Social Issue BrandingBy Tom Dougherty
Social issue branding is here to stay
It wasn’t that long ago when company executives would say, “It’s all about the bottom line.” No more. Today’s social upheaval is changing the way executives think. A new study says a whopping 83% of executives feel their companies must take social stances. So, here comes social issue branding.
Of course, those execs see taking those stands as impacting the bottom line. But it’s still a shocking development. One that didn’t exist this time last year.
Mark it as another impact of 2020, the craziest and most tragic year for many of us.
I’ve been thinking about why companies would consider social issue branding as part of their messaging. You see it everywhere now, whether it’s COVID-19 related or otherwise. Executives believe consumers expect that brands will stake a position on social justice, diversity and other issues.
They call it being purpose driven. I call it being brand-driven.
“But the new social issue branding is here to stay. There’s a movement afoot that feels like a sea change. I could be wrong. But even the most jaded people on Earth – C-suite executives – think times are a-changing too.”
Social issue branding must be meaningful
You see, brand is all about meaning. What you stand for and what you don’t. Who you are for and who you are not. Social issue branding is no different.
Especially if the executives are right. Audiences expect it.
I also imagine there are other reasons for it. Recruitment becomes a large part of any company’s operations. No social messaging can be deafening to prospective employees. Because in the absence of a message, audiences will fill in one for you.
But social issue messaging also means your overall brand must have permission to own those positions. It becomes more emotional when your brand is emotional. It’s an easy example, but Nike’s “Just Do It” perfectly accepts any social stance.
I just wish brands weren’t quite in lock step when it comes to their social messaging. The images and messages are all the same with few of them making an impact. My guess is companies aren’t sure exactly how to achieve it. How to look and feel differently from the rest. They aren’t sure what to say or how to make those messages organic to how they operate.
But the new social issue branding is here to stay. There’s a movement afoot that feels like a sea change. I could be wrong. But even the most jaded people on Earth – C-suite executives – think times are a-changing too.
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