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From Buzz to Purpose - Perception Refinement through Brand Activism

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

What is the purpose of Brand Activism?

In recent years, a significant transformation has occurred in marketing and PR strategies. Brands are no longer solely concerned with generating buzz or profits; they are placing greater emphasis on making a positive contribution to society. Brand activism leverages a brand's platform to raise awareness and take action on social, political, economic, or environmental issues. It goes beyond traditional philanthropy and represents an extension of corporate social responsibility (CSR), involving active engagement and leadership in discussions about critical societal issues.

This transformation is what we refer to as the rise of brand activism.

So, why is brand activism gaining momentum?

There are several driving factors.

First, the growing importance of social media provides a powerful tool for brands to amplify their messages and connect with socially conscious consumers.

Second, there's an increasing demand for corporate responsibility as consumers seek alignment between their values and the brands they support.

Lastly, the rise of Gen Z, a generation known for its social awareness, further fuels the growth of brand activism.

This shift has transformed brands into agents of change rather than mere providers of products or services. With access to more information than ever, consumers have grown increasingly selective, scrutinising businesses’ intentions and demanding authenticity.

Recent research conducted by Harris Poll for Google Cloud highlights the significance of this shift. An astounding 82% of U.S. shoppers from 1,491 executives across 16 countries expect a consumer brand's values to align with their own and are willing to back their beliefs with their wallets. Furthermore, 39% of shoppers are prepared to permanently boycott their favourite brands if they perceive a disconnect between values.

consumer goods brands

This seismic shift underscores the importance of comprehending and harnessing the power of brand activism.

Our vantage points!

  • Brands must integrate their purpose into their fundamental DNA to effectively harness brand activism.

  • The purpose should not be an afterthought but rather a core element of the organisation's identity.

  • Consumers no longer respond favourably to generic messaging. Instead, businesses can leverage consumer data and insights to create products that exemplify their mission, thereby creating new revenue streams and opportunities.

For instance, Nike's introduction of the Pro Hijab aligned perfectly with its purpose of ‘seeing a world where everyone is an athlete.’ This innovative product not only generated revenue but also empowered female athletes.

Nike's introduction of the Pro Hijab

PR professionals are instrumental in guiding brands towards purpose-driven initiatives. These initiatives go beyond corporate social responsibility; they represent a genuine commitment to social and environmental causes.

Building long-term relationships with consumers through brand activism relies heavily on PR. It's about crafting a compelling narrative that resonates with socially conscious consumers. The Cone Communications 2017 CSR survey revealed that 87% of 1,000 American consumers are willing to purchase products from companies that advocate for causes they care about. This underscores PR's ability to shape narratives that drive action.

PR professionals serve as strategists, guiding brands, measuring impact, and managing reputations. It's not enough to merely espouse values; brands must also measure the real, tangible change they bring about, moving away from superficial metrics.

A successful brand activism strategy involves authentic stakeholder engagement and partnerships with reputable organisations. These collaborations magnify the impact and lend credibility to brand activism efforts. Brands that excel in this area enhance their reputation, foster loyalty, and ensure long-term success. Nielsen's Global Sustainability Report revealed that 64% of consumers are willing to pay extra for sustainable brands, highlighting the direct link between positive change and brand loyalty.

Nonetheless, brand activism faces its own set of hurdles

Companies risk alienating specific customer segments or facing backlash if their stance on social issues is perceived as insincere.

A prime example of this complexity is Nike's decision to feature Colin Kaepernick in an ad campaign supporting social justice in September 2018 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their "Just Do It" slogan. The campaign featured a close-up image of Colin Kaepernick with the text, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

While the former NFL quarterback player decided not to stand for the national anthem to protest racial injustice in 2016, the face of Nike's marketing initially sparked some backlash from consumers on social media.

Later, this move garnered both praise and criticism for Nike, reflecting society's deep divisions regarding racial injustice and freedom of expression. The outcome included both financial and reputational implications for the company - something that Nike handles masterfully - and illustrated how brands must smartly navigate the realms of social responsibility and profitability.

PR professionals must navigate this delicate balance to ensure their clients' social impact initiatives are well-received. Another Nielsen report indicated that 77% of respondents would cease buying products from companies found guilty of greenwashing (false or misleading eco-friendly marketing).

The future

As we look ahead, it's evident that brand activism is not a fleeting trend; it represents a fundamental shift in how businesses interact with society.

Companies that embrace genuine brand activism and effective PR strategies will resonate with consumers and positively contribute to the world.

This transformation reshapes marketing strategies, with PR serving as the guiding compass for brands as they embark on purpose-driven initiatives. By embracing brand activism, brands can become catalysts for positive change, forging deeper connections with consumers and securing their place in the hearts and minds of a new generation of conscious shoppers.

The question remains: Are you prepared to let your PR efforts be a force for positive change?


Psst! This blog was made with 💕 and created after some thought by a real person.


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