Nice guys might finish last, but being good sells.
While it didn’t start only this year, 2019 has seen a major shift in how brands are communicating with consumers, and in marketing as a whole.
The market is increasingly demanding ethical responsibility and authenticity from the bands they buy with, and in terms of start-ups— morals have never played a larger part in determining success. Consumers are shopping with their conscience and increased competition in nearly every market means they’re flush with brands to choose from, leaving them the opportunity to dig deeper. And— they are.
Gen Z, the largest growing consumer segment, is making the most noise when it comes to ditching brands that don’t align with their ethics. Over half of 16-19 year olds have stopped buying with one or more companies out of deliberate protest of the way they do business. But they don’t just think companies should do more good— they find it to be their responsibility. 71% think brands need to give back to society and nearly 90% want less of an environmental impact imposed by the brands they support.
But it’s not just the next generation that’s using their spending money to vote for social change. Over three quarters on men and women prefer brands that promote gender positivity. Not only do they prefer it, but those surveyed shared it increased their loyalty to those brands.
New technologies and big data have since made our targeting opportunities as marketers exponentially more localized, but up until the last decade, and maybe even that’s being generous, the grand standard of targeting utilized gender as it’s lynchpin. From razors to recliners, brands have gendered their advertising of products as a means of speaking more directly to their audience. However big brand names are starting to recognize consumers are challenging this outdated, stereotypical standard.
What big names? Unilever, Axe, Bonobos and most notably Gillette have received major press for their recent campaigns targeting toxic standards of masculinity imposed upon men. Visa also used their ethics to reach consumers, recognizing female creatives navigating the gender pay gap in their “Money Is Changing” campaign. The UK Advertising Standards Authority has already put legislation into place banning gender stereotyping in advertising within the country.
As cultural understandings and societal norms change, the things we’ve always assumed about our audiences will also change, and the market has spoken— they expect brands to recognize that and evolve.
But it’s not just the authenticity behind these companies that drives consumers. Over 80% find ethically driven brands outperform their less socially aware competitors. This explains why so many are willing to a premium for brands with a mission.
Not only does speaking out about your own social responsibility as a company attract consumers, it also drives interest in the incoming workforce and can drive B2B relations. 71% of incoming Gen Z workers mark respect for their employer as the top determining factor in choosing their job. With over 61 million entering the workforce, their sentiment will only continue to grow and it’s up to existing companies to begin to align their model for what’s to come.
But in a world where privacy and protection in multiplying degrees are rotating through our news cycle, businesses can’t afford to let their partners slip up either. That’s why 8 out of 10 owners find failure to address things like data security or sexual harassment inexcusable in their business relationships and partners. Probably because over 80% of consumers have no problem boycotting companies that continue to do business with those that don’t follow the rules.
Don’t feel as though you’re doomed if your organization hasn’t made social justice a pillar of its strategy to success. Increasing the connection between you and your audience on an ethical level is pretty simple.
The American Marketing Association has designed a simple guideline for what ethical marketing and branding looks like in the United States, and it includes six values that are meant to be upheld.
6- Social Citizenship
Those last two seem of increasing importance as consumers want to know who and what they’re voting for with their money every time they make a purchase, and they want that brand to benefit something larger than a margin.
As we progress further into 2019, authenticity and ethics will only increase in market value, so start considering how your company can create an impact.
by Kelly Spencer