As we make strides through the halfway mark of 2015, it can go without saying that this year has proven to be the year of the pro-social brand. What does this mean exactly? Instead of boasting their own sustainability, brands have started to publicly back sociopolitical issues like gender equality, racial justice, climate change, medical ethics, foreign aid and more.
Consumers are no longer impressed or affected by a company who anticipates customer approval through charitable giving and progressive actions towards key environmental issues––in fact, they’ve come to expect it. But, can you blame them (us)? We are constantly surrounded by brands who have been founded on the basis of charity and corporate social responsibility. Take TOMS and Warby Parker’s “buy-one, give-one” business model for example, or Charity Water and People Water, who provide clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
So, when it comes to what YOU as a brand can do to “impress” customers and show your social respect and responsibility, they’re most likely thinking “been there, done that”.
Brands taking strong stands on social issues didn’t start gaining momentum until 2014. Last year, the Huffington Post reported on 27 major companies that boldly came out in support of marriage equality. And if 2015 has proven anything, it’s that consumers are no longer interested in brands who shy away from pivotal social issues, leaving their stance on these topics to our discretion. Instead, consumers believe companies should make it clear where they stand on the sociopolitical debates of the day.
Having a brand confidently rally behind a controversial topic, strikes the public that the issue has reached a tipping point of acceptance––and, in so doing, increases the rate of change. However, this type of heroic behavior doesn’t come without it’s fair share of criticism and condemnation.
Let us think for ourselves
Notable brands like Bud Light and Martha Stewart Living have taken quite a bit of backlash for making their stance on sociopolitical issues known, particularly marriage equality; even risking their conservative consumer base in the process. This type of advocacy has left many unruly consumers questioning if corporations belong in the political process or if they should leave their opinions to themselves and let consumers form their own viewpoint.
While this way of thinking may have been the “norm” in the past, pro-social branding’s MO is not about maliciously interfering with politics; rather, it’s about embracing today’s cultures and diversities, encouraging citizens and consumers alike to raise their voices against the oppression of the modern day.
Pro-social branding has transformed ethics
The pro-social trend has accelerated the urgency for ethical behavior. By being more politically disruptive and inspiring than your everyday sustainable brands, pro-social brands focus on outwardly taking a stance on key sociopolitical issues––rather than focusing on what a brand has accomplished internally to drive a better world.
At Creative Haus, we applaud the brands who have so valiantly taken a stand against today’s largest moral issues. Below we dig a bit deeper into a few companies and corporations who have helped pave the way to not only becoming a sustainable brand––but a more involved and committed one.
In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of gay marriage nationwide, many brands have taken this opportunity to show their support for marriage equality and gender equality in general.
Rayo Vallecano announced that the sale of their new 2015-16 away kit will be split between seven causes that aim to tackle discrimination. Each color of the team’s sash represents the support of a particular movement, while all six of the colors combined represents the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Most of us are familiar with Always’ “Like A Girl” campaign, which debuted in June of 2014 and then again as a 60-second national ad for Super Bowl XLIX. Applauded for changing the perception of the phrase ‘like a girl’, the Procter & Gamble feminine products brand aimed to do more than just bridge the gap between gender equality. With more than 80 million views worldwide, the Internet has been overwhelmed by the support, encouragement and positive impact the video has made.
If you haven’t, watch the ad below and see how you feel the next time someone utters the phrase #LikeAGirl.
As the first company in the U.S. to be certified with the EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality) global standard for workplace gender equality, L’Oréal USA was recognized for their commitment to support gender equality throughout the workplace in August of 2014. The EDGE assessment is currently the only business certification for gender equality in the workplace that is universally accepted across industries and countries.
Everyone’s favorite ice cream connoisseurs, Ben and Jerry’s caused quite a swirl, if you will, when they announced their “Save Our Swirled” tour in March. With an updated ice cream truck (an outfitted Tesla which stored ice cream and had an e-mail sign-up station), the team set out to help build the movement to fight climate change.
By simply tweeting at the tour’s Twitter handles, the Ben and Jerry’s team made their way around neighborhoods and offices, delivering free scoops for climate change. The Creative Haus team was lucky enough to help them with their cause. The free ice cream wasn’t half bad either!
Would you believe us if we told you that IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant, is also a leader in climate mitigation and renewable energy? In June, the company known for its ready-to-assemble furniture announced a $1.13 billion commitment to address the effects of global warming in developing countries.
“Climate change is one of the world’s biggest challenges and we need bold commitments and action to find a solution,” said Peter Agnefjäll, IKEA Group president and CEO. “That’s why we are going all in to transform our business, to ensure that it is fit for the future and we can have a positive impact. This includes going 100 percent for renewable energy, by investing in wind and solar, and converting all our lighting products to affordable LED bulbs, helping many millions of households to live a more sustainable life at home.”
In light of the recent events surrounding Charleston, South Carolina the long-running controversy over the appropriateness of the Confederate flag has fallen into the spotlight. The flag, a reminder and symbol of the slaveholding South, has become the center of a national debate. So much so, that Walmart, Sears, eBay and Amazon all announced bans on the sale of Confederate flag merchandise.
In hopes to not offend consumers with the products they sell, the retailers removal of all items promoting the Confederate flag from their assortment is a step in the right direction towards racial justice.
What have we learned?
If there’s anything the pro-social brand can teach us, it’s that company’s motives are becoming more and more genuine. But this doesn’t mean that consumers won’t run into a few cases of “Causewashing” every now and then. While we would like to believe that every brand is looking out for the greater good and making a stance for/against the social issues of 2015, a business is a business (after all) and profits are generally at the forefront of every investor’s minds.
90% of Americans say that they are more likely to trust brands that back social causes. So if your brand isn’t taking part in the sociopolitical conversation, you might want to think about it.