We live in a world where everyone has an opinion on everything from politics to parenting. So, it is understandable that brands want to align themselves with certain messages, ideals and credentials for social good. It helps to position themselves within a crowded market, appeal to their target demographic and add to their company story and messaging in a warm, compassionate and powerful way.
Getting it right
These relationships are often corporate partnerships. A company teams up with a charity or an organisation, to provide support in some way – financial or otherwise.
This is usually built on the admirable ethic of using brand awareness to bring about positive action and lasting change for demonstrable corporate responsibility. A great example is how Macmillan Cancer Support has trained cancer advisors in Boots stores throughout the UK. So, it’s not just about throwing money at a problem and hoping for the best. It is about taking action in real terms.
Another great example is how football team AS Roma teamed up with organisations around the world to raise awareness about missing children. They have been sharing their pictures on social media whenever a new signing takes place. Roma have a large social media following and are known for their innovative approach. So, this activity both aligns with their brand values as well as potentially reuniting children with their families. That’s great stuff.
Getting it wrong
However, without proper research into key messages, the target audience and the current range of feeling within a particular social movement, things can go very wrong indeed.
Take this recent example from Fiat and Elle magazine. The video was supposed to promote flexible working for the modern woman. Instead, it provoked widespread criticism on social media for portraying women working flexibly as liars. It even received backlash from one of the most well-known champions for flexible working, Anna Whitehouse. The breadth of feeling is that it totally and utterly missed the mark. It hijacked an emotive issue to sell cars and rode roughshod over the emotive backbone to this issue. In doing so, it didn’t just alienate its target audience but it pushed them away for good.
Sometimes, the company can get it completely wrong on their own. A strong example of this is Pepsi, which had to formally apologise and pull an advert featuring Kendall Jenner. It received huge backlash for trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement. Instead of supporting and promoting social justice, it was universally felt that the company hijacked and exploited the issue for commercial gain.
Open to interpretation?
On occasions, this is all a little open to personal interpretation. In June, it seemed like almost every company turned their social media profile pictures into a rainbow for National Pride Month. Of course, this is a fabulous marker of progression that a wide variety of companies are publicly embracing equality and diversity. Cynically, this could be viewed as a soulless PR and sales stunt. Optimistically, it is a true reflection of business operation. However, those who publicly proclaim to support equality but actually don’t do so are often called out. This is what happened to Adidas for selling ‘Pride Pack’ merchandise whilst sponsoring the World Cup in Russia, a country notorious for its anti-gay policies. So, it’s never been more important to practice what you preach.
Making social good
In summary, companies acting for social good is very much a positive thing. Well, as long as it’s backed up by honesty, authenticity and accurate messaging, that is. Corporate partnerships are nothing new. But, the move to companies aligning themselves for social good is a more recent trend. If it is having a positive impact on all concerned then long may it continue. However, brands and any associated charities or organisations must do their research to get it right. This will go a long way to avoiding public criticism and ridicule whilst alienating the people they want to reach.
Your company’s key messaging as well as its mission, vision and values are vital to the success of your company’s corporate communications. Get it right with help from the experts at Team Theme. Contact us to find out more.