A Guide to Marketing in Today’s Cause-Driven Culture
In a culture of split issues, should your brand be part of the conversation?
The short answer is: it depends.
You might think that’s a cop-out, but there are a lot of factors to consider.
Is your business an extension of yourself?
If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably answered yes. While it’s important to express yourself through your company, it’s equally important to be mindful of your stakeholders — investors, employees, customers, etc. After all, it’s unlikely that you share the exact same values as all the individuals who believe in your brand.
Will you lose customers if you take a stand?
Possibly. According to AdWeek, 66% of Millennials have said that they make their purchase decisions based on brand beliefs, while 57% of consumers said they would altogether boycott a brand that disagrees with their social values. That’s a significant number of lost customers, which is why brands usually support causes that closely align with their business.
For example, in 2014, Burger King released The Proud Whopper, which celebrates individuals of any sexual orientation.
Though the burger was a huge success, there was also some backlash. According to a Business Insider article, a majority of the Facebook comments and Twitter posts were negative when the burger was first announced.
Could you gain more customers?
You definitely could. 30% of worldwide consumers said they make more belief-driven purchase decisions than they did three years ago. Consumers that agree with your social beliefs and efforts are more willing to purchase from your brand. On top of this, they are more likely to recommend to family and friends, and publicly voice their support for your organization.
How do you align a brand?
Create proof by making a considerable difference for your cause. Tentree is an apparel brand whose entire mission is based around reforestation. They plant ten trees for every product purchased and have a section on their website where they list the results of their efforts.
They also provide images of their projects overseas, including the happy faces of those whose lives they’ve impacted.
Another way to align your brand is to make a philanthropic effort that doesn’t directly make your organization more money. Unlike the other examples in this section, the Starbucks FoodShare program doesn’t hinge on customer purchases. Most restaurants are forced to throw out massive amounts of food that are still edible and nutritious. Starbucks has partnered with Feeding America to create a process where their leftover food is safely transported to food donation centres. This selflessness on the organizational level brings customers and employees together.
Finally, make the message and the actions shareable. Not only will it give your brand more exposure, but it will entice others into being socially responsible too. Toms has their shareable program One for One, which gives back to those less fortunate.
The program started with giving shoes to those who didn’t have access to safe footwear, but has expanded into helping provide clean water, safe births, and much more.
How do you make a statement?
Just because you can’t align your entire business operations with a cause doesn’t mean you can’t make a statement. Consumers take notice when a brand doesn’t speak up when they were expected to. The delicate balance a lot of businesses struggle with is when and how they should speak up. Sprout Social provides us some good insight here.
Human rights, labour laws, and poverty tend to be issues that everyone wants to solve, which is why a large percentage of consumers believe they should be addressed by all brands. Unfortunately, immigration and LGBTQ rights are split issues, so consumers are not as comfortable with their favourite brands taking stands on such topics.
The most effective methods of making a statement are all focused around a company action (i.e. donations) or encouraging action (i.e. encouraging others or lobbying for legislation). Thus, brands should look at action-oriented statements to instill passion and loyalty into their consumers.
In our information-based society, where news and opinions are constantly available, consumers find it important to back brands that hold the same values as they do. There are many nuances as to how — or even if — you should participate in the conversation, and your job is to find out where your business fits into it all.