While Gillette continues to break the internet this week, it’s worth pointing out that they’re simply the latest in a growing trend of companies embracing conversations around social issues.
Remember just a few months ago when Nike tackled the touchy topic of patriotism with Colin Kaepernick? or perhaps when Levi Strauss took a stand against gun violence? Even brands like Yoplait have made their voices heard when it comes to mom shaming and Dove is all over promoting positive female body images. So what’s changed? What’s with this recent emergence of brand-standing all of a sudden?
Simple. Brands react to their customers and today, those customers care about big issues. Movements like #meetoo are massive game changers and topics like racism and equality continue to be hot topics. Everyone has an opinion – a strong one – and nobody, not even businesses can avoid the discussion anymore.
In fact, according to a 2018 Edelman Earned Brand Study, we’ve entered an age where consumers are increasingly “belief-driven” with 64% of global consumers indicating they WANT brands to take a stand on social issues. That’s almost two thirds of buyers that are actively choosing to buy or boycott based on where a brand may stand on the political or social issues they care about. That’s huge!
Not only is it becoming simply acceptable, it’s now increasingly expected that brands adopt a social conscience and speak out on the issues that matter to their customers. Everyone is being held accountable and It’s no longer simply about the product or the brand, it’s the overall character of a company that is starting to drive sales.
So, does this new culture mean you have to comment on every new social issue facing society? Of course not. But it does highlight the importance of conducting business in a socially responsible way. For some that may allow you the freedom to enter the frey with a badass ad campaign while for others that may be something as simple as engaging in community involvement initiatives or simply conducting business in a transparent, fair and ethical way.
But be warned, however you choose to embrace your principles, it’s vital you keep a few things top of mind:
Be true to your brand and your audience. Any policies you choose to embrace and any causes you may decide to lend your voice to MUST stay true to your core values, your brand and your audience. Talk about what makes sense for you, not simply the topic of the day.
Be Authentic. Consumers can smell fake from three tweets away. If you’re not truly invested or even give the impression that your activities may simply be a “stunt”, they’ll know and it will backfire, guaranteed.
Put your money where your mouth is. It’s not always enough to simply join the conversation. Get involved. Donate. Show your audience in some way that you’re truly committed to your cause or risk the inevitable impression of capitalizing on social issues for profit. That will never end well.
Be prepared. There’s a good change not everyone is going to agree with you – particularly when it comes to some of the more controversial issues. Expand your discussions and consider all the possibilities before you launch to ensure you’re truly making the right decision and are prepared for any backlash that may come your way. Negativity won’t always equal disaster but it is still imperative you’re ready for it.
Regardless of how you, or your business, may choose to engage with the myriad of social issues facing our society, it’s important to remember the biggest benefit isn’t necessarily proving your point or changing minds. In many instances, like in the case of Gillette’s “Toxic Masculinity”, it’s simply starting the conversation that makes the impact.