13 March, 2020
Consumers increasingly look to buy from brands whose values align with theirs.
That said, social marketing is nothing new, and this week saw the opening of a new exhibition at the Museum of Brands exploring what happens when brands take on social issues. Many of the exhibits will be fresh in people’s minds – who can forget Pepsi’s thoroughly tone-deaf treatment of the Black Lives Matter movement, or Nike’s powerful stand with American football player, Colin Kaepernick – while other examples may be new.
But what this exhibition really highlights is the interesting relationship between brands and society at large. Do brands have a duty to address the social and environmental issues related to their function; is it important for advertising to be distanced from political issues; should brands be engaging in these issues at all?
And it’s a particularly interesting time to observe brands’ involvement in social issues. Aside from Lush, brands have been notably absent from the conversation around Coronavirus (although a certain Mexican beer brand has something to say about that…). But epidemics are inevitably difficult to influence in a positive way, with high risks if brands seem to be trying to profit from a public health crisis, misinform the public, or make light of a sensitive issue. It’s easier for some brands than others – for example, tech brands have a role to play in preventing the spread of misinformation; meanwhile, healthcare brands sell products that are useful in the face of infection.
It’s an interesting time to explore the ever-complex role of brands in society and our day-to-day lives. But if you’re feeling nervous about crowds and travel, fear not – the exhibition is open until October!