Be Unique, Be Yourself, and Communicate

by Stephen Bray


When we were very young we lived in a magical world, outside of time and the need to possess or do anything.   Enveloped in the wonder of what is, everything was fresh and sacred.   It all changed once we entered a world of separation.   In a world of space and time, boundary, exploration, endeavour and manipulation, the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain became possible. 

Vogue, a powerful international brand published within its covers the following quotation: "At the bottom of Estée Lauder's jar is the world of eternal youth.   At the bottom of Anita Roddick's jar is the world itself."    

Anita Roddick is the founder of The Body Shop, the United Kingdom's biggest international retailer.   Whilst Lauder's name is synonymous with products designed to smooth  away worrying wrinkles and laughter lines, Roddick's stance is simpler.   "One of the beauty industry's biggest lies has always been that you can turn back the clock with face cream", she says.   

No marketing man would have advised such an honest statement from the founder of a cosmetics company.   Roddick's plain speaking and acceptance that we need to accept ourselves just as we are has been a major factor in the worldwide success of her company.   A generation of wise-women has spurned the myth of age reversal and chosen instead effective and environmentally friendly products from The Body Shop. 

Roddick is a new kind of entrepreneur a social and environmental activist who takes pride in it.  When her advisors suggested that her high profile campaigns for political causes should be no part of commercial endeavour   she took the word 'Activist' and made it the name of a range of men's facial products.    

Staff from The Body Shop have picketed conferences organised by the petrochemical industry, written to heads of state, organised aid for oppressed people across the world and every day they informed customers about victims of torture and political oppression.  Cynics might wonder if such campaigns are not simply sophisticated marketing.   They serve to attract publicity to be sure, but my belief is that The Body Shop is in touch with something vital, the return of passion and genuineness in a world of ever increasing psychological manipulation.    

It is the twenty-seventh most recognised brand in the world, yet The Body Shop has never spent a penny on conventional advertising. 

Bill Clinton when still president of the U.S.A. said: "I have been convinced for years that it is no longer necessary to choose between growing the economy and preserving, and even improving the environment."   London's Delphi Group advised institutional investor clients "alternative energy industries offer greater growth prospects than the carbon fuel industry."   British Petroleum, Shell and Enron are investing heavily in renewable sources of energy.    British Petroleum recently changed their logo from the familiar green shield to a yellow and green sunflower to reflect this trend.   

Such an image change is a multimillion-dollar undertaking.  Companies keen to project a socially responsible, environmentally friendly image must do more than change the design of their notepaper.   An ethical audit, and a critical look at the company's governance are well advised before any changes are implemented.  It is essential to understand the history of the company to exorcise any ghosts that may 'spook' a programme of corporate change.   Without such attention an image change will not fool for long a public that is becoming increasingly well informed by media and Internet for, and the investment will be wasted. 

Five Rules of Sustainable Corporate Communications 

1. Don't manufacture an image.   Instead critically examine who and what you are and then project that image impeccably. 

2. Be the leader in your field.   Run your business differently from the crowd, and let people know. 

3. Work with and create communities, face-to-face communication and recommendation remains the most powerful influence. 

4. Ensure brand integrity, but allow diversity of expression.   Every employee, shop and office has a story to tell.   Make sure their story can be expressed.  

5. Retain your humanity at all costs, or your best staff and customers will leave you at the earliest opportunity.

 This article was originally published in Executive Excellence Magazine.   Text Copyright ©2001 Stephen Bray.    Stephen Bray may be contacted at