What is brand activism?  Simply put, brand activism involves using your business – your brand, as it were – to advocate for a cause close to your heart, and the hearts of your loyal customers. By not just advertising the benefits of their products or services, but by speaking up and publicly advocating for or against a certain social injustice or environmental issue, many companies are becoming spokesmen, promoting their choice causes even as they promote themselves.

85% say they would choose a brand with advocacy intentions over one without.

On the financial side, it seems that with each new survey into brand activism, more and more people are voicing their eagerness to “vote with their wallet”, or to advocate with it, if you will. One US study found a whopping 91 percent of the millennial generation is willing to switch to brands that openly support causes. Even the general public is behind the movement: 85% say they would choose a brand with advocacy intentions over one without.

How do I choose which cause to focus my brand activism?

If you already have a quiet corporate giving strategy in place, expanding on your existing structure is a good place to start (or you can check out our blog post on Choosing the Right Non-Profit). But there’s more to brand activism than just choosing a charity or issue to support.

Because brand activism involves being very vocal about when your support lies, companies need to take a few things into consideration.

Things to Consider:
  • which issues your core values most closely align
  • whether your chosen cause clashes with your values or products. If a company whose factory is known to pump out tonnes of toxic waste each day starts a brand activism campaign for cleaning up the local rivers without making any changes to their business model, that’s likely to raise a few eyebrows. Likewise, you want your cause to resonate with the mission of your business and its workers, and also with public perception of your company. Authenticity is key;
  • whether your employees also support your cause, and how much this matters – will they be on the forefront? Also, will fighting for this cause attract talented prospective employees who share your goals and values?
  • whether your cause is likely to be enthusiastically supported by your existing customers, and the demographic you’re hoping to engage to grow your customer base;
  • do you have the marketing and social media infrastructure in place to take part in the discussion your brand activism will hopefully prompt?;
  • what are the positive or negative ramifications of publicly supporting a certain cause? Will you have right-wing activists protesting your shop, could there be political blowback? Do the potential drawbacks outweigh the benefits? Remember, in this day of articles and tweets that never disappear, your company could go down in history for your brand activism – for better or for worse.

One thing to keep in mind when choosing a cause is the effect of public reaction, be it good or bad. A bit of pushback from people who disagree with your view will almost always occur and can even strengthen your voice when a discourse begin, but widespread anger can cast a pall over your company.  Companies showcase their support for their causes in many different ways including public announcements, lobbying, or marketing campaigns surrounding the issue, as well as more standardized corporate giving strategies like volunteering, monetary donations, and fundraisers.

Is Brand Activism right for your company?  Connect with us at HeartPress PR for a free consult.