When Social Movements Mean More Than Money to Brands 
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When Social Movements Mean More Than Money to Brands 

In this Marketing Report:


of surveyed brands are convinced that their position on social matter can influence opinions


of brand have never done a campaign based on a social movement 


of the surveyed companies don’t have anyone to deal with inclusion topics internally

You’ve probably heard of Black Lives Matter, #metoo, Free Palestine, StopAsianHate, Strike for Climate, LGBTQ+…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.  

We wonder: how do brands deal with these social changes

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

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

Brands believe in their social influence

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

Influence brands

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

The Power of a Brand’s Belief

85% of brands believe they have an impact on social matters

Brands believe they mainly have impact on: 

  • Changing people’s opinions (28%)
  • Giving visibility to a cause (24%)

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

Social movements and brands impact

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.  

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. 

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 

Why do brands do movement marketing

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

Reasons movement marketing
  • The matter is important to our client/audience
  • The matter reflects the value of our brand
  • To give visibility to our brand
  • To be part of the conversation
  • For sales/business opportunities
  • As a reaction to the competition 
  • 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.  

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. 

“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 

25% of brands believe they should address social issues that are “trendy”

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.

Kind of social matters

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 

Which department deals with DEI in companies?

49% of our respondents still do not have a committed person within their organization to monitor social concerns. 

Designated person for movement marketing

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.

60% of over-performing companies ensure all employees are fully engaged in their Brand Purpose according to the Association of National Advertisers4.

DEI: it’s an HR’s job

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. 

Internal inclusion

Whereas in Germany 31% believe everyone is accountable to take care of occuring social movements. 

All Talk and No Actions?

58% of brands have never based a marketing campaign on a social movement

47% stated that their marketing approach has changed to cover themes essential to their target demographic.

impact social movements and brands

58% of brands 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

The importance of consulting externals: the H&M case

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%. 

third party social movements and brands

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.

Consider the H&M “monkeyboy”gate, they lost money as a result of their lack of participation and failure to engage a third party for such concerns. They were boycotted, and there were several demonstrations. Their operational earnings fell by 62 percent as well. 

59% Of Brands Keep To Their Values

The failed partnerships

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.  

Failed partnerships

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

More than 80% of brands feel the need to educate their customers

One of the most crucial factors that brands should consider is to educate their consumers about occurring social movements.

Social movements and brands education

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. 

Social Movements, an extra challenge for companies

To avoid a bad buzz, 38% of the marketing team review the campaigns multiple times and 30% admit that it is more challenging. 

Challenges social movements and brands

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. 


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. 


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

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