The importance of social significance — Atelier Pan

The importance of social significance

As a brand it isn’t enough to make a great product anymore. It isn’t enough to provide a valuable service. You need to do more than that. Your brand needs to have social significance.

Yesterday I saw this comic strip on Facebook and it reminded me of the importance of social significance for your brand. The comic strip depicts two people that are standing in a coffee shop and they’re having a conversation. The conversation went something like this:

So… what do you do?
—I’m a cashier.

Oh, I didn’t mean what you do for money…
…I mean, what do you do for the world?

So… let me ask you the same question: “What do you do?”

This is not a simple question you answer in a few seconds if you haven’t thought it through before. You need to sit down and think about it for a while: Where can your brand make a difference in the world? And look for a way to combine your own expertise and your social and/or environmental interests. The combination of the two makes it more authentic and easier to implement.

I read an interesting article about the subject on Branding Strategy Insider: 8 Steps Brands Can Take to Change The World. The author —Mark, has a point here:

“Realize that not every change must be huge, and not every change must be a crisis. The critical thing is that any change you do address must be relevant and the change itself must be meaningful. It must address something that the world (which, in this context, means the people in your markets) cares about.”


Here are some interesting examples of brands that have social significance at heart:


Share the sun

WakaWaka is a social impact company on a mission to provide universal access to the abundant energy of the sun.” After a successful Kickstarter campaign where they introduced their Buy one = Give one philosophy, they were able to bring their WakaWaka Light (a solar LED lamp with a story) to market.

I wrote a whole article about the WakaWaka visual identity, if you’re interested.


EcoConscious learning

BewustWijzer offers an interdisciplinary sustainable curriculum for primary- and secondary schools.

Karin from BewustWijzer has a bottom-up approach to change. She believes that through education we’ll be able to achieve the level of awareness we need to start making a difference.

A while ago I had an interview with Karin about Sustainability, Education and the Future.


Recycle your shirt into boxershorts

Van Hulley recycles your old favourite shirt that you’re not wearing any more. The process is really simple: You order a Van Hulley online, you send in your shirt and they produce your own Van Hulley.

The shirts are produced by women that have had difficulties finding work. Through the Van Hulley-programme they’re offered a job and an education.

Van Hulley is social, sustainable and personal.


People against dirty

“Method Products (branded as method) is a San Francisco-based corporation which produces nontoxic, biodegradable natural cleaning supplies with a focus on minimalist product design.” —Wikipedia

They are devoted to their sustainability-minded “humanifesto”. And with one of their former campaigns “I Fight Dirty”, they empowered users to not only fight against dirt itself, but also dirty practices by industry.

A great example of a company that both employs functional and emotional branding.

Have a look at their websites and see if you can find out more about their social significance. An exercise like this could give you some great ideas for your own business. 


At Atelier Pan, I’m also trying to do my part to make the world a better place. I help change makers —entrepreneurs and companies that want to change the world with their sustainable product or social service— to increase their visibility. They deserve to get noticed!

Additionally, I donate 5% of the profits (of every project I finish) to the Canopy Project* to plant 1 tree for every €1 donated.

If you want to support the Canopy Project as well, you can still order an original —I reduce, reuse & recycle— t-shirt (limited edition*). I still have a few left. You get a limited edition t-shirt and I’ll plant 8 trees in your name. Order your t-shirt here: Look good and support the environment at the same time

*The Canopy Project is an initiative from the Earth Day Network and part of their mission is to protect natural lands and preserve the environment for all people. However their focus isn’t on large scale forestry, but on planting trees where they are most needed.

Atelier Pan | Limited Canopy Project T-shirt


Social significance is of course about making a difference, but we’re all entrepreneurs here. So it's also about business. When you’re doing something great to change the world, definitely show it to the world (read: your markets).

We’d love to hear about your social efforts. Your story can be an inspiration for other change makers, so please answer this question in the comments below:

What does your brand do to make a difference in the world?

With pleasure,


Atelier Pan | Visual identities for Change makers

PS. SHARE this article with your network by clicking on the Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ buttons, because that way your fellow change makers can also benefit from this material.​

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