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Joshua Chua

Hall of fame

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! 

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