In the past decade, it has become increasingly popular for brands and marketers alike to form alliances towards socio-political causes. “Activism” has become a great part of our society as young people, like Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg take to world stages and demand that their grievances be heard.
As more young people try to navigate their futures and protect themselves from the social ills we face today, it has become increasingly difficult for brands to market their products and services in the same way it did in years before. What’s more important than marketing itself, is that brands do not co-opt movements, but rather, become allies of the people. As consumers become increasingly socially-conscious (you can read more about it here), brands need to start shifting how they source, manufacture, produce and sell their products.
Jacinta Austin writes, “When brands match activist messaging, purpose, and values with prosocial corporate practice, they engage in what is being called brand activism. This form of marketing has the opportunity to create the potential for social change and the largest gains in brand equity.”
What does this mean for marketers? Can the industry shift with sincerity?
This means that marketers really should get on board – what affects the consumer, affects the marketer too, because let’s face it: we’re all consumers in some way. Shifting with sincerity on the other hand, can be troublesome which is why many academics have taken to writing about issues like “pink-washing*” or “green-washing**”. But there is room for growth and great space for marketers to establish honest grounds for a cause.
*Pink-washing is the practice of a state or company presenting itself as gay-friendly and progressive, in order to downplay their negative behavior.
**Green-washing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound.
For many consumers, how a brand portrays itself, the way it manages its social and public relations and who it chooses to endorse indicates where the brand’s loyalty lays (a major “uno-reverse***” if you will between consumer and brand).
***Uno reverse – A card used in the game uno. Also used in arguments to counter the insult back at the speaker. The uno reverse is even more powerful than ‘no u’. (urbandictionery.com)
The Harvard Business Review writes that there are ways in which marketers can get behind consumers and help to establish strong brand alliances to social issues. With mounting pressures from consumers and corporates alike, brand managers and marketing gurus can really disrupt the ways in which industries have thrived for centuries before, despite how harmful it could be to the environment. In the face of climate change, it has become even more crucial that governments adopt policies to prevent the inevitable difficulties the issue of climate change presents. We have already seen how Big Tech has moved towards more sustainable modes of production and seeking ways to function without harming the environment (read more about that here), so let’s ask – “How can marketers do the same?”
How can marketers make the difference?
There is no doubt that climate change outcomes will have a profound impact on many different companies in the future, but marketing professionals may not be familiar with the steps they can take to combat it.
We’ve broken it down for you and provided a few tips that can be put in place by all businesses in the fight against global warming – as outlined by the You Matter organisation:
1. Raise awareness among employees, clients and other stakeholders
An excellent idea for promoting sustainability issues is to organise contests, hackathons, and awareness campaigns in-house. Create something original, distinctive, powerful, and that keeps you top of mind when partnering with outside organisations. In this way, you’ll put your company or yourself on the map for other green-thinking companies looking to join forces for future work.
2. Choose sustainable suppliers
Ethically sourcing suppliers can be extremely difficult but choosing to actively find and work with sustainable suppliers, especially small local businesses, should be high on the list of how we source goods. As marketers, while we do not always choose suppliers for brands, we do choose how we produce, manage and put goods and services out into the world. Choosing to do so with sustainability in mind (like using Google Drive instead of printing out 100 sheets of paper), can really make the difference.
3. Mobilise for the climate change challenge
Whether we like it or not, we have long passed the time of laying low as an industry. Choosing to be political or “getting political” is an important aspect of marketing today. Whatever cause it may be, whether through donations, organising or even simply providing information or being openly in solidarity with a cause, it is increasingly important that marketers start pushing towards climate change activism through the brands they manage. In fact, there are so many tactical days in the calendar to help your brands establish a firm sense of solidarity – think World Earth Day and Earth Hour as an example.
In conclusion, climate change is happening rapidly and while we can’t save the world by ourselves, contributing to positive change should be a non-negotiable industry-standard globally. Marketers hold a great responsibility to the public consumer and the brands they manage. Making a conscious effort to combat climate change whether in office or through your brands’ image, will make a bigger difference than you know.