Brand activism is an interesting and relatively new phenomenon. From companies being vocal about LGBT rights and other social justice issues on social media, all the way to some even backing particular politicians - more and more we see companies taking a stand on social justice matters. Brand activism lies in that sweet spot where awareness and marketing strategy intersect. When it’s done right, it can be a positive force for change, and a powerful advertising technique.
Businesses often have huge reach. The really big names boast substantial social media followings. We drive past their billboards daily. Our wardrobes are home to their promotional merch. When businesses start to champion particular causes or challenge harmful stereotypes, that messaging reaches a large audience. Raising awareness through cause-related marketing can potentially be really influential. Business hold in their hands a powerful tool for social good with brand activism.
For decades businesses have been building corporate social responsibility profiles - but brand activism - or “cause marketing” represents something entirely different. It sees many companies center issues of social justice at the core of their brand messaging. They take up clear political positions, even at the risk of alienating some of their customer base. So why is this such a popular marketing strategy that businesses are openly embracing?
It’s not just altruism. Social impact branding has struck marketing strategy gold. Using a footballer or celebrity in your advertising campaign just can’t compare to tapping into arguably the most powerful factor in customers’ lives: their morals and values. Naturally, this kind of marketing can successfully generate that desirable and elusive thing: brand loyalty. This is the powerful factor that means a business can build a base of repeat customers.
Aligning your brand with social justice issues is an incredibly impactful way to emotionally connect with customers. It’s a means of relating to the public on the aspects they hold most dear. Cause marketing is also a clear response to the interests of a particular target group: millennials. The rise of “woke” culture means we live in an age where issues on race, gender, sexuality and justice are very openly discussed and embraced. Cause marketing is merely a reaction to this.
Brand activism isn’t just a way to relate to your customers. It also lets them know that they’re not simply buying a product, they’re supporting an organisation that has a positive impact on the world. For socially conscious consumers, this means they can put their money where their mouth is. If buying from your company is the more moral choice, that can be a powerful way to stand out from the competition. And the opposite is true too. By not aligning with social justice issues, you allow customers to turn to competitors who wear their values on their sleeves.
That’s not to say cause-related marketing is without controversy. It definitely isn’t. Many slogan-emblazoning, justice-championing organisations have recently been called out for hypocrisy, being tone-deaf or appropriating causes for their own gain. Inauthenticity when it comes to social impact branding isn’t just unethical - it’s also poor marketing.
We have seen time and time again how businesses that have failed to strike the right chord in their messaging have received a fierce public backlash. It’s clear that social impact branding isn’t just a quick marketing fix. It has to be consistent with contributing a net positive impact on the world.
Brand activism is an incredible phenomenon in that it can make use of the influence of businesses to raise awareness about critical issues, while the business in turn receives the marketing benefits of aligning with those issues.
Wondering how your own business can get involved?
You don’t need to be on the extreme end of the social impact branding spectrum to experience the effects. There are some simple choices your business can make to better connect with your customers - and more effectively raise awareness!
A great place to start can be choosing promotional products that are consistent with your company values. For example, we offer a series of “proudly South African” products, that are locally manufactured and support South African industries. This sets a powerful example to buy local, and protect our country’s industries.
Or choose from our range of eco-friendly products. We offer spekboom plant desks, recycled stationary, reusable steel straws, solar powered power banks, and a range of innovative green products. This is a great way to spread awareness about the environmental issues you care about, and align your business with green habits.
Brand Innovation is a leading supplier of corporate gifts and promotional products in South Africa. We are happy to give you product ideas consistent with your branded messaging, or suit your company’s budget. Start spreading awareness about the issues you value. Please do not hesitate to get in touch, by contacting via email or on 0861 111 954. One of our account executives will be happy to help you. We look forward to assisting you!