebrities had died of the condition during the 1980s and 90s.

Then there is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has worked to tackle poverty and inequality at an almost unimaginable scale, backed with an endowment of over $40 billion. It is amazing to think that Microsoft has indirectly redistributed wealth from global corporations to the poor and disadvantaged through the sale of software licences – and how few people realised it at the time.

And now Lego, the world’s biggest toy company, has supported a pressure group called Stop Funding Hate, which opposes the tabloid newspaper tendency to stir up division, with the surprising news that they would not engage in any commercial partnerships with the Daily Mail for the foreseeable future.

Cynics might question the timing of this announcement, coming as it does just before the Christmas buying bonanza, when being in the news can help boost sales.

But the huge public support for Lego’s stance suggests brands could be a little braver, and engage with important causes in the wider world a little more.

This article originally appeared in the Lancaster Guardian, where I am a guest columnist.

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