Brands and Social Leadership: Know Your Role?

By Paul Leese | September 15, 2020 | Category: Brand Management Marketing

Fear. It’s an emotion that drives all of us at one time or another. And as anyone involved in marketing knows, it can also drive consumer behavior.  Especially in 2020.

I recently read through an August 2020 study done by L.A.-based marketing research firm Alter Agents that compared consumer anxiety prior to the pandemic to their anxiety in the midst of it.  There were some pretty interesting insights on how the mix of disease, a forced economic slowdown and racial tensions have significantly changed the perspectives of consumers in a very short amount of time.

But what really caught my eye was this statement: “As trust in institutions of government has eroded, companies and brands are being called upon to fill a vacuum in social leadership. Consumers expect more from those taking a stand for social justice and are more approving of those that do. The key to success for brands seeking to be positive forces in society, beyond all else, is to listen.”

Companies and brands are being looked at to take the lead on social issues…that’s a lofty expectation.  One that will probably not go away anytime soon. Certainly not through the remainder of 2020. And whether you agree with the premise or not, it’s something we need to at least be cognizant of when planning our marketing efforts.

So, what do we do?  Like most decisions in life, there is not a unilateral approach to this that is going to work for every business. If you take a stand on a social position, you risk alienating some current or potential customers. You can do the same if you don’t. In my view, consumers are asking businesses and brands to fill a role they are not ultimately equipped to handle. But ignoring the expectation is probably not a viable option. We need to address it in some way or another.

The only certainty I have in this situation is this. Whatever we decide to do, it has to be done with sincerity and commitment. Losing customers because they feel they’ve been played is a fear no marketer or business wants to face.

Paul Leese, MBA is the Executive Vice President of Keenan-Nagle Advertising, Inc. located in Allentown, PA.  He specializes in marketing strategy development and execution and has over twenty years of successful experience in marketing, management, team building, media services and strategy development for non-profits, large corporations and small businesses.

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