Over the past few years, there’s been a significant shift in brands’ willingness to take on larger, global issues—regardless of what they sell—to influence change. Standing up for an issue is no longer a risk but can be a positive trait for many consumers if approached correctly. A 2021 Business and Social Justice Report from Porter Novelli found 66 percent of Americans believe companies have a role to play in addressing social justice issues, and 59 percent say it isn’t acceptable for companies to be silent. As a result, many companies are adopting or seriously considering marketing activism.
If this is something your organization is exploring, let’s first address some misconceptions and frequent questions about marketing activism. To begin with, it’s not synonymous with marketing advocacy.
Marketing activism directly reaches consumers with its messages and efforts, while advocacy works through the legislative process. It’s not about telling consumers what to do but instead supporting movements that are already happening. Marketing activism is also different from cause marketing, where an organization might donate some of its proceeds to a charity that all consumers would support. It’s typically a greater ongoing effort that’s connected with the organization’s brand vision.
Even within this definition, there’s a broad spectrum of actions companies can take. While some organizations make activism a central and unignorable part of their brand or choose to pursue becoming a certified B Corporation, it can also be a path that organizations gradually pursue.
With an understanding of what marketing activism truly means, organizations can decide if it’s the right approach for them and begin down that path. Getting started doesn’t need to be complicated but requires three key steps — aligning your mission, vision, and values, establishing a consistent strategy, and putting the vision into action.
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