Brands = The New Weapons for Social Change

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Brands = The New Weapons for Social Change
Brands = The New Weapons for Social Change

A brand speaking to a consumer is now an experience not much different from a friend or a trusted news source speaking to a consumer. Brands are even inviting consumers to talk back. Brands now think in terms of dialogue, with the ultimate relationship being defined as one that is give and take between brands and their loyalists. This gives consumers the feeling that brands want to hear their opinions on more than just what price they charge or what package change they are considering.

Consumers feel their power

With brands inviting input from consumers—actually in many cases measuring the success of their relationships with consumers by how many comments or pieces of input they receive— the door has been opened for consumers to not simply like brands but to also make demands and get responses. Today consumers are feeling increasingly that they have a vote in how their favorite brands respond to issues in the world.

What must brands do?

What are brands to do about this? To start, they need to really understand their “brand calling.” Why does the brand exist—not the benefits and features, but what it stands for, its soul. Brands today need to weigh every sponsorship and communication channel. What possible political and social territory could each new relationship provide for the brand, wanted and unwanted, intended and unintended? Weigh the risks. Also, look at the competitors in the category. What issues are they supporting? Sometimes connections to environmental or political hot button issues are obvious. Sometimes they are on the horizon when you consider the changes in world politics and consumer awareness trends.

Most of all, brands should look at what the underlying weapon is in these battles—money. Where is the brand spending its money and where is it making a profit? Put yourself in the shoes of someone wanting to fight for a position on an issue. Does where your brand spends its money or reaps its profits make you a logical weapon in the fight for a cause? If so, be prepared—or even preempt the discussion—by taking a stand. Or reconsider your marketing plan to make sure you're making choices that you can live with and defend as consumers become more aware of their power to pressure brands for social change.

Brad Fuller is US managing director at full-service marketing agency RIVET Global. A 20+ year marketing industry veteran, he has worked at numerous agencies, including Momentum, Glennon, and Zipatoni. His client experience covers a broad spectrum of accounts in categories from CPG to QSR, including financial services, soft drinks, hardware, beer, and baby products.

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