Brands taking a stand is more important now than ever, even if you disagree with their point.
Who is excited about watching the Super Bowl this weekend but also a little nervous about which ads are going to be political? On the heels of Nike’s infamous Colin Kaepernick campaign followed by Gillette’s “We Believe” ad, momentum is quickly building towards brands taking a stand via their advertising, which has created bipolar reactions across the country.
Regardless of your stance on the topic, the majority of the world supports brands taking a stand because it is contributing to a better society. Don’t just take my word for it though, look at the data.
Edelman, a world renowned PR firm, releases a report each year detailing the growth of “belief driven buying”, or people who choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues. The numbers are equally shocking and reassuring.
Nearly two thirds of the world are belief driven buyers, which is up from 50% since just last year.
A huge contributing factor to this is our declining trust in the government. People are taking matters into their own hands by painting their lives with brands that align with their own values.
Over half of consumers say “brands can do more to solve social ills than government”. So is it making sense now why you’re seeing more brands take a stand?
We are increasingly putting our money where our mouths are and brands are matching that with their actions. This has led to many positive benefits both for companies and society across a wide array of industries - from Fashion to Food to CPG to Finance.
The obvious examples of “belief driven” brands are Toms and Warby Parker - you buy from them and they donate on your behalf. This is a great example of baking a mission into the core product offering. With that being said, being a belief driven brand does not have to be explicitly linked to donations or even be at the center of your business model.
Take Chick-Fil-A, they are committed to staying closed on Sundays so that all employees can have one day to rest and worship if they choose. This weekend they are staying closed on Super Bowl Sunday even though they have a location in the stadium. They are losing a ton of money but fans are fully supporting them, driving their loyalty even deeper with the brand.
Regarding the CPG industry, the most recent proof of this in play is with P&G, Nestle, Unilever and Pepsi’s collective stand to reduce plastic waste in partnership with TerraCycle by providing reusable cartons milkman style - from deodorant to ice cream to orange juice. This is creating a shared onus on both brand and consumer to take part in this initiative, creating a cycle that will help the future of our planet.
From a finance perspective, impact investing is growing rapidly. It hit $12 TRILLION in assets under management this year, which is an 18x increase since 1995. Recently, Bono and PE firm TPG announced Y Analytics, a company that will measure impact investing's impact to continue backing up its efficacy. Even Larry Fink, the CEO of Blackrock, advocates that “to prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society". That's powerful stuff when the marketing and finance industries are on the same page.
Does standing up for your beliefs pay off? Yes, yes it does. According to Kantar, brands with a high sense of purpose have grown 2x faster than brands that don't.
Why does it pay off? Simon Sinek looks at the psychology of this in his famous Ted Talk How Leaders Inspire Action. Here’s his most salient point: “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it. Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief - WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it”.
So now we know why it pays off, but how does one actually DO this? Brene Brown, my recently discovered idol, has you covered. Here’s an excerpt from her book, Dare to Lead: “Living into our values means that we do more than profess our way of being or believing, we practice them. We walk our talk—we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs".
This is a VERY important point. None of this matters unless you are walking the walk.
This idea is being embraced by both brands and agencies alike, including the one I work at. Founder and CEO, David Baldwin, wrote a book about it and in it he describes that "A Belief Driven Brand is a brand that stands for something bigger than what they make or do. A brand is a set of behaviors based on an authentic belief system. Those behaviors are what that brand makes, how they make it, how they talk and what kind of experiences they create".
What does this all mean? Don’t be afraid to fully lean in to your values as a brand or as a marketer. If we follow the same upward trend lines, you’ll have to sooner rather than later regardless. Whether that looks like giving employees a day off to worship, releasing an ad that takes a stand or changing your business model to reduce waste - make this a priority. But be sure to walk the walk, because empty promises never turn out.