Inclusivity, veganism, equality, sustainability (the list goes on) are all hot topics right now, and although some may argue that the reference to social issues in marketing can come across as just a blatant marketing ploy, the truth is… brands cannot afford to ignore them.
The rise of the ‘woke’ consumer
The growth of consumer investment in brand ethos has notably put pressure on brands, and people are now most receptive to brands who demonstrate responsibility. In fact, according to the 2018 Edelman Earned Brand report, two-thirds of consumers want companies to take a stand on social issues.
The spotlight on these topics has led to a new opportunity for many brands to position themselves as pioneering and most important of all, possessing a conscience. However, for the brands who remain complacent, their lack of consciousness costs them more than they think. Proof of this comes courtesy of the 2019 Meaningful Brands report, which confirms that brands that are perceived to be meaningful and working to make the world a better place, are outperforming the stock market by 134%. The report goes on to also reveal that 68% of consumers think companies have a more important role than governments to play in creating a better future.
The proof is in the ‘pudding’
Vegan-friendly footwear brand Veja’s surge in sales, sustainability-advocate Stella McCartney’s ongoing relevance, Nike’s ‘seismic’ Colin Kaepernick campaign and Dove’s pioneering 2005 ‘Real Beauty’ campaign all serve as proof that this is true. Where these names have built and sustain their success on their dedication to solving social issues, there are still a lot of brands that have chosen to stay out of this conversation.
Are these brands still stuck in the ‘no-tone age’?
One recent example is Inditex group’s (parent company to Zara, Bershka and Pull & Bear) latest pledge to make its brands fully sustainable by 2025 – considering it is the world’s largest apparel retailer, this news comes as nothing close to revolutionary for consumers and many are asking why these decisions haven’t come about earlier.
The Inditex group are not alone in feeling the ramifications of ignoring issues that inevitably concern them. Lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret (also housed under a global top 5 apparel retailer) has recently lost one of its ‘angels’ due to the adamance to represent one body type only. This decision follows chief officer Razek’s resignation and the announcement that the brand would be ‘rethinking’ their annual fashion show, due to it no longer being the “right fit”. Coincidentally, the brand’s latest shows had received reams of criticism about the lack of representation of all body types.
The pros (no cons!)
Half of UK consumers have shared that they prefer to buy from brands with a reputation for being focused on purpose rather than just profits. When looking at the millennial ‘pool’ alone, this figure rises to 55%.
Although some companies argue that a move in a mindful direction can be either or both financially and logistically unfeasible, the pros have surely proven to outweigh the cons. The consequences of refusing to adopt mindfulness may not come in one fell swoop, but from a brand image point of view, the ‘cracks’ slowly start to show and a whole ‘audience’ starts to lose interest in the brand.
While brands who are adopting socially progressive outlooks towards their messaging grow in consumers’ esteem, brands who do not are losing points amongst the new age, switched on generation of customer.
The first steps toward social awareness
Below are a few steps that brands who have yet to demonstrate a more notable social awareness should take.
- Own up to it – Owning up to your mistakes is a good first step. Consumers today value transparency over everything else – choosing to ignore the issues will only drive them away. Even if the prospect of making your brand more socially responsible is an expensive or logistically complicated one, be honest about it.
- Identify what your customers value most – Put effort into finding out what your target audiences are passionate about, whether it be the environment, inclusivity etc. This will be a great way of determining where you can make a start.
- Start by making small changes – consumers understand that big changes don’t happen overnight, but a handful of small changes such as changing messaging and diverse casting can start to make a big difference.
- Plan for the future – don’t go on thinking that these issues will resolve themselves – they won’t. Be sure to put a plan in place for your brand’s future that reveals your ‘bigger ideas’ towards complete social responsibility and again, make sure you share this with your target audience to remind them you are proactively moving in the right direction.