You’ve probably heard of Black Lives Matter, #metoo, Free Palestine, StopAsianHate, Strike for Climate, LGBTQ+… These are some of the biggest social movements in the world that have marked the last decade. Both socially and economically.

Many studies have shown the importance of movement marketing or brand purpose on consumers buying intentions. 64% of the consumers aka Belief-Driven Buyers will choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on where it stands on the political or social issues they care about. 

Not only do consumers encourage brands that take a stance, they also point out brands with campaigns seen as offensive. How not to remember Pepsi’s campaign starring Kendall Jenner or H&M’s huge flop with the little black boy wearing the wrong t-shirt

We wonder: how do brands deal with these social changes?

Do brands truly believe in the social matters they promote? Or is it another marketing hoax? Do brands truly think they can make a difference or are they just communicating what the client wants to hear? What are their true intentions? 

Sortlist surveyed 800 marketing managers from 5 countries to understand how they cope with those changes and where they stand on social matters.

Key findings:

  • 85% of surveyed brands are convinced that their position on social matter can influence opinions
  • Nowadays, marketing teams find it more challenging to build campaigns as they need to be reviewed multiple times
  • 58% of brands find it is necessary to take a step back to align their values before jumping on a social movement
  • Nearly 60% of brand have never done a campaign based on a social movement
  • 86% is ready to educate their consumers about a social movement and 83% is ready to collaborate with an expert for a certain matter
  • ½ of the surveyed companies don’t have anyone to deal with inclusion topics internally, 22% have a dedicated person 

Table of contents

Over 80% Of Brands See the Importance of Highlighting Social Movements

The majority (80%) of the companies polled believe in the importance of social movements and the influence they may have on today’s society. 

With Dutch and Germans being more skeptical & critical, about 20% of their respondents are less confident of the social influence of brands. 

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The Power of a Brand’s Belief

Brands believe they mainly have impact on: 

  • Changing people’s opinions
  • Giving visibility to a cause 

Most of the managers believe that a brand has the power to alter people’s minds

Dove is a good example of a brand that decided to change people’s perceptions about female bodies. The brand can no longer be separated from body acceptance, and all feminine shapes are now part of the brand.

Spain is the only surveyed country where the majority stands out with 28% convinced that brands mainly give visibility to a certain social matter. This with the aim of informing and educating their consumers

Last but not least, when it comes to social movements it seems that money isn’t the objective.  Only 12% of individuals polled believe that raising or donating money is the key to solving social issues. 

Change is not brought about via the use of money, but rather by informing, educating and highlighting important issues.  In the past most brands decided to support causes by donating and advertise around those donations. Nowadays brands feel they need to be involved and so do consumers.

70% of Kera’s survey respondents said a CEO’s public reaction to an issue, like the Black Lives Matter movement, would permanently affect their decision to buy from that company. 

The #1 Reason Why Brands Act: Pleasing the Audience 

 We asked the marketing managers to rank their top reason why they would do “movement marketing”: 

  1. The matter is important to our client/audience
  2. The matter reflects the value of our brand
  3. To give visibility to our brand 
  4. To be part of the conversation
  5. For sales/business opportunities
  6. As a reaction to the competition 
  7. The matter was brought up internally 

The main reason why brands  find it necessary to take a position is because it is important to their audience/customers. 

More than ever, customers are always kings in the eyes of brands. They can use social media to express concerns, dissatisfaction or gratify a brand’s strategy and brands do understand that. 

When consumers think a brand has a strong Purpose, they are:  4 times more likely to purchase from the company, 6 times more likely to protect the company in the event of a misstep or public criticism, 4.5 times more likely to champion the company and recommend it to friends and family, 4.1 times more likely to trust the company.” 

2020 Zeno Strength of Purpose Study

Germany is the lone rebel in this scenario as for them,brand values come first. They are not as willing to play the role of the people pleaser. 

58% of respondents think that it is preferable for a brand to take a step back and consider how it may help to a societal issue based on its beliefs.

The average majority of our respondents (32%) is convinced that a brand should engage in social movements that only fit their values.  And even if brands use their marketing to address social issues you can’t take the business out of it.

25% of the respondents said they should mainly address issues that are trending and drive online conversations. We won’t blame them when you know that Unilever’s sustainable brands grew 46% faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70% of its turnover growth & Nike had a 14% increase on their revenue growth when using Colin Kaepernick in their campaign. 

