In a year inundated with a series of social, political and biological crises, brands are confronted with the reality of losing the affinity and loyalty of their follower base should they opt out of aligning with pressing ideological concerns that are at the forefront of audience minds and hearts. Intentional brand involvement in social issues has become ubiquitous, resulting in an expectation of brand response to major global events and movements. Brands are looked to as influential shapers, tasked with admitting social responsibility to the world via its market.
As seen in recent weeks, through the muscle of collective ‘cancel culture’ (or, brand boycotting), the consensus is for companies to act as a mouthpiece and extension of their audience who feel consumer choice to also be in keeping with ideological alliances and not just in reference to product supply. This is the era of the empowered consumer, where audiences wield an unprecedented ability to keep afloat or topple down giants of industry through their purchasing power (essentially, an attempt at reallocation of control back to the consumer realm).
Cultural expectations have evolved where brands are increasingly pressured to use their platform as an agent for social change, thus prompting a redefinition of brands towards a larger narrative of inclusivity, pushing brands to not only promote products, but also ideas to exact social change. Therefore, a stance of intentional ignorance or neutrality towards sensitive socio-political issues can in fact backfire and be as risky as the decision to take a stand.
Brands also play a fundamental role as purveyors of quality information. In an age of distorted and erroneous news based on image impression and provocative commentary that incite misguided allegiance, brands now have the opportunity to harness social media presence as bearers of worthy information. Brand reach is limitless, since they can grasp audiences where they live in real-time to enable constructive conversation. As a result, marketing expenditure should be apportioned to educational purposes to compel consumers to evolve through decisive social messaging campaigns.