Pro’s and con’s of jumping on the social justice warrior bandwagons on your brand

The main goal of advertising is to ‘get people talking’. An impactful campaign gets the right kind off buzz and generates sales for the brand. But it is not as simple as that. Brand activism is slowly becoming a popular trend, with more brands taking the stand to voice their opinions on social justice issues. Sprout Social reported that 70% of consumers believe that it is important for brands to take a public stand on social and political affairs. But in order to effectively communicate their viewpoint, brands need to be aware of the ins and outs of the issue. 

Did you know the term ‘woke’ was first used in the 1940s? 

In the literal sense, woke means being awake. Brands today are constantly on the look-out for innovative ways to connect with their target audience. Trending issues provide a valuable platform for brands to boost awareness and increase sales. For example, hot topics like equality, climate change, veganism and the plastic ban are being constantly discussed, giving brands an opportunity to weigh in and get their message across to a much wider audience. The tricky part is knowing exactly when to jump on the social justice warrior bandwagon and knowing when to never get on it in the first place. 

Getting it right 

P&G hit the nail on the head with its ‘We See Equal’ campaign. As a brand, P&G already has a well-known history supporting women empowerment. Through their multi-channel campaign, they aimed at fighting gender bias and defying gender stereotypes by including girls and boys in the video. Interestingly, P&G ran the campaign at a time where gender equality was a dicey issue to discuss politically. The campaign was successful not only because of its strong message, but P&G’s clear dedication to equality within the company, with 45% of managers and a third of its board being women. The campaign came across as tasteful, authentic and impactful. 

To jump or not to jump?

In the case of brand activism, timing is not everything. Brands need to clearly demonstrate what they stand for, both externally and internally. Unfortunately, more than 50% of consumers say brands only jump on the social justice bandwagon for public relations or marketing purposes. Getting a feel of the target audience is crucial because there is a generational difference in how consumers expect brands to respond to a social or political issue. Research consistently points to the fact that younger audiences are more inclined to buy from brands that  align with their values. For example, 80% of Millennials and Gen Z believe it is important for brands to voice an opinion, as compared to 68% of Baby Boomers. 

What is activism costing your brand?

Honestly speaking, the cost of brand activism is pretty high. 55% of consumers said they would shun a brand whose stance they disagreed with. Brands are therefore taking a massive risk when communicating their position on public issues. The fact remains that while it is impossible to please everyone, brands must take a call on when and how to publicly take a stand. It is important to keep in mind how the current topic impacts their business as well as the connection it has with the brand values. 

The secret to purposeful brand activism

Boosting awareness and maximising engagement is every brand’s dream. Employees and consumers are attracted to a brand that sees beyond profit and supports social justice issues. A social good campaign increases exposure and associates the brand with a larger purpose. There is a fine line between solely benefitting from a social justice issue and genuinely supporting it through purpose-driven campaigns. It is easy to get lost in a sea of controversy because everyone has got an opinion on everything. But the brands that come out at the top are the ones who weigh in on social or political issues that resonate with the soul of the brand itself. 

In order to stand out, brands need to keenly reflect on what they stand for. 


The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Asif Upadhye on Twitter
Asif Upadhye
Director at SPRD
Asif Upadhye is the Director and The Dark Knight at SPRD | Stories.PR.Digital, a new-age Public Relations think tank backed by ideators, wordsmiths and design junkies focussed on delivering bespoke services.

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