France is the country where marketing teams are the least interested in tackling trending topics with 19% whereas the Netherlands is the country with the most interest in topics that drive conversations with 34%

The Key: Know Your Values and Know Your Team 

The fact that 49% of our respondents do not have a committed person within their organization to monitor social concerns was noteworthy to us. 

The responses of the interviewees are varied. It is worth noting that in the French (35%) and Spanish (36%) markets, the HR department is in charge of social movements. 

In  the Netherlands the majority of department heads take care of social movements within their teams. Whereas in Germany 31% believe everyone is accountable to take care of occuring social movements.

22% of companies have a dedicated person and 6% are looking for someone. Most digital companies that target Millenials and Gen Z, like Asos & Netflix, have hired dedicated people.

Not only do they know this is an important value of their audience but it also helps them attract the right profiles into their company and spread the values. 60% of over-performing companies ensure all employees are fully engaged in their Brand Purpose according to the Association of National Advertisers4.

All Talk and No Actions? 

47% of our respondents stated that their marketing approach has changed to cover themes essential to their target demographic.But in fact, there are still 58% of brands who have never based a marketing campaign on a social movement.

With 34% Spain is the country that had the most marketing campaigns based on social movements.  

37% of respondents who have done movement marketing have seen an increase in the credibility, loyalty of their customers

Only a few faced backlash or misinterpretation. The value of movement marketing is undeniable on the brand image but also on  revenue growth

Staying Silent Is No Longer an Option

60% of our respondents think it is important to consult a third party before starting a campaign. Spain is in the lead with 74%, followed by France with 65%

Germany (16%), Belgium (9%) and the Netherlands (10%) seem less convinced. As mentioned above, these are countries that put the values of a brand before the wishes of the clients.-

However, the proper individuals can keep you from failing. Consider the H&M “monkeyboy”gate. The consequences for H&M were pronounced. They were boycotted, and there were several demonstrations. Their operational earnings fell by 62 percent as well. H&M definitely lost money as a result of their lack of participation and failure to engage a third party for such concerns.

59% Of Brands Keep To Their Values

As a brand, you can no longer afford to remain indifferent when it comes to social movements. You must know when to respond without violating yourself or your ideals, but also not losing clients. 

59% of our respondents believe it is more than common to discontinue working with a partner that does not share the brand’s values. The French and Dutch speaking markets are taking the lead on this. 

Thanks to today’s technology and the public’s empowerment, unnecessary collaborations are more often exposed. Take the example of Lego and Shell. After more than 50 years of cooperation, Lego has decided to stop working with the oil giant. 

Education Is a Must to Overcome

One of the most crucial factors that brands should consider is to educate their consumers about occurring social movements. 86% of our respondents said they would certainly think about it. This is led by Spain, with 88%, followed by Germany with 87%.

83% of the respondents said they would cooperate with professionals to educate their employees. With a high 91% chance, the Spanish market is the most likely to do so.

Responsibility Lies in Your Brand’s Hands

With the growth of the social movement, brands are more cautious and skeptical before launching a campaign, particularly in France and Belgium (41%), Spain (41%), and the Netherlands (38%). Germans (31%), on the other hand, find it more difficult than previously. A poor buzz on social media can spread rapidly, and the ramifications for businesses may be severe.

To avoid a bad buzz, 38% of the marketing team review the campaigns multiple times and 30% admit that it is more challenging. On top of that, 60% of marketing managers say they always test their campaign before a launch with a third party and 30% do it only for campaigns where they have a doubt.

Conclusion: If You Are Comfortable, Then You Are Not Listening

We may infer that businesses are still exploring uncharted ground when it comes to social movements. The desire is present, but the approach is not yet obvious.

Brands recognize the need to adapt as a result of their customers, but they do not always have the finest internal resources to do it. Only a few companies have launched a marketing campaign centered on a social issue, and they typically do it to improve their image. They are worried because they know they will have to edit everything multiple times. However, the brands that took the risks experienced significant rises. Overall, taking a stance, when done right, does translate into good business.

Methodology

We surveyed 800 marketing managers from the 27/09/2021 to the 01/10/2021 in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain & Germany