We humans care about things passionately. Sometimes even “off-brand” things. It's just the nature of the world we live in. Shouldn’t our favorite brands care about the same things we do? If they did, couldn’t they make a measurable, real-world impact? Yes, and yes, but the truth is that not all brands see it that way.
According to a 2018 Sprout Social report, 66% of those surveyed say it’s “very or somewhat important for a brand to take a stand on social issues.” The report goes on to say that social media is where consumers are “most receptive to brands communicating positions on social/political issues,” followed by television/radio and website/blogs. Almost 90% of those surveyed see a brand as credible when they are speaking out on an issue that impacts its customers or employees. When brands align their interests with consumers, the potential for positive social impact expands even further.
57% of consumers will decide to buy or boycott a brand based on their stance on social or political issues
With trust in institutions lower than ever, according to a 2017 Edelman report, consumers are looking to brands to take the lead in driving social change. In fact, 51% of respondents say “brands have more power to solve social issues than the government.” That same report goes on to say that 57% of consumers will decide to buy or boycott a brand based on their stance on social or political issues.
There’s certainly enough to weigh in on these days. Palpably obvious political chaos aside, there are plenty of non-racist, non-homophobic and environmentally-friendly topics that are easy wins for brands to back. The risk? It may alienate some customers, which stops most brands in their tracks, but not all.
Apple, Cisco and Cisco and teamed up to block a North Carolina bill in 2016 that sought to ban transgender individuals from using bathrooms based on their sexual identity. After 12 months, North Carolina repealed the bill based on mounting social, political and corporate pressure. Supporting the bill was a risk for sure, but one the brands felt was worth it. They knew the majority of their customers would agree with the move. Opportunities like this are brand bonding moments.
A growing list of brands are embracing social causes, including Patagonia’s “The President Stole Your Land,” Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” television commercial, and Airbnb’s #WeAccept campaign. Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner debacle showed the world the wrong way to wade into social issues. Today’s leaders should strive to do better.
Data mitigates the risk of making the wrong move
Bold brands not mired in mediocrity choose solidarity for causes their customers care about. It’s entirely authentic (critical for Millennials) and comes with the halo effect of doing social good and building stronger customer relationships. Data mitigates the risk of making the wrong move.
The level of consumer insights that brands have available now empowers them to decide on their level of social involvement based on data – not guesswork. Social listening was born for moments like this. Using any number of tools like Crimson-Hexagon, Synthesio or Sysomos, brands can see exactly what their most loyal customers are saying across digital and what they feel most passionately about.
Data has the power to help brands understand their customers as humans first, consumers second.
Consumers want experiences with brands they trust to mirror human relationships, complete with dialog, empathy and emotional rewards. Social media is where these connections are most likely to happen.
In a world of eroding trust and ephemeral attention spans, consumers need to know that brands “get them” and care enough to add value in truly meaningful ways.
When brands act more human, they outperform the market – and that’s nothing for a CMO to be afraid of.
Anthony Cospito is head of strategy at Moving Image and Content.