3 brands that prove authenticity in marketing is paramount

What is authenticity in marketing? Authenticity in marketing is brands creating marketing strategies that reflect their core values even if these strategies go against the norms or business standards.

Lingerie brand ThirdLove doesn’t feature slim supermodels to sell its bras, outdoor clothing company Patagonia asks its customers to buy less on Black Friday and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s calls upon everyone to dismantle white supremacy which prompted thousands of people to accuse the company of being anti-law enforcement.

ThirdLove – To all women everywhere, we see you and we hear you

Founded in 2013, Third Love is producing and selling bras and underwear.

The company was the first bra and underwear brand to offer trademarked half-cup sizing and a mobile app allowing women to measure themselves at home.

It all began with co-founder Heidi Zak’s frustration with lousy bras and bad fits. That’s when she decided to build her own bra thus Third Love was born.

Third Love celebrates diversity; it’s one of the company’s main core values and it reflects in their marketing.

Just as the company designs their bras with real women’s measurements, their marketing campaigns and overall online presence feature women of all shapes and sizes.

Such a difference from Victoria’s Secret! The luxury lingerie brand was once the leader of the underwear industry. By 2018, due to a combination of dated business approach, oversexualized images and heavy competition, the brand’s market share had begun to shrink from 31% in 2013 to 24%.

Also in 2018, Third Love had a run-in with Victoria’s Secret over the interview that the brand’s CTO gave to Vogue Magazine.

In this interview, he basically said that Victoria’s Secret supports the woman as long as she portrays herself as the object of the heterosexual white male’s fantasies.

He also hinted toward Third Love by saying “We’re nobody’s ThirdLove, we’re their first love.” This prompted Heidi Zak’s reaction in the form of a full-page open letter published in the New York Times where she writes:

As you said Ed, “We’re nobody’s ThirdLove, we’re their first love.” We are flattered for the mention, but let me be clear: we may not have been a woman’s first love but we will be her last.
To all women everywhere, we see you, and we hear you. Your reality is enough. To each, her own.


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Patagonia – We’re in business to save our home planet

Patagonia is a clothing company that markets and sells outdoor clothing.

The company was founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973 and considers itself an “activist company”. They’re in business to save our home planet and will use every resource at their disposal – their voice, business and community to solve the climate crisis.

The brand talks the talk and walks the walk. The company has a self-imposed Earth tax, 1% for the Planet, which it uses to provide support to environmental nonprofits working to defend air, land and water around the globe.

Since 1985, when Patagonia took this pledge, the company has donated over $89 million in cash. In 2019, it is estimated that the company had $800 million in revenues.

Patagonia is followed by almost 1,8 million people on Facebook and 4,6 million on Instagram. They are building a strong community online and offline.

The company’s marketing strategy is to support its activist-led campaigns (like the company’s anti-Black Friday ad Don’t buy this jacket). To achieve this goal, Patagonia uses storytelling to turn consumers into activists. Its online presence features only a few scattered sales posts.

Ben & Jerry’s – Democracy is in your hands

Ben & Jerry’s manufactures ice cream.

It was founded in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, hence the company name.

The company’s mission is to create prosperity for everyone that’s connected to its business: suppliers, employees, farmers, franchisees, customers, and neighbours alike.

They care about a wide range of issues from racial justice to fairtrade, democracy to LGBT equality.

Why does an ice cream maker care about political and social issues?

In an HBR piece published earlier this year, Ben&Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy answered this when asked about the company’s core commitment to speak out on issues they feel strongly about:

We do these things not to sell more ice cream but because we care about people and have values. All businesses are collections of people with values; it’s a force that’s always there. {…} I believe that increasingly, in a world of hyper-transparency, if you’re not making your values known publicly, you’re putting your business and brand at risk.

The latest reports on consumer behaviour are highlighting that fact that most consumers (86%) want brands to take a stand on social issues and they would also purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about (87%).

What consumers are asking brands today is not what do you stand for but what do you stand up for?

Here is Matthew McCarthy’s recommendation for companies looking to make activism part of their core values:

If you don’t know what you want to do, talk to your staff, get people together, create the space for this discussion around values. You could decide that your thing will be The Humane Society. It could be packing lunches. It can be anything. What it can’t be is nothing.

