From #MeToo to calls for plastic reduction to #NeverAgain, it is clear that change is in the air. People are fighting for campaigns that matter to them. And they expect brands to do the same.
According to research by Sprout Social, two thirds (66%) of consumers feel it is important for brands to take a stance on social and political issues, and to share it with the public.
In the past, brands tended to shy away from the voicing their opinions or joining conversations discussing controversial subjects. The potential risk to brand damage was deemed too costly. As a marketing agency that embraces disruptive thinking, that’s not how we think about these things…
And, of course, brands should be cautious about wading into highly charged conversations. But, when done right, brands can reap more rewards than risk. Sprout Social’s findings suggest that the most common emotional reactions to brands taking a stance were positive. Intrigued, impressed and engaged were the top three consumer reactions.
When consumers agree with a brand’s social or political stance, over half (52%) will show greater brand loyalty than those who disagree. And more would publicly promote or praise a brand than will publicly criticise, 28% compared to 20%, respectively.
What’s more, Meaningful Brands found that 75% of consumers expect brands to contribute to their wellbeing and quality of life. Those brands that are considered to be meaningful see over double the performance of stock indices on average, CMO reported.
Fighting against plastic pollution
One high-profile campaign that has been gaining momentum since the airing of the Blue Planet II finale is the fight against plastic pollution. The episode stunned many and motivated viewers into action. Environmental charities Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth saw huge increases in people donating and signing petitions calling for action to save the oceans, the Express reported at the time.
But consumers weren’t the only ones to take action. Buckingham Palace, Wagamama, Wetherspoons and the BBC are a few of the big names that have announced bans on plastic straws, bottles, and single-use plastic. The BBC, for example, has announced plans to scrap plastic cups and cutlery by the end of this year, followed by plastic containers in canteens in 2019, moving to a ban on single-use plastic across all its sites by 2020.
As The Drum notes, the brands have received heaps of praise since their announcements.
How to take a stand and join brand activism
So, it is clear that consumers want brands to get behind causes. But how can brands effectively take a stance?
The Drum shares this definition of activism: “…consists of efforts to promote, impede or direct social, political, economic and/or environmental reform or stasis with the desire to make improvements in society.”
First things first, you have to actually care about the the cause. If you’re just joining the bandwagon because you want to receive some of the praise, it’s not going to work. You have to be authentic, otherwise it’ll be clear your heart simply isn’t in it.
You need to be transparent. Not only do you need to share your brand purpose with your employees, you need to make sure it is ingrained in your company culture and actions. If you’ve decided to join the fight against plastic, you can’t continue to buy single-use plastic for your office.
Make sure the cause is relevant. As Sprout Social’s research found, consumers will be more receptive and find efforts more credible when this is the case. Factors impacting consumer belief in the credibility of a brand’s cause are when it directly impacts the customers (47%), employees (40%) and business operations (31%).
To share your message, head to social media. More than half (58%) of the Sprout Social respondents said they were open to hearing a brand’s stance on social media, making it the top channel for receptivity. What’s more, 61% of consumers feel it is important for brands to voice their causes on social media specifically. If that isn’t proof, we don’t know what is!
It can be tricky to navigate the controversial waters of politically and social issues but, if something is important to you, there’s a high chance it’s also important to your customers and, as the research suggests, taking a stand can pay off.