What is brand
activism?

Brand activism is a fairly simple concept. It’s organisations that believe they have a role beyond pounds and pence using their resources to create positive change in the world.

It’s for brands that want to take a stand, whether that’s on social issues, environmental issues or political issues.

Is brand activism important for my business?

That’s more of a question for you rather than us. However, more consumers than ever before are expecting brands to step up to the plate and positively impact society by focusing on societal issues.

According to The Future Laboratory (an organisation we are plugged into) over half of global consumers expect brands to get involved in at least one societal issue. What’s more, 65% of us believe that businesses bear as much responsibility as governments for driving social change.

And this transcends B2B and B2C. Ultimately, we are all consumers and members of the public, so a CIO looking for their next cloud services provider has the same set of values and principles as they would looking for a lampshade.

What about cold, hard, cash? Well purpose driven brands outperform brands that don’t focus on socio economic and/or environmental impact. In 2018, Unilever’s Sustainable Living Brands grew 69% faster than the rest of the business, compared to 46% in 2017. That’s pretty remarkable growth.

What about big business vs small business? Again, things flip on their head a bit. Yes great big organisations like Nike have done well with brand activism, but a latest report shows that challenger brands with a smaller market share are likely to gain more from taking a stand on divisive political issues.

Is brand activism for you? Not sure, but it’s certainly for the current market.

Are there any downsides to brand activism?

Yes.

Simple as that.

Those that go beyond Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and into Corporate Political Advocacy (CPA) can see a public backlash. Why? Well because not everyone will agree with the stand you’re taking. And you know what? That’s ok.

To be truly authentic organisations are going to have to pick and choose their points of social activism, and most of the time, there will be arguments for and against the stand that they’re taking.

So yes, on the light side of this, a brand can be seen to be authentic and committed by taking action. On the dark side, it will piss a few people off on social media.

It’s critical that brands also have just one or two battles, not thousands. Picking and choosing the right social, environmental or political issue to tackle and doing it well is far more important than floating about having minimal impact across the board.

Finally, there is no doubt that a rod for a back is created. If a brand is championing diversity and is then seen to discriminate, the public backlash will be great.

On the other hand, if the brand is seen to move the dial and fulfil its obligations, the rewards in trust and loyalty can be huge.

What do I need to focus on brand activism?

There’s not really a checklist, but there are a few things organisations that focus on more than the monetary bottom line have that puts them in good stead for brand activism work.

A purpose beyond making money

this is your intent

A strategy to take action against that purpose

this is your action

A method to measure the impact of that strategy and publicly report on it

this is your proof

Luckily this doesn’t have to be done alone. Don’t Cry Wolf specialises in addressing each one of these and works with organisations to effectively build their brand activism approach from scratch. But, there are some things we can’t do:

What next?

Look, we love to talk about this. So we’re happy to have a chat about whether this approach is right for you. So, you can book a chat with either John or Sara by clicking on their names and scheduling a 15 minute intro meeting.

Alternatively, go cause some trouble at the next board meeting and get brand activism placed on the agenda.