By Vicki Ferguson
Let’s start with the basics: What is brand activism?
Brand Activism is when a business takes a stand on a social, economic, business, political, or environmental issue. Typically, this stand is aligned with the company’s core values and vision that can take form in several ways, from a public statement, campaign, endorsements to a new product. Brand activism isn’t a new concept. Companies have been taking a stand on issues that matter to them for decades, but in recent years, it has evolved and shaped into a vital aspect of the “who” for organizations – especially as digital marketing has played a fundamental role in how businesses and consumers connect.
Why brand activism matters
Simple: People like to buy from companies that share their values.
A Sprout Social’s 2019 report #BrandsGetReal found that 70% of consumers look for brands that take a stand on public issues. Why?They believe brands can incite positive change and make a real impact. As people create purpose in their lives and align with things that matter most to them, they look for brands that can help them make these efforts and commitments.
Brand activism is value-based decisions that help tell the story of who you are. What is at the core of your brand? What do you want your consumers to know? What is an authentic and purposeful way to do that?
Though there can be risks to taking a stand, when choosing an issue and thoughtfully aligning it with your brand, you’ll be able to define proper strategies and benefit from these actions.
Brands doing it right
Whether it’s an audience of 600 to 600 million – every brand has the opportunity to make a difference when they take a stand. Many businesses now are being constructed with their brand stand deeply integrated into who they are and what they do. Still, for some, it’s a shift they have made to align their mission with social, political, or environmental issues. Here are a few companies who have made big waves in their recent years with their brand positioning – creating purposeful and authentic action:
The outdoor clothing company has made environmental activism the core of who they are. Their efforts include their self-imposed 1% earth tax to support environmental nonprofits, using organic and recycled materials to produce its clothing, and protecting public lands and water for future generations. They have set the tone of their voice and position that lives beyond retail.
Breaking Barriers. You Can’t Stop Us. For Once, Don’t Do It. These are just a few of Nike’s campaigns that have elevated its vision and values that tie back to the social and racial justice issues that matter to them. Stating that their “purpose is to move the world forward through the power of sport,” they do so by investing in the power of people, protecting the planet, and getting generations moving. Some of their significant focuses have been on gender equality and racial justice – on and off the playing field.
Ben & Jerry’s
One of the most prominent displays of brand activism in the last few years came from ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s. The brand has never been one to shy away from taking a social stand and using its product to help create that narrative. But as a new wave of activism has come in the last few years, they have tightened their focus on a key number of issues; racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, voting rights, climate justice, and campaign finance reform. They have been an instrumental example of a brand using their product with a purpose.
Ready to make a stand? Keep these best practices in mind
If you are looking to make a positive and lasting impact, there are a few things to consider to thoughtfully and purposefully align your brand with your stand.
Don’t just choose an issue because it’s currently making the news. Consumers and partners can tell when something isn’t authentically you. Look at your vision and values, talk to your internal team members and stakeholders, and see what would make the most sense to make that connection from your company to the cause to your audience.
Has your company publicly tackled an issue before? Has your vision and values changed over the years? If so, does it contradict what you are saying now? That’s OK if it does – companies are allowed to grow and shift with the times and leaders, but you want to be self-aware so you can acknowledge and address as needed. You want consumers to hear from you directly about how you are moving in a new direction with clear transparency and accountability.
Before taking action, identifying the associated risks and preparing for them should be prioritized. Consider all the possible negative impacts. From there, develop clear levels of action and plans, including a robust communications plan that can be used across your digital platforms — from a dedicated webpage that dives deeper into your stance, to social messaging and talking points for your team for clear alignment.
Before you can dive into the research, you first need to dive into your company’s purpose: Where do you want to make an impact? How do you strive to do this? Why do these efforts make sense? When should you form campaigns and connections? Doing the research isn’t an action item for what type of issue the company wants to position itself with, but also what type of organization your company is now. Knowing this will help you see gaps and call out opportunities to aid your position.
Like any campaign or initiative, feedback is key to moving forward. And that is the same for brand activism. Hearing from stakeholders and consumers is one thing, but taking that and implementing action is another. Hear what is being said and use that to learn from any oversights and maintain successes so you can continue building a stronger and more purposeful position with your consumers and platform. Once you have those results, share them! Allow your audience to grow and learn with you.
Ready to begin your journey into developing and defining your brand? Team Ideas Collide is ready to provide input and assist you with the power of creativity, marketing technology, and business intelligence. Let’s connect!