Ethics, the last great differentiator for brands?

One of the first interviews I did in the world of CSR, back in 2001, was with Wally Olins. Here’s a link to it.

He gave us a memorable quote. “Ethics will be the last great commodity differentiator” he said. Pointing out that if products are similar in price and quality, and if service is equal, then brands will have little else to compete with each other on in the future.

It’s a quote that always stuck in my mind. Tonight I was watching TV and an advert for Kenco coffee came on. The entire advertisement was about how using their coffee refill packs cuts waste by 98%. Nothing else, just that. Not a word on quality or taste.

Kenco must be assuming that we all realise the quality of instant coffee is pretty much the same, and that ethics are now more important than a couple of pennies in price. At least for this campaign anyhow.

This is not the only example of course, of advertising which is entirely ethics-based.

But usually it’s niche brands promoting themselves, or oil companies greenwashing, or premium brands like M&S pitching the right message to their demanding audience.

Instant coffee is a bit more low-end, which makes it all the more interesting.

It makes me wonder if Olin’s prediction is now starting to come true.

I hope he was right. I think we all do.

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