Brand Activism

Corporations and their leaders increasingly take stands on social issues.

One of the most notable corporate examples is Unilever. Their brand activism manifests at a corporate level (What planet are you on?) and for individual product lines such as Ben & Jerry’s (We Must Dismantle White Supremacy; Silence Is NOT An Option) and Dove (…the home of real beauty).

One of the most prominent CEO activists is Mark Benioff. For example, in June 2020 he supported universal basic income and wearing masks to fight coronavirus.

Should corporations take stands on social issues? Some pose answers that are rooted in philosophical reasoning. For example, some argue corporations should stick to business and remain silent when it comes to social issues and public policy.

But corporate reasoning can take a significant leap forward when objective facts are brought to the table.

Ecosystem Data

Ecosystem data can reveal general interest in various social issues with direct business implications. For example, what is the interest in workplace safety, equal employment, and diversity training? The chart below shows relative search interest (100 = maximum interest over the time frame) in the US from January 2020 through mid-June 2020.

work safe equal emp diverse chart

The chart shows that workplace safety was the most prominent topic in the first half of 2020. Then diversity training became the most significant topic in June. We also can see a spike in interest in workplace safety.

The rapid surge in diversity training interest corresponds with the intense, widespread concern about racism and policing practices initiated by the video of George Floyd’s death. While not as dramatic, protests and riots also stimulated more interest in workplace safety.

Ecosystem Analytics

Ecosystem analytics can deliver highly insightful data about social issues and their potential relevance for a company. We take three basic steps when preparing a brand activism strategy:

  1. Define Customer Interests. What are your customers’ interests regarding various social issues? For example, where do they stand on major social issues such as racism or coronavirus?
  2. Understand Current Brand Position. Determine where your brand, and your competitors’ brands, currently land on the brand activism spectrum. In other words, does your brand register at all with the ecosystems surrounding social issues that are important to your customers? Where do you stand relative to your competitors?
  3. Forecast Brand Activism Outcomes. What are your brand activism options and what outcomes are likely associated with each? For example, if you take a strong stand in support of diversity, to what degree will your brand be strengthened or weakened? Will sales increase or decline, and by how much?

Today’s social issues thrive within digital ecosystems of thoughts, ideas, and opinions. We use ecosystem marketing tools to help companies gauge how their customers think and behave relative to various social issues. From there we create multiple brand activism options and forecast their likely impact on brand equity and sales.