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Brands: Stand for something or risk everything

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“The president stole your land.”

With those bold words on a stark black screen, Patagonia launched very public opposition to the dramatic downsizing of two national monuments, stating, “In an illegal move, the president just reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.”

Included on that page was a call to action, which allowed individuals to become actively involved in the protest of the reduction of nearly two million acres from federal protection with a few clicks on the keyboard. More than just an advertising or branding campaign, Patagonia also filed a lawsuit to fight the decision in court that same day.

During these uncertain times, one thing is clear: It’s no longer enough for an organization to have a mission statement – they must also have a purpose – and they must make good on that purpose.

This is new, and somewhat shaky, ground for most brands to navigate, but consumers today expect it. According to a recent study, ‘two-thirds of consumers (66%) say it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues.”

Stand for something

Realistically, it’s likely safe to say that everyone reading this has seen the Nike ad “Dream Crazy,” featuring Colin Kaepernick, as well as the uproar that followed. Despite protestations that included angry customers burning Nike products on social media, Nike remained strong in their stance, and consumers rewarded them. The week the ad debuted, Nike’s sales increased by 31%, doubling their increase over the same time period a year prior.

Existing along the path of least resistance will no longer do; companies cannot merely say they stand for something – they must actually be perceived as standing up for those causes and societal issues.

Simply put, if they don’t meet the expectations of consumers, rest assured, there will be a brand more than willing to do so: “Nearly 60% (57%) of consumers are more likely to buy from or boycott a brand because of its stance on a social or political issue. And for these “belief-driven buyers,” silence is not an option.”

“It’s never been more important for brands to have a purpose,” said Stacy Minero, Head of Brand Strategy for Twitter’s #Fuel team. “People are looking for brands to be more of a moral compass, and to stand for something,” she said.

Stacy delivered the receipts in the form of data:

  • 75% of consumers want brands to make contributions to their well-being and quality of life
  • 57% will buy or boycott a brand based on its position on a social or political issue. “Remember when the NFL was the safest bet you could place?” she asked.
  • 30% are buying or boycotting more than they were a year ago

There is No Finish Line” claimed Nike in one of their famous ad campaigns, but it seems we are living in a time that directly juxtaposes this message. Indeed, there is a finish line: Consumers will end their relationships with brands that are not reflective of their societal values.

Customer expectations are shifting. Are you pivoting with them? Join thought leaders from around the globe in Barcelona to learn more about what CX means today.

The power of purpose

It would seem only natural that during times of societal upheaval, people seek out security and comfort. While individuals might feel as though they can do very little to affect change, or might be constrained by the ability to make the time to be active themselves, they are recognizing over and over again the power that they wield through their purchase habits.

Airbnb has turned the hotel industry upside down with their innovative model, but they’ve also developed a strong and loyal consumer base by taking a very outspoken stance for their values. They ran a Super Bowl ad in 2017, declaring #WeAccept all – as a rebuke to Donald Trump’s immigration ban, and during Trump’s 2018 State of the Union speech, they ran an ad at the same time on multiple networks, highlighting Trump’s derogatory comments about immigrants and the countries from which they hailed.

Lyft is teaming up with the Urban League, Vote.Org, and TurboVote to offer free and discounted rides to the polls on election day in November, entering into the political fray to represent those who they believe are not well-represented.

Alicia Tillman, CMO of SAP, notes, “our founding purpose is to build technology that helps customers improve the economy, the environment, and society as a whole – to ultimately help the world run better and improve people’s lives.” She cited SAP’s conservation efforts in Africa, and their dedication to ending forced labor by increasing transparency in the supply chain.

While the political future remains unclear, there is no doubt that brands play a massive role in societal issues that historically fell within the responsibility of government to decide. Quite simply, they must actively work to protect the values of their customers, or risk losing them.

What do customers expect from you, and how can you meet those expectations? Learn more here

This post was originally featured on Forbes SAP Voice, and is republished here with permission.

Jenn Vande Zande
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September 13, 2018
Jenn Vande Zande

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