More than half of Britons think brands have a responsibility to society: YouGov report

Several high-profile brands have taken a stance on social issues in recent years – both through advertising campaigns and policy. Think of Nike’s Colin Kaepernick advert and Lush’s ‘Spy Cops’ campaign.

Such campaigns can have a huge impact and achieve great cut-through, but they can attract criticism too. One example of a misjudged effort is Pepsi’s commercial featuring Kendall Jenner in 2017. Given the risks, how important is it for brands to become involved in social matters? And what do consumers think of them when they do?

YouGov’s Social Voice of Brands report indicates that most consumers in both the UK and US believe brands should be ‘free to speak their minds’, with 52% of Britons and 61% of Americans agreeing with this sentiment.

Looking first at UK consumers, 58% say that it’s important to them that the brands they like have a clear and transparent point of view on wider issues in society. Just 33% say it’s not important. There are very similar figures in the US, with 58% believing it’s important, against 22%.

Among those who said it’s important for brands to get involved, the most common reason (58%) is that they want to trust the brands they interact with and also that they believe brands should behave responsibly (58%).

The biggest difference between the two countries lies in how much of a responsibility people think brands have to society. This is much more important in Britain with 54% giving this as a reason compared with 41% of people in the US.

In the UK, people believe that it’s most important for charities to have a point of view (52% say they believe not-for-profits should), followed by pharmaceutical companies (43%) and media companies (42%).