Why Brands Have Embraced Social Consciousness


If you’ve been a working adult for more than 20 years, you probably remember a time when the last thing any company wanted to do was make a statement about a political or social issue.

Social Consciousness

But the times have changed with the new expectations of modern consumers.

The vast majority of consumers now believe that it’s important for brands to make their stance clear on social and political issues.

About 70 percent of consumers want to know that the brands they support are aware of social and environmental issues, according to a 2019 survey by Markstein, an integrated communications agency, and Certus Insights, a public opinion firm. The survey also found that 46 percent of consumers now pay close attention to a brand’s social responsibility efforts when they buy a product.

The result of this shift is already evidenced in the changed marketing strategies of many of the biggest corporations.

Nike won its first Emmy for “outstanding commercial” in 17 years when it featured the highly controversial athlete Colin Kaepernick, who helped spark a national trend of professional athletes kneeling during the National Anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

When Patagonia, the popular outdoor clothing and equipment company, received $10 million from a GOP tax cut, they donated the money to organizations focused on improving awareness of climate change.

Both companies received lots of positive media attention for these choices, but supporting social causes is still a “risky business,” according to Social Sprout. The company surveyed 1,500 U.S. consumers and concluded the following:

  • Nearly half of consumers, or 47 percent, want brands they support to take a stand on social media.
  • 66 percent of consumers who want brands to take a stand on social issues said they think brands can help bring about positive change. Another 67 percent of surveyed consumers said that brands can help raise awareness about an issue when they voice their support on social media.
  • It’s still risky, though. About half of surveyed consumers, or 53 percent, said that brands only support a social cause to boost their own image. That’s why it’s important for companies to be careful about what causes they champion. The survey found that consumers think it’s better when brands support causes that directly impact their customers, 37 percent, or their business, 36 percent.
  • Picking the wrong cause has consequences. About 55 percent of all surveyed consumers say they would boycott or discontinue shopping with brands that support public issues that don’t align with their own views.

While choosing the right cause can be tricky, it’s also only the first step.

Supporting social causes will only become more important in coming years, and companies of all sizes must look to the future of this trend, and embrace big-picture changes to how they do business, wrote Jonquil Hackenberg for Forbes.

The article mentions Scottish gin producer Dunnet Bay Distillery for integrating sustainability into its growth plans by designing new recyclable packaging, reducing costs, carbon emissions, and consumers’ own carbon footprints in the process. Organizations like ME to WE offer consumers the opportunity to buy products created by artisans in developing nations, and businesses like Notpla have created their business model around social responsibility by inventing a machine that grows a seaweed-based plastic alternative to try and prevent the billion plastic bottles that are dumped in the ocean every year.

Society is changing with consumer expectations, and the process is only beginning, Forbes wrote.

“What’s needed is a complete overhaul, from start to finish, of how a business operates–no matter its size or scale,” Hackenberg wrote “To do so in a way that creates the most value means grounding sustainability in what consumers want and need…Businesses should be leading, not following. Rather than focus on what consumers care about today, we need to dust off our crystal balls, and ask: What will consumers care about in 5 years, or even 20 years’ time?”

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Why Brands Have Embraced Social Consciousness
Society is changing with consumer expectations, and the process is only beginning
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