What really is a Conscious Consumer brand?

I’m often asked what defines a Conscious Consumer brand.

Let’s begin by addressing what defines a Conscious Consumer. He or she is a person who recognizes that “my consumption impacts myself, my family, my community, and the world at-large. I consider issues of health, environment, and social responsibility when I make decisions.”

So what defines a Conscious Consumer brand? The operative word in the statement above is “consider” and like consumers, Conscious Consumer brands fall into segments. Depending on how many considerations you include in your brand activities, the amount of time you’ve spent implementing these actions and your values will determine where you reside.

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Our torchbearers are leading the way and paving a path for others to follow. Brands like Tom’s of Maine, Ben & Jerry’s, and REI have been doing this for quite some time. Others like Warby Parker and TOMS (shoes) are newer to the game, but are widely considered to be leading Conscious Consumer brands.

But who would consider encouraging the purchase of shoes of glasses to be an act of Conscious Consumerism? Not all brands fit the mold at face value.

It’s not what TOMS or Warby Parker sells that makes them a Conscious Consumer brand. It’s what they do. It’s their values, sense of community, and dedication to serving disadvantaged communities that takes them there.

Another example is Mortenson Construction who’s headquartered here in Minneapolis. They are known for building Skyscrapers and NFL stadiums. Are they a Conscious Consumer brand?

They are if you consider that over one-third of their revenue comes from building and installing wind turbines. We may not define them as torchbearers, but they are certainly exacting Conscious Consumer tactics. Perhaps this makes them half-committed to the Conscious Consumer cause?

Likewise, I’m not sure anyone would consider Cargill a Conscious Consumer brand either. But they did just declare more than a dozen of their ingredients GMO free by the Non-GMO Project. So while they do still stand behind their products that contain GMO’s, they also recognize the momentum behind consumer demand in the non-GMO space.

So where would they reside in our segmentation continuum? I’d say Test Driver. Ironically for Cargill, this also led to heavy criticism from many of their suppliers who use GMO’s, which serves as a reminder to be prepared to support your claims and actions quickly. I wrote a post some time ago that discusses this point.

All in all, there is no set definition for what constitutes a Conscious Consumer brand. It can be based on what you are selling or the services you are providing. In other cases, it’s how you embrace a community-first attitude. Regardless, it’s not something you can simply ignore. Bake it in at some level or be prepared to miss out.