These past couple of years have been nothing short of incredible in terms of brand activism.
Companies with no part in the market started making face masks and hand sanitizers when COVID-19 hit.
When George Floyd was murdered, numerous companies made their positions clear: they would not stand for racism, especially by police.
Creating a clear image for your brand is important in today’s world, and this involves taking a stand for what is important to your brand and society as a whole.
As a brand, you are expected to be upfront and very clear about your values by 68% of consumers in the United States.
Further, consumers look for a brand’s values to see if they align with their own before buying. In fact, one-third of consumers make the decision to purchase from a brand that is doing environmental or social good.
If you have yet to jump on the bandwagon to share your values and beliefs with consumers and the rest of the world, that’s okay. You can find some helpful information to get started below.
What is Brand Activism?
Brand activism refers to brands taking a public stand for the things they believe in in the hope of driving change to solve some of society’s most urgent issues.
Regardless of whether a brand tries to promote or stop environmental, social, economic, or political reform or stasis, it is important that this is always based on the brand’s own values and beliefs.
While one form of brand activism may work great for one company, it may not be the best fit for your company.
This is because your core values and brand purpose must be taken into consideration.
If you run a business that is not really sustainable, then you probably won’t want to focus on environmental brand activism (at least until you change your operations and start doing the right thing).
The key with brand activism is to ensure that you aren’t showcasing your products so to speak.
You should not be out to raise your bottom line (but, of course, if that happens in the process, then great!), as this could get you in trouble and leave consumers unhappy with your brand.
The whole purpose of brand activism is to devote your brand to a specific cause that you deeply believe in and improve the world around you.
Why Does Brand Activism Matter?
Consumers actually expect brands to participate in brand activism by standing up for the social issues they believe in.
Because of this, brands who choose to not take sides on important social issues can be incredibly damaging, almost as much as choosing the wrong side to show support for.
For example, Lyft donated one million dollars to the anti-travel-ban lobby when Trump pushed an executive order for an anti-muslim travel ban.
However, Uber decided to not take sides and do nothing. Over the course of only a single weekend, Uber lost 200,000 customers to Lyft.
Ultimately, the benefits of creating a brand activism plan are vast. It can help encourage employees to be more productive while also promoting positive brand awareness.
It can make it easier to build trust with both employees and consumers while also improving the chance of positive brand credibility.
It can also serve as a great way to start a new campaign and ensure you are remaining relevant within the industry.
This will also help associate your brand with a specific purpose while also improving engagement rates, especially the more authentic your brand activism is.
How to Build a Brand Activism Plan
In order to truly move forward with brand activism, you should have a plan. Ideally, this is a plan that is developed at the start of your company based on your company’s values and beliefs.
However, it is never too late to create a brand activism plan.
1. Look Internally
Before you ever start acting on any social justice issue, it is imperative that you take a step back and look at your company from the inside out.
It is imperative that your company values align with the topics you are publicly supporting.
In other words, if you want to support the Black Lives Matter movements and minorities, you need to ensure that you are reflecting this within your company.
For instance, take a look at your hiring processes, programs, and hierarchal structure to ensure your brand is truly supporting the BLM movement.
2. Define Your Purpose
You must choose a form of activism that you and your company can truly get behind.
If you believe in numerous reforms, that’s great. However, you should pick the one that is closest to the values of your brand and go with that one.
You can always expand later on after gaining some authority within the activism world.
3. Do Your Homework
It may seem like an obvious step, but it is important to mention it for numerous reasons.
Before supporting any cause, you must do your homework. This is even more true if you are supporting a cause that you are not at all or less familiar with.
Your voice is more influential than you may believe, and because of this, you want to ensure that any information you put out into the world is as accurate as possible.
This is particularly true when dealing with sensitive causes, such as BLM or abortion.
Keep in mind that you should get out from behind your computer and do some real-life research.
Interview your co-workers — and maybe even your customers — who have had first-hand experiences or hold the same beliefs as what you are planning to support.
