Brands must tread carefully with purpose or risk being disconnected from their customers

It’s a tricky one: A purpose with a clear link to product – tick! Noble intentions and a hefty £5 donation for a simple Instagram post – nice. But something about Fever Tree’s call for people to post pictures of them raising a glass with the hashtag #malariamustdie – feels disconnected.

Source: Fever Tree

The brand’s partnership with charity Malaria No More makes total sense, the quinine that gives tonic water its bitter flavour is an ingredient in anti-malarial medication and has been used for centuries.

However, the juxtaposition of the imagery of the cheerful clinking of glasses and the reality of malaria, a disease that claims 92% of its victims in Sub-Saharan Africa creates an uncomfortable tension around the privileged position of those hashtagging versus the disadvantaged position of the majority of those impacted by the disease.

One example of a brand who has truly committed to their purpose in a culturally sensitive way is Domestos. Since 2015 the Unilever owned brand has worked in partnership with PSI to roll out education programmes and professional training to reach their goal of helping 25 million people gain improved access to a toilet by 2020.

#malariamustdie already has over 2000 posts, leaving no doubt that the campaign will have a positive impact on raising money and awareness for the charity. But when entering into the sensitive territory of disease, development and access to healthcare, sometimes a hashtag can come off as a superficial way to engage with a weighty issue.

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