What is brand activism and why should you care?
As 2019 begins in earnest our social feeds are full of resolutions to be better, do better and feed our desire for change.
What’s key to understand, however, is the difference between intention and action. There is a real urgency for positive disruption and as traditional sites of power are either incapable or unwilling to effect the necessary changes, the responsibility is sitting with brands.
The relationship between brand and ‘consumer’ has altered exponentially. Thanks to instant and global access to information, people are more exposed to changes in culture and a diverse range of influences than ever before and as a result, their expectations of brands have shifted beyond recognition.
Many brands are scrambling to align themselves with a purpose. Herein lies the problem. Shareholder-led, for-profit businesses wanting to align consumerism with a cause is difficult at best, disastrous at worst. Questions we’ve been toying with recently here at TCO include: How do you do this well and in a way that offers value and leads to change? Is there a threshold that a brand must meet to be defined as an activist brand? Does activism differ from brand purpose and what must a brand do to start acting as an activist brand? Is there a way to measure its effectiveness?
Through Huck and Little White Lies we are fortunate to be connected to a global network of wavemakers in culture. We discussed these thoughts with them and leading brand stakeholders in a series of in-depth interviews.
One of our newest panellists, Ed Shepherd, European Head of Activism for Ben & Jerry’s, a brand known never to shy away from tackling political issues head on, told us; “Companies, or brands, carry huge responsibility to play a positive role in society – we can do that both by how we operate as a business and by using the enormous platform we have to connect with people on important issues. There’s a massive opportunity to speak to the people who connect with us… and to use those connections to raise public awareness in the need to shake up existing systems or challenge injustice. By raising awareness of an issue and driving dialogue we are able to mobilise people and in turn to influence policy and drive change.”
To hear more from Ben & Jerry’s, The Body Shop, Levis and Finisterre join us at 'Beyond Brand Purpose: the Future of Brand Activism', a breakfast event on the 22nd January.