Consumers Want Brands to Put a Stake in the Ground on Issues That Matter

Feb 20, 2018 9:00 AM ET

More than ever before, consumers want brands to put a stake in the ground. It is not simply about reacting to today’s news cycle, but rather knowing where you stand and standing strong when issues arise.

As traditional corporate philanthropy efforts have ceased to capture the love and loyalty of consumers, it is time to rethink old models of CSR and consider how your brand’s purpose can translate to more meaningful and culturally relevant efforts that excite and engage consumers. 

Marketing and CSR teams are joining forces to create consumer-facing platforms and campaigns that bring the brand’s voice, perspective and initiatives to the masses. To navigate today’s increasingly volatile political and cultural dynamics, it is essential to use your north star values as a touchstone to connect with consumers who are increasingly preoccupied with serious social and environmental challenges.

Fighting Discrimination

Airbnb disrupted the travel and hospitality industry by making authentic human connection the center of their brand promise to “belong anywhere.” In 2016, when researchers identified a pattern of racial discrimination by users of their platform, the company re-imagined their policies to require all members of the Airbnb community to “accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age.”

To underscore their commitment to building an inclusive community of travelers and hosts, the brand launched “We Accept,” a short film and television commercial that aired during the 2017 Super Bowl that highlights their vision of belonging and reinforces the new Community Commitment that must be signed by all people using the service.

Welcoming Refugees

Similarly, with a mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit and create a place where everyone is welcome, Starbucks is taking a stand by committing to employ 10,000 refugees over the next five years. Known for their long-standing history of creating job opportunities for all and investing in the people who are a part of the communities where they do business, the initiative not only helps address a serious global crisis, but it reinforces their reputation at the local community level. “We are fighting for what we love and believe in, and that is the idealism and the aspiration of America, the promise of America, the America that we all know and hold so true,” CEO Howard Schultz explained in the New York Times. 

No Mining Required

In a bold move that reinforces the brand’s leadership in design and innovation, Apple is taking on the industry challenge of mining toxic, rare-Earth metals and materials – like the cobalt in the batteries of their beloved iPhones, iPads and MacBooks – by committing to a future in which no mining is required and all materials in their products are recycled. The brand is taking a stand even though they do not yet know how they will accomplish their goal. As Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives and a former head of the EPA told VICE News: “We’re a little nervous, but we also think it’s really important, because as a sector we believe it’s where technology should be going.”

By acting on your deepest values and taking stands on the issues that are material to your business and meaningful to your consumers, brands can build deeper bonds, pioneer new innovations and drive positive social and environmental impact at the same time.

For more design principles, global consumer insights and inspiring brand examples, click here to download BBMG and GlobeScan's full report, Brand Purpose in Divided Times