Just as we’re now debating the separation of church and state, so too we’re seeing CMO’s weighing in on whether or not to take an open social or political stance. It’s been common practice that brands stick to their knitting and focus on core business issues. But that’s changed. Purpose-driven branding and messaging is here to stay. In fact, consumers – millennials and gen Z who now are the majority – have more faith in business solving social and political issues than government.
It started around 2018 when a study by Edelman research showed that 64% of consumers worldwide will make a purchasing decision based on a brand’s social or political position, up from the 58% who felt that way in a 2017 AAAA study. As Edelman notes, ““Brands are now being pushed to go beyond their classic business interests to become advocates. It is a new relationship between company and consumer, where purchase is premised on the brand’s willingness to live its values, act with purpose, and if necessary, make the leap into activism” [https://www.impactplus.com/blog/should-brands-get-political]. In a 2020 survey 63.2% of marketers surveyed said they believe companies should take a political stand.
This doesn’t appear to be a philosophical or esoteric issue. The top 5 benefits marketers see coming from brand activism go right to the bottom line:
- Customer acquisition
- Customer retention
- Build a reputable brand
- Increased sales
- Brand assets
But, companies are made up of team members who might share the company beliefs and values, but maybe not political and social beliefs and values. In fact, the #1 reason companies hesitate or avoid taking a public stance is “internal culture”.
If you’re planning to plant your brand’s flag on a social or political issue, take a stand, or align with one point of view or another, do it carefully, and do it authentically. The issue should be relevant to your brand’s authority, represent the values that drive your team members and their work, and have a degree of permanence. These are not promotional positions, but deeply held values.
“Purpose is the why behind why you exist, beyond profit. It should be deeply embedded in your brand/ company DNA. It should serve as a moral compass and a backbone,” according to Marina Carbone, Head of Brand & Marketing at Sanctus.
So, maybe purpose-driven marketing isn’t about adopting a new brand strategy, but about publicly revealing the values your brand has always stood for.