Brand activism in 2022

Brand activism landscape

Brand activism is alive and kicking. We’ve seen more organisations use brand activism to bridge from purpose to action. In doing so, more have helped to bring about genuine change in the societies they operate while also improving brand loyalty and the bottom line.

But what’s happened throughout 2022 that has caught our attention? What have been the brand activism campaigns that stood out as addressing some of the most urgent problems facing society today?

Has there been another ‘Colin Kaepernick’ moment? Have we seen more brands take inspiration from Ben and Jerry’s?

Here’s our rundown of the top brand activism campaigns in 2022 so far.

Give it all away

OK, so perhaps not an easily replicable campaign, but an act of activism nonetheless. When the rest of us struggle to prove to the board that our new brand activism campaign idea is more than just corporate social responsibility, Patagonia says, ‘hold my (ethical) beer’.

Its once billionaire owner Yvon Chouinard declared that earth was the only shareholder when it came to ownership of the outdoor fashion business.

How did they set this all up? 100% of the company’s voting stock was transferred to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, created to protect the company’s values, and 100% of the nonvoting stock was given to the Holdfast Collective, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature.

So there we go, struggling for a brand activism idea? Suggest to the shareholders to give the whole business away. Let us know how it goes.

Putting purpose into production

Some brands clumsily fall into brand activism campaigns that do more damage than good. Not addressing internal diversity issues and then diving head-first into Black Lives Matter content or sticking a rainbow flag on social channels and ignoring LGBTQ+ rights for the rest of the year rightly draws scepticism and wrath.

Putting the hard yards in to ensure that activism is consistent throughout a brand is crucial. Ikea does this well. Last year it launched its ‘Trash’ collection, taking discarded run-down furniture and repurposing it, showcasing the circular economy in action.

This year, the brand launched the ‘Life’ collection. In the short campaign film, directed by Kavar Singh and Niels Windfeldt, furniture was discarded for various ‘life’ reasons, including death, sobriety, separation and childbirth.

The ‘Life’ collection continues to highlight the topics of waste, reuse and regeneration. Ikea is consistent in its message, its creativity and its campaigns when it comes to these topics.

Putting social issues in the spotlight

While some brand activism campaigns are geared towards boycotting and taking a stand, others are built to highlight social issues that need rethinking and reforming. A new film created for health insurance brand, Helan, explores mental health issues in a profound and emotive way.

In the film, created by Famous Grey, those suffering from several mental health conditions are encouraged to discuss what it feels like. These feelings are fed into an AI platform that generates imagery to represent the emotions.

The visual results are breathtaking, thought-provoking and tear-jerking.

Sometimes a brand using its platform to help bring to life an untold story in a beautiful way is all it takes to have a moment of impact.

A few of our own

We’ve also been busy working with some extraordinary clients this year. We’ve helped to deliver campaigns that explored everything from incontinence to environmental issues and food waste.

We think that next year, we’ll see more brands take on the tough task of activism. Those that do it well will be rewarded with both relevancy and recognition.

But more importantly, they will usher in a kinder, more regenerative economy where brands exist beyond profit.