These Brands Are Starting Movements (And Your Brand Can Too)

Feb 23, 2018 10:00 AM ET

Delivering on brand relevance also requires welcoming more and different voices to the table, using our collective wisdom to solve problems together and rallying consumers and employees to take action with us as brands. When net trust in global corporations is less than zero, it is understandable that brands may feel overwhelmed and afraid to go it alone. That is why thoughtful partnerships can empower brands to tackle meaningful issues without feeling like they are straining credibility or speaking out of turn.

A Level Playing Field

As a co-op, REI is uniquely positioned to rally participation and make change from the bottom up. The outdoor gear and apparel brand broke all the rules of retail with the #OptOutside campaign, closing its doors on Black Friday to give employees the day off to get outside with their families and encouraging everyone to enjoy more time outdoors. Working with more than 275 national and local partner organizations, the brand is creating a new tradition where “people think about the Friday after Thanksgiving differently,” says REI Chief Creative Offcer Ben Steele.

Building on this momentum, REI’s 2017 campaign Force of Nature champions women’s outdoor adventures with a storytelling series, women-focused events, a national retreat and a product line all intended “to make outside the largest level playing field on Earth” and close the gap in gear design and opportunities for women who want to engage in outdoor sports. REI is creating a movement brand in the way it lives its values and how it engages employees and consumers alike as a committed tribe of outdoor enthusiasts and brand advocates who are proud to use business as a force for good. 

Climate Justice is Sweet

Ben & Jerry’s social good efforts go well beyond their ethical ingredients and B Corporation commitments. The ice cream company has a long history of fighting for climate justice and innovating ways to reduce the environmental impact of the business. With the growing concern over climate change, but lack of momentum in places like the United States, Ben & Jerry’s is rallying its customers in partnership with the online activism platform Avaaz to raise awareness and demand climate action by engaging our global leaders.

They are doing this through a very simple bit of logic: If it’s melted, it’s ruined. It’s true for ice cream, and it’s true for the planet. Partnerships with climate action organizations 350org, The Climate Reality Project and BICEP have added more depth to the campaign while Ben & Jerry’s lovable brand and extensive reach have helped amplify the cause. They have even taken the message to the freezer aisle where their “Save Our Swirled” ice cream flavor puts the climate action message right on the package. It does not hurt that it is delivered deliciously with raspberries, marshmallows and fudge, too.

Safe Sex is Sexy

For Meika Hollender, the co-founder of Sustain Natural, a brand of natural condoms and sexual wellness products, brand leadership means raising her voice to redefine the role of business in society and inspire movements that shift consumer behavior and inspire action. At a time when only 21% of single women use condoms, Hollender is launching a new engagement platform called Get On Top to inspire women everywhere to practice safe sex. Celebrating a world where “safe sex is smart, safe sex is you in charge of you, safe sex is fun and safe sex is sexy,” the campaign features the voices of women like Refinery 29 co-founder Piera Gelardi, model and activist Yomi Abiola, and THINX founder Miki Agrawal giving the cause an inviting, and decidedly hip, tone.

Hollender has also extended the movement to a book called Get on Top: Of Your Pleasure, Sexuality & Wellness: A Vagina Revolution, a “pro-pleasure, safety-first and sex-positive” guide for the “Girlboss generation.” With a serious cause, a relatable, positive tone and a culturally relevant engagement strategy, the brand is breaking cultural taboos, redefining behavioral norms and empowering a future that is safe and sexy.

Life Saving Behavior

Mainstream brands are also working to leverage their reach and influence to affect behavior change. AT&T recognized the tremendous danger of texting while driving and the brand’s role in this growing safety threat. To raise awareness of its dangers and help abate the behavior, AT&T launched the It Can Wait campaign inviting citizens to pledge to never drive distracted. The brand commissioned research to underscore the seriousness of the issue and promoted their #ItCanWait hashtag to encourage social media advocacy for the cause. The It Can Wait movement has grown into a meaningful rallying cry for people who are concerned about safety on the roads.

Starting a movement can be especially powerful when brands join forces and invite participation by their peers and competitors in the interest of making positive change for society. With alliances like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, The Climate Collaborative, and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, brands are joining forces to tackle society’s toughest challenges and leverage collaboration to increase the pace of change and deliver private sector progress.

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