By now, we expect more global brands to be more socially involved since brand activism has already been embraced for quite some time. Nike, Starbucks, and Patagonia, among others, have fully embraced brand activism and have proven that taking a stand does more good than harm.
This is because people do actually care about things. Our current culture, thanks to social media, allows us to openly express our personal take on politics, the environment, acceptance in the community, inequality, and other topics that touch on our beliefs and way of life. We even go to the point of extending this care on our lifestyle choices and brand preference as most of us literally put our money where our mouth is.
We expect the brands we find affinity with to behave the same way as well. For brands to win our attention and be among our purchase options, they have to engage us and also at least project a conscience or a set of values that are aligned with our own.
It’s so easy to generalize though
If we are confident that most of us possess the above-described behavior as consumers when it comes to how much we align socially relevant and active brands, then how come local brands are not compelled and prompted to even have a crack at it?
Predicting consumer behavior by itself is already a challenge. Brands have to dig deep into the underlying motivations that drive purchasing decisions and preferences of their target consumers. In the age of social media, aside from recall, among the main metrics brands are being measured is their level of engagement. Hitting the right spot in terms of engagement rate already involves so much. What more when you ask brands to venture into topics where people have varied and conflicting stances and opinions? With the complications and sensitivities of dealing with beliefs, we can’t expect brands to readily jump in and risk their hard-earned reputation.
However, the benefits, if applicable to local brands, are enticing despite the identified cons. The question, then, is: are Filipino brands in the position to follow the steps of those big global brands that ventured into brand activism? As possible patrons to these local brands, are we also inclined to support socially “woke” brands? We lay down some considerations:
Local Color, Local Considerations
Filipinos rank among the top when it comes to social media use based on international surveys. While such behavior can provide insights to local brands as to where they can engage their audience. However, numbers from studies available do not give brands any solid basis as to the general Filipino behavior when it comes to engaging with brands. Local brands are left to themselves to define when they’re crossing the line and damaging their brand reputation with their campaigns, especially those that are sensitive to current social realities.
Social media content in the Philippines, especially concerning themes involving politics, corruption, gender, and culture may be described as divisive. Facebook recently shut down several pages spreading political propaganda and fake news. Regardless of the nature of the content posted by these pages, there were still some “netizens” who expressed disagreement to such a move since the pages were aligned with their political beliefs. Cancel culture is also proliferating in local social media among “woke” netizens. These are the current social media intricacies brands are exposed to regardless of their political or social beliefs or affiliations. However “dangerous” the landscape may seem for brand activism, there is a silver lining.
Brand Activism Means Much More Locally
To bolster its social media presence, Ligo, a known sardines brand in the Philippines, rolled out a campaign primarily based on pun-filled social commentary regarding current events. The brand got their fair share of bashers because some got b*tthurt by their social media content, yet their courageous stint earned them supporters and bolstered their following.
In an online dipstick survey conducted by Comm&Sense, Inc. on Brand Activism in the Philippines, they found out that the majority (69.6%) of the poll participants expressed a high probability for them to support brands that take a stand on issues closely connected or relevant to their products/services, values, and employees. They also believe that it is very important for brands to talk about the most pressing issues in society. However, the majority of the respondents believe that what brands should do is to find ways to encourage their customers to join the discussion.
A unique finding from the study is that the majority of the respondents believe that brands play a big role in generating awareness regarding issues that drive social change. Aside from the likelihood of recommending brands who take a stand on social issues, the respondents indicated that they are more inclined to learn more about social issues that are highlighted by brands.
Based on the findings of the Brand Activism dipstick survey by Comm&Sense, Inc., here are the social issues local brands should talk more about (in descending order, according to the respondents’ perceived general importance):
- Environmental Sustainability (91.7%)
- Global Warming/Climate Change (90.9%)
- Animal Rights (88.6%)
- Provision for Public Health Coverage (88.5%)
- Alternative Modes to Education (87.9%)
- Animal Welfare (87.4%)
- Subsidy for Private Health Facilities (87.1%)
- Family Planning/Sex Education (86.3%)
- Gender Equality (86%)
- Racial Discrimination (83.5%)
When Caring Is Engaging
The demand for socially relevant and involved brands has risen because of the values and principles promoted and maintained by the millennial market and as how things are going, the current consumer behavior is yet far from shifting to another direction. With this phenomenon, the risk of losing market due to brand apathy is higher compared to the risk of losing market due to engaging in brand activism.
From the responses gathered by the Comm&Sense dipstick survey, we can deduce that Filipinos are not just on top in terms of social media use, but we are also closely attuned to the changes in behavior in terms of determining brand preferences.
Consumers now are much more picky, skeptical, and discerning when it comes to the information and products we consume. Thanks to the deluge of information because of digital media, we have no other choice but to sift through the myriad of information before us. Catchy slogans or creative marketing antics don’t easily sway us into buying anymore. What we demand from brands is that they engage us and be whatever we need them to be.
If brands want us for our money and loyalty, we will want them for their authenticity. And there is nothing more authentic than a brand who goes out of its way to align with the values and beliefs that we hold close to us. With brand activism, we ask businesses to put their money where their mouths are.
The Comm&Sense Poll Series Part 1: Brand Activism is the first in a series of dipstick studies the agency will develop into a full-blown study in the next two years. If you want to assess whether your brand is ready or not to venture into brand activism, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for the full presentation and marketing consultation.
Comm&Sense’s online poll series aims to help marketers through localized preliminary insights on online Filipino consumer behavior that they can explore when making their branding initiatives.