Today companies need to be seen as more than just profit-driven. They need to be seen as leaders in their fields. One of the ways to do this is by being viewed as having an impact on our biggest societal problems or by making our world a better place in which to live, work and play. Simply talking about it isn’t good enough – companies need to demonstrate these brand values on a daily basis.
Cover for Activists Dare to Care. Brand your activism for social change – paperback cover, by Christophe Fauconnier
This is especially relevant for millennials who have high expectations for brands. Most would like brands to show concern for the communities they serve and the world we live in. And they speak with their wallet to those companies that share values similar to theirs. In fact, they even favour working for firms where they share the same values.
Sure, while most sponsorships are aimed at solving marketing issues such as increasing product sales or generating in-store traffic, “brand activism” is becoming increasingly important as companies compete for the loyalty of customers.
So what is brand activism? According to Wikipedia: “Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, and/or environmental reform or stasis with the desire to make improvements in society”. So, whether it be on a grand scale or in a local community, it is directed at solving societal problems or making things better.
By their very nature, certain sponsorship assets (programs, services, events, causes) become great platforms for companies to demonstrate values and help improve society by contributing to social issues, environmental causes, recreation centres promoting healthy living, etc. They are also equally great ways for companies and/or their employees to participate in activities that are important to their customers or potential customers.
There is abundant research to support the fact that consumers favour companies that participate in or fund activities they see as worthwhile. For example, the Edelman Good Purpose Study (2012) illustrated the impact between corporate social responsibility and consumer attitudes:
70% of Canadians are more likely to recommend a brand that supports a good cause than one that doesn’t (18% increase over 2007);
69% of respondents would help brands promote their products or services if there are good causes behind them (a 23% jump since 2007);
67% of Canadians trust a company that actively supports a societal issue;
84% would be more likely to give their business to a company that supports good causes and has fair prices than a company that simply offers discounts;
80% of Canadians say it is okay for brands or companies to make money, as long as they’re giving back.
As millennials assume positions of influence in our society, brand activism will play a more dominant role as long as companies “put their money where their mouth is” and become more value-driven organizations. Forward-thinking companies would be wise to support activities that build on their values for long-term sustainability rather than always looking for the “quick win”.