In recent years, brands have begun to play a vital part in taking a stand for social change. Such interaction with a diverse set of consumers can be part of the brand’s efforts in advocacy marketing which can help brands, in turn, spread their messaging, further generate customer engagement, and increase loyalty.
However, as consumers have become increasingly aware of sociopolitical issues, brands must restrategize their approach towards translating their advocacy into concrete action. Here are ways that companies can enforce their social responsibility efforts while remaining relevant and empathetic to their stakeholders.
Learning to listen
According to a 2019 report from Sprout Social, 67% of consumer respondents believe that brands should raise awareness on social and political issues through their social media platforms. However, as we are constantly bombarded on our feeds with advertisements, brands must provide impactful campaigns while remaining conscious of the social realities that we are facing today.
In order to carry their messages further, brands have turned to social awareness campaigns on social media to engage and reach a wide audience. This has worked for brands such as Gillette which garnered positive reactions from users for its ad featuring a dad teaching his transgender son how to shave.
Marketers must listen to consumers’ needs when implementing their social responsibility efforts as even a single wrong move can lead to consequences to the brand’s perception. Brands such as Pepsi and Burger King have learned this the hard way—with their efforts being heavily criticized for trivializing the underlying issue of mental health and racism respectively.
As consumers become more critical of the information that they consume, it is important for brands to constantly hear those who will be affected by these promotional efforts as they can influence how consumers view sensitive topics.
Providing authentic action and connection
As consumers have grown tired of companies’ lack of concrete action in addressing social issues, brands more than ever must walk their talk in advocating for social change through platforms where everyone can be represented.
Amidst the different crises that are currently happening, people look to brands as leaders in providing much-needed help for marginalized communities. This can be seen from make-up brand, Glossier, as they pledged $500,000 worth of grants to black-owned businesses alongside another $500,000 worth of donations to organizations fighting racial injustice.
Content marketing can also play a key role in providing a platform to raise social awareness while building credibility with consumers. Blog posts can be an effective starting point in reaching consumers as it helps add value, set clear goals, and builds upon the brand through providing a voice that customers can identify with through storytelling.
This approach is currently being used by sportswear giant, Adidas. Aside from its support to LGBTQ+ organizations such as Athlete Ally, the brand has written a blog post to provide a voice for black, indigenous, and people of color within the community.
Seeking offline solutions
Beyond donations, inclusive content, and listening to consumers, marketers should note that advocating for a social cause should go beyond the trendiness of a movement; It has to provide meaningful and authentic action in the long-term. These actions can start within the confines of the company.
There remains to be a gap with minorities (such as women, people of color, LGBTQ+) in leadership positions. According to a report from the Harvard Business Review, minorities are around 20% less likely to garner support for their ideas. According to a Boston Consulting Group study, it was observed that companies with above-average diversity teams reported a 19 percent increase in revenues attributed to innovation. It is also important to note that companies that are value-driven have a much greater chance of having employees stay for growth.
Although the goal of advocacy marketing is to generate profit in the long run through customer loyalty, it is essential to note that implementing social responsibility efforts is neither a publicity stunt nor a simple statement on a physical product. Advocacy marketing lies in strategizing and creating lasting positive change which in effect can yield better results for everyone involved.
As we look into the future, marketers must emphasize that an empathetic and diverse approach to marketing should not be a trend, but a norm for years to come. By expressing social awareness on many issues today, brands stand a chance at attracting loyal customers and increasing their brand recall.
- Written by Russell Ku