by Rob Blake, UK Country Manager, Channel Factory
Almost every brand has a reason ‘why’ it exists, and many have a set of values that they attempt to weave throughout their organization. These values help guide decisions from production to media buying. In 2022, however, it is no longer enough to be a brand without a purpose, existing solely for the reason of selling products to consumers. There must be a rationale behind selling products, a desire to use ethical practices in the creation of these products, thought to how they are marketed, and care in how they are distributed.
Take a brand like Dove, which famously stands for empowering voices and changing beauty standards for women, female presenting and non-binary people. Now, Dove is focused on what goes into its products and how they are packaged to ensure they are healthy and safe for both consumers and the environment. Additionally, Unilever (Dove’s parent company) is striving to buy media responsibly and has joined the Global Alliance for Responsible Media to ensure they are marketing products ethically, and against content that ladders up to its brand mission. Or what we call, Conscious Advertising.