Is Social Activism the Future of Branding?

The death of George Floyd has completely shifted consumer attitudes towards brands and corporations. As racial tensions reach an all-time high, consumers are increasingly demanding change from many companies and large corporations.  60% of Americans would boycott or buy based on response to George Floyd protests. In fact, the Financial Times reported that 80% of black consumers, 70% of 18-34 year-olds and 63% of women stated that they would change their buying patterns as a result. Furthermore, brands who spoke out or took a social stance were 4x more likely to gain their customer’s trust than lose it. 

Accountability is the New Responsibility 

Prior to this tragedy, it would have been acceptable for brands to make a simple post as a symbol of solidarity, but in 2020 that is no longer the case. Consumers are holding brands accountable and expecting them to walk the walk by creating an action plan. They want to know precisely the changes companies are planning to make in order to make a difference. Not only are they paying attention to the brands who are speaking out, but they are also zoning in on the brands who choose to play it safe by remaining silent. Many companies took their pledge to social media in order to prove that they were serious about what they were saying. See how Sephora, Tommy Hilfiger, and H&M announced how they planned to make a difference in racial discrimination. 

A Phase or the Future?

Many consumers who are active on social media wonder if this is just a phase or social media trend. The authenticity of these brands is often in question as some brands weigh in on racism. For some, it appears as a façade and may be used as a way to protect or solidify their brand image. A recent article from Fast Company explained it best, “Many marketers, particularly those that would rather not say anything, want to say just enough to get some credit for being on the right side of history but not so much as to draw too much attention.”

But what will happen when the activism slowly subsides on social media? Will brands continue to honor the pledges they so proudly made? Will they continue to affect change as they promised to stay ahead of the game for the next situation that may arise? Or will they dissolve with all the other brands once this movement dies down?