A brand's ethos is one of its best selling points. Clients who relate to it will more than likely stick to a brand even when other brands offer a better option or price. But this is particularly tricky for freelancers as our brands are ourselves. I like to think of myself as an open and accepting human being. I value diversity, treat others sometimes better than I wish I were treated and I firmly believe that love conquers all. I do have my flaws, obviously. The self-declared ones could fill pages and pages of posts; the ones attributed to me might include that I don't like children nor pets or that I don't drink enough water. But flaws apart, I still feel that I always try to be a good person with a strong ethos and a strict set of values. But am I?
The doubt was planted in my head a few days ago when I faced a conundrum: can I accept a teaching that comes from a person who's a homophobe, a racist, a mysoginist and extremely right minded? My first impulse was to answer: "Yes! Knowledge is above all that!". But then, after a second consideration, I realised that I wouldn't accept as valid anything said by someone like Trump, Putin or Mugabe. "How interesting and contradictory of me...", I thought. Am I open and accepting until the point where the other person starts thinking completely different to me? Of course, if they were praising their own hatred agenda I would reject everything they said automatically. But what if they were proposing a cure for cancer? Would I say no to the chance of saving millions of lives just because it was praised by any of them?
This thought triggered another question in my head: how strong are my ethical values? Can I have any sort of relationship with someone with a set of values completely opposite to mine? At a sentimental level, unlikely; at a friendship leveI, I try to surround myself with diverse-minded people; at a professional level, I always say that I don't have to like someone to be able to work with them. And, as a client, I am guilty of sometimes using products or services from companies that don't share my ethos but then at the same time I have been known for not giving my business to companies who go against what I strongly believe in. Even worse, as a supplier, I am open and accepting of anyone's money. So, after putting all these thoughts in writing I realised that I might not be as open, as accepting or as good of a person all the time as I think I am.
Can bad brands do good things? Can good brands do bad things? Yes and yes. I think we draw the line on things that we are willing to accept or reject depending on the situation. Companies that produce soft drinks sell products for athletes that promote a healthy lifestyle but at the same time they sell sugary drinks that do anything but keeping you healthy. And the list could go on... Will these brands go out of business? Not in the near future.
There is not such thing as a good or a bad ethos. There can be good and bad PR, but there will always be clients who will relate to your values and clients who will completely disagree with them. We can't please everyone. What is important is that you and your brand stay true to what you believe in... but be open to the possibility of believing something else in the future and then staying true to that.
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