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3 Brands in Crisis in 2018: KFC, Nike, Victoria’s Secret


Crisis. A word feared by all brands. No brand wishes to experience crisis and yet unexpected events, reactions or consequences do happen. What sets great brands apart from the rest is the way they manage crisis.

Let’s see how KFC, Nike and Victoria’s Secret managed crisis in 2018!


In February 2018, KFC runs out of chicken which leads to 900 restaurants across UK and Ireland closing their doors for a few days. The reason? DHL, KFC’s current shipping agent failed to deliver fresh chicken to the said restaurants.


Finding their favourite fast-food restaurants unable to sell their delicious chicken menus, people didn’t hold back on expressing their disappointment. They turned to social media to cry out their frustration under #KFCcrisis.

Others contacted police in large numbers.

How did KFC deal with the crisis?

  1. The company set up an online service where those who couldn’t wait for fried chicken could find the nearest branch that remained open.
  2. The company published an apology ad as a full-page advertisement in UK newspapers.



A chicken restaurant without any chicken. It’s not ideal. Huge apologies to our customers, especially those who travelled out of their way to find we were closed. And endless thanks to our KFC team members and our franchise partners for working tirelessly to improve the situation. It’s been a hell of a week, but we’re making progress and every day more and more fresh is being delivered to our restaurants. Thank you for bearing with us.

Visit kfc.co.uk/crossed-the-road for details about your local restaurant.



KFC crafted an apology ad using humour and honesty in an authentic way which attracted a lot of media coverage and brand love from its customers.


Nike published its Dream Crazy ad on September 5, 2018 with Colin Kaepernick as the narrator. In just three months, the video gained over 27 Million views making it the brand’s most viewed ad on YouTube.

Colin is a former NFL player who attracted outrage from the public when he protested against police brutality by kneeling during the American anthem. Because of his controversial profile, Nike’s ad received a lot of media coverage, mixed reviews and strong emotional feedback from the public.


Here are some of the reactions Nike received in the days after the ad was launched:

  • Some people set their Nike sneakers on fire;
  • #boycottnike became a trending hashtag on Twitter;
  • Others cut the Nike logo off their socks;
  • Nike’s share price dropped by 3.2% to finally go up to an all-time high, earning the company $6 billion.

Nike is on the right side of history with this ad.

Spike Lee, Film Director

Realeyes, the emotional intelligence platform analysed the overall sentiment towards Nike by looking at the ad’s viewers’ comments.

What did the consumers really think of Dream Crazy?

Here it is according to Realeyes:

  • 50% of negative verbatims are about Kaepernick, not the ad itself;
  • Negative emotions are due to narrative, not Kaepernick;
  • Men garnered more negative emotions;
  • Women instinctively more positive towards the ad;
  • Middle-aged demographic the least positive.

Some analysts were asking this rhetoric question:

What was Nike thinking about?

The answer is: although Dream Crazy divided the public into supporters and detractors, Nike knew exactly what it was doing.

Actually, the brand has a 30-year experience with controversial, out of the mainstream ads. Dream Crazy is the epitome of a series of risky ads which began with the first JustDoIt ad published back in 1988. Over the next years, the brand’s ads supported various social subjects such as gender equality, woman empowerment, sexual minorities, ageism, disability etc. With each controversial ad, Nike revenues have grown exponentially.

How did Nike deal with the crisis?

Faced with the outrage of some of his customers, Nike has taken no steps to address this crisis.

Nike doesn’t shy away from risk and controversy because starting the conversation on important social subjects stands at the core of its brand values.

It’s safe to say the company has run the numbers before publishing the ad and was ready for any backlash it might have had. According to an ESPN Twitter poll which asked their followers how the ad affected their decision to buy Nike products: 29% said they are more likely to buy Nike products, 21% say they’re less likely and 50% said their decision has not been affected.


Dream Crazy was aimed at the younger generations with the purpose of increasing their fan base. Millennials are known to love and support brands which are committed to their core values and are not shy to stand by them.

According to Edison Trends, Nike’s online sales jumped 25%.

It looks like Nike have taken a controlled risk and came out on top.


Victoria’s Secret has been experiencing brand crisis for the past few years and its management is slow to even recognize it let alone address it effectively.

Management myopia

The company is currently facing decreased sales and shrunken profit due to management myopia. Here on the BRAND MINDS blog, I have written about myopia as an early symptom of brand failure in our Failure Series articles: Nokia and Kodak.

Far from me to assume the role of Pithya, but as history has shown, if the company loses its grip on reality and doesn’t embrace change, the chances of survival are getting smaller every year that goes by.

Victoria’s Secret has never changed, but the world around them has. I was walking through the subway station the other day in Manhattan and I looked at the ad for the Angels’ ‘fantasy’ runway show and I said to myself: ‘That could be today, or 30 years ago.’

Michelle Cordeiro Grant, former senior merchant director at Victoria’s Secret via theguardian.com


image source: victoriassecret.com

Over the past few years, the company was faced with backlash from the public regarding various subjects such as competitive anorexia that Victoria’s Secret models are suffering from, Photoshopped ad campaigns and the Victoria’s Secret show which the US’s National Organization of Women (NOW) dubbed as “softcore porn infomercial” in 2002.

Mr. Razek’s Vogue Interview

The latest scandal which brought Victoria’s Secret into the spotlight is the interview of Ed Razek, CTO published by Vogue Magazine in July 2018. In this interview, the brand’s problems became clear to everyone: lack of inclusiveness, lack of sexual diversity, disengagement with its customers’ needs and expectations, outdated marketing.

Mr Razek’s words attracted the outrage of female public. Essentially, Mr. Razek said that Victoria’s Secret supports the woman as long as she portrays herself as the object of the heterosexual white male’s fantasies.

Victoria’s Secret is losing share to other brands because it’s out of touch. The way it’s marketing is out of touch. Women don’t want to be viewed as stereotypical sexy supermodels buying lingerie just to impress men.”

Paul Lejuez, retail analyst focused on L Brands via nytimes.com

Victoria’s Secret, founded by Roy Raymond in 1977 is seeing increased competition from other lingerie brands such as ThirdLove, Aerie and Savage x Feinty by Rihanna, startup companies founded by women.

These companies feature real women in their advertisements, of all sizes, shapes and colours. While Victoria’s Secret designs its products with the white male in mind, their products are designed to meet women’s needs of comfort, beauty and sexiness.


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New York Times Sunday, full page letter from @heidi to @victoriassecret – Dear Victoria’s Secret, I was appalled when I saw the demeaning comments about women your Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek, made to Vogue last week. As hard as it is to believe, he said the following: “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.” “It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy.” I’ve read and re-read the interview at least 20 times, and each time I read it I’m even angrier. How in 2018 can the CMO of any public company — let alone one that claims to be for women — make such shocking, derogatory statements? You market to men and sell a male fantasy to women. But at ThirdLove, we think beyond, as you said, a “42-minute entertainment special.” Your show may be a “fantasy” but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents, and serve their country. Haven’t we moved beyond outdated ideas of femininity and gender roles? It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy — let us decide. We’re done with pretending certain sizes don’t exist or aren’t important enough to serve. And please stop insisting that inclusivity is a trend. I founded ThirdLove five years ago because it was time to create a better option. ThirdLove is the antithesis of Victoria’s Secret. We believe the future is building a brand for every woman, regardless of her shape, size, age, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation. This shouldn’t be seen as groundbreaking, it should be the norm. Let’s listen to women. Let’s respect their intelligence. Let’s exceed their expectations. Let women define themselves. As you said Ed, “We’re nobody’s ThirdLove, we’re their first love.” We are flattered for the mention, but let me be clear: we may not have been a woman’s first love but we will be her last. To all women everywhere, we see you, and we hear you. Your reality is enough. To each, her own. -Heidi @heidi

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Following the Vogue interview, ThirdLove published an open letter and launched a petition to boycott the Victoria’s Secret fashion show this year in an attempt to force the brand to “be more diverse and inclusive of body shapes and sizes on their runways.”

Women are tired of trying to comply to Victoria’s Secret’s narrow standards of sexiness and are looking for brands which support a healthy body image.

How did Victoria’s Secret deal with the crisis?

The first step following Mr. Razek’s interview was Jan Singer stepping down as the company’s CEO. No other measures have been announced so far.


The company is in dire need of re-branding and re-evaluation.

Women have changed since the 1980s and if the brand doesn’t keep up with its clients, it will get out-marketed and out-competed by other lingerie brands.

Although a lot smaller than Victoria’s Secret, these brands are more in tune with their customers. And this is the winning recipe.











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