In doing so, your message will seem more genuine, compassionate, and authentic.
4. Create Actionable Steps
Once you have identified your brand’s new purpose in terms of activism and have performed sufficient research, it is time to develop an actual plan and put it into action.
You must prove you’re able to put your words into action. The message you create will only go so far. You must be ready to back it up. Otherwise, you will quickly lose your audience.
For instance, if you want to support environmental change, you could institute a recycling program for the company. Alternatively, you could dedicate a day or two during the year to plant some much-needed trees in your community.
Examples of Social Good Campaigns and Brand Activism
When looking for examples of brand activism and social good campaigns, look no further than these three well-known brands, each of which offers something different to the table but strives to fight for what they believe is right.
Nike: “For Once, Just Don’t Do It”
After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Nike was among the first large brands to offer a response to what was going on in the United States.
Although this definitely was not the first time Nike took a stand for the Black Lives Matter movement, as they also did so in 2018 with NFL player Colin Kaepernick, the company was urgently requesting everyone join together in a very important fight against racism.
Nike took a creative spin on their slogan by turning it into a conveying message for everyone.
The company changed its slogan to “For Once, Just Don’t Do It” and asked that people not pretend the issue of racism doesn’t exist and to ultimately fight for justice.
Consumers found Nike’s ad incredibly empowering. In fact, they felt it was 98% more powerful and inspiring than other similar ads.
Oreo has never been shy about sharing its support for the LGBTQ+ cause. But it was their #ProudParent campaign in 2021 that really sparked some attention for the brand as well as the cause itself.
This campaign offered incredible storytelling and an emotional connection, which is exactly why it worked so well for them.
Oreo chose to tell a story that viewers could really relate to featuring a number of different family struggles and life situations that we are all too familiar with. The story has a beginning, conflict, and resolution.
Further, this video pulls on your heartstrings by triggering your emotions. Immediately, viewers relate to Jen, the main person in the video, and can step into her shoes to experience her struggles alongside her.
The main purpose of this video was to encourage and educate parents in the support of their LGBTQ+ children. When parental support like this is made public, others are inspired to do the exact same. In the end, the world becomes a far more compassionate and accepting place.
Oreo has 10,000 packs of rainbow-colored pride cookies to share with those who took steps to support the #ProudParent campaign.
These packs of Oreos were not available to purchase anywhere, but instead, if you demonstrated support for the LGBTQ+, you had a chance to get your own package.
Mere hours after the campaign’s launch, it took the internet by storm. The campaign was covered over 400 times in the press, including Forbes, USA Today, and CNN. Across social media, it produced over 315 million impressions as well as more than two million engagements.
Oreo was able to successfully show courage and hope with this campaign while supporting a cause they have yet to give up on.
Patagonia: “The President Stole Your Land”
In 2017, the popular clothing brand Patagonia launched “The President Stole Your Land” campaign. It was an effort to showcase how important is that public lands are protected.
This campaign launch came shortly after President Trump made an announcement regarding the reduction of protected land in the Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments of Utah.
Trump made the decision to take away over 2 million acres of this area, which was considered the largest reduction of public land protection in the history of the United States.
For 30+ years, Patagonia has been fighting for the protection of public lands and the environment as a whole.
They use recycled materials and strive to cause no unnecessary harm while protecting nature in every way.
Working to create and sell products that don’t kill our planet, Patagonia is considered one of the most sustainable brands.
This particular campaign was right on point with the company’s values and mission, allowing consumers to feel more connected to the brand than ever before.
Brand activism is important, but you must do it right.
Don’t rush into it; create a solid foundation for your activist efforts to stand on. You need to ensure there is a connection between the message you want to create and the values of your brand.
As a brand, you have the opportunity to build a better world around you and bring people together that otherwise wouldn’t be.
In the end, this will help increase your brand’s reach, number of loyal customers, and even your bottom line.
To ensure you are building a cohesive brand identity while taking a stand, check out our Brand Guidelines Bundle.