Would you be sad if most of the known brand would just disappear? Or you wouldn’t care enough about them? Well, according to a recent survey, people wouldn’t mind if 77% of the world’s brands ceased to exist. But they would care about the few ones that mean something more to them. The ones that produce value and care for the society first. This is the real sign that the times have changed. People don’t want brands that toss their products to them. They want the brands to stand up for something, to give meaning to a cause that is dear to their target customers.

Today brands have the authority and voice that they can (and must) use for functional purposes.

What is brand activism?

You know the saying – actions speak louder than words. And that is especially plausible for brands nowadays that are active in social causes on digital platforms. But your brand’s activism should be aligned with your brand values. Additionally, the definition of brand activism refers to a situation where a company shares their opinion on social, economic or any other vital issues – an idea which is typically aligned with the company’s defined values. But is brand activism worth the risk? Or is it all just a show? Some companies probably only share their opinion because it aligns with their core values – and want to be in the hype. But others strike a tremendous economic benefit of their brand activism – when the activism is in direct line with their digital strategy. For example, we also have online campaigns that are only discussed, and without any sense and strategy like this Volvo Trucks campaign that has drawn attention, but without any purpose. The numbers only confirm the theory of brand activism. According to AccentureStrategy’s research, nearly 63% of consumers prefer to reward companies that are willing to take a stand on current issues. And consumers (66% of them) reward brands values and behavior that are consistent and list transparency as one of a brand’s most attractive qualities.

All of this recent data shows how consumers want to be connected to their favorite brands on different levels – even values like social causes must be shared in order to gain customers. That’s because consumers nowadays need something more than the product itself.

Those companies who have a clear communication strategy and have their values already incorporated with the social cause – could become a meaningful brand. And this would make a perfect economic sense for the brand. But, don’t forget, there is always a risk with brand activism. That’s why a decision to be an active brand in critical social issues should be strategically and carefully considered and aligned with the brand strategy. What we can take as a lesson is that the times have changed, society has changed, and the products and options available have never been more valuable for consumers. The solution for the brands and companies is that they need in their strategy think about activism – as one option to become a meaningful brand. Brands need to take the risk, think strategically, select the digital channels, content, and messages strategically, all in line with the values they care about. These values will find their way to consumers who share the same beliefs as a company or brand.

Why it’s time to become a brand activist

Digital marketing today means that brands must stand for something – just like in the recent Nike campaign. In this campaign, Nike risked a lot by using Colin Kaepernick as the face of their 30th anniversary of “Just Do It Campaign.” With their risk and sacrifice, they gained a lot – Bloomberg reports that within less than 24 hours since the release, Nike received more than $43 million worth of media exposure.

But by gaining attention and buzz all around the world in the meantime, they sacrificed a part of their customers so they can really target the ones who share the same values as the brand. These were the ones that as a sign of protest against Nike burned their Nike shoes or cut the Nike logo off their merchandise. Most interestingly is that Nike’s online sales jumped 31% in the four days following Kaepernick’s announcement. Nike’s stock price dipped but then came back, despite some threatening to boycott the company. And the $6 billion increase in overall value that Nike has experienced clearly overshadows all the negativity around the campaign and sheds a light that consumers, especially millennials, now expect businesses to engage in progressive brand activism. Or a good example of a meaningful, active brand can be of the most famous purpose branding initiatives from Unilever’s OMO/Persil and the Dirt is Good campaign that addresses the play deficit and encourages children to play outside. This campaign worked on so many levels for the general public and their target consumers. It showed how the values changed because the circumstances changed: Millennials and GenZ care for a good cause and meaningful brands that focus on the welfare of society and not profit (though not the first glance). Another interesting campaign that focuses on brand activism is the Gillette’s campaign named ‘The Best Men Can Be’. This new tagline focuses on highlighting social issues popular on digital channels such as bullying, sexism, and #MeToo movement.

Like any other campaign that takes a visible political and social stand, it had divided opinions and different reactions. The video, called We Believe: The Best the Men Can Be, immediately went viral with more than 4 million views on YouTube in 48 hours. As we said, the campaign gained threats and boycotts but also earned much praise. Moreover, according to Sprout Social, 63% of tweets to @Gillette have been positive.

This means that companies need to ask themselves how they can impact a change, raise a voice, and touch their consumers. Being socially responsible, especially on digital channels, has become very profitable. If you only think about it, consumers are exposed to 10,000 ads a day, and the ones that don’t tick the value and social issues boxes won’t get noticed.

How can brand activism advance your brand strategy

Everything you do or trying to do online and through digital channels needs to be incorporated in your brand vision and brand values. That’s why it’s essential to stay true to your brand’s values also while raising voice over social issues. And if you are even wondering whether and how can brand activism benefit a brand, here are four key advantages of brand activism as a part of the brand strategy:

• Brand activism builds trust

The brand that uses brand activism develops a more natural relationship of trust because consumers are more likely to support a campaign that is helping a cause they believe in.

• Brand activism increases exposure

If your brand goal is to make an impact and reach a wider audience, then striving to be a meaningful brand can fulfill your objectives. The focus on significant issues along with a marketing campaign can boost word of mouth, mainly if the campaign contains an emotional element.

• Brand activism keeps up with the trends

It’s crucial for any brand to be up to date and relevant in the market. Being an existing brand and for example, supporting a growing social movement can be the perfect move to keep up with the trends.

• Brand activism is perfect for targeting millennials

It’s no secret that most socially responsible campaigns are done to reach millennials because they are the first that need something more than just the product. According to the stats, 70% of millennials can pay more for a product that makes an impact on issues they care about.

This is one of the main reasons that more brands incorporate socially responsible ads in their brand strategy, hoping to convince younger consumers to trust them. In conclusion, it’s not more a question if a brand should share their values about important social causes. Customers (especially younger ones) are expecting that brands take a stand on specific causes. By knowing your target customers, taking a slight risk, using the right digital channels that create a right brand activism strategy you will create content that will attract customers that share the same value as a company or brand.

Is brand activism part of your brand strategy? If yes, contact us for its digital communication elaboration.