How does that old saying go? ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’?
Well, though that might be the case for brands trying to get their name into the public eye, it certainly doesn’t do much for attaining a healthy relationship between business and consumer. The trust that the UK places on brands is currently at its lowest since the financial plummet ten years ago, and a study conducted this year found that 88% of the public wanted brands to be more purposeful.
A sense of purpose is something millennials and centennials have clear purchasing preference over, with nearly two-thirds stating they prefer a brand that ‘have a point of view and stand for something’. An example of this? Nike’s ‘This Girl Can’, a campaign that got hundreds of thousands up out and exercising.
Prior to their recent scandal, Lush was well known for being a cosmetic brand who regularly (and vocally) pioneered for the abolition of animal testing. Their recent ‘Spycop’ campaign however, is a prime example of how quickly the trust of the public can diminish when brands go after the wrong cause. It’s too early to say whether or not Lush can recover from the tarnishing campaign, but the point is, it isn’t just about selling a product anymore, it’s about the people selling it.
First and foremost, it’s important for brands to remember the British public aren’t stupid, and more often than not can see right through campaigns that address a social issue of the moment just to tick a few boxes and add their pennies worth (something we’ve discussed separately before).
When the sugar tax was introduced in the UK Coca-Cola launched an ad on the same day with a silhouette of Elvis and the line “They don’t make ‘em like they used to. We do.”. Although the ad was nice, nostalgic, and seemingly harmless, the sour truth of the ad was Coca-Cola trying to deflect people’s minds away from the damage their drinks are having on our health. Yes, the ad might have temporarily made people feel happy, but did it leave people feeling cared for? Probably not.
What cases like Coca-Cola and the sugar tax show is just how unprepared brands can be when damming legislation arrives on their doorstep. Instead, being prepared for the issues that might lie ahead provides the opportunity to better protect your brand, customers and reputation…
The problem of plastic
More now than ever, plastic waste is an issue that no consumer or brand can ignore. Iceland’s bold decision to go completely plastic-free made headlines this year and has since inspired several brands to take serious action. After pledging to using 100% recycled plastic by 2025, the global marketing director of Evian, Patricia Oliva, stated that “Evian is an iconic brand with a strong voice and we believe it is our responsibility to lead the way forward and to transform the way we use plastic. We need to change this mindset from ‘we can’ to ‘we will’”.
As part of the cause, Evian will launch a #herothezero campaign in a bid to educate their consumers on circularity and recycling as well as collaborating with governments and local authorities to increase collection and recycling rates. Success for Evian isn’t driven by sales, but whether or not they’ve made an impact on their customers. What the campaign also inspires is a set of loyal brand advocates that support Evian far beyond the products there selling… and what do brand advocates equate to? More often than not, sales.
If the bigger picture wasn’t enough to convince brands, the statistics now show that consumers are in fact putting their money where their mouth is. MediaCom found that 49% of the public are willing to pay more for a brand or product that is supporting a worthwhile cause, and when selling to those aged 18-24, that likeliness rises to 60%.
And if you’re still not convinced, it may interest you to know that Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living’ brands accounted for an incredible growth of 60%, growing 50% faster than the rest of the business in the last few years.
Yes, an emotional or impactful campaign is great for creating a temporary impact, but when true and accountable action is put in to place, that’s when you ensure trust from the British public and create yourself an army of loyal brand advocates. So, should a well trusted brand ever find itself in the middle of a PR crisis, you can bet there will always be a set of loyal customers that jump to their defence.
Written by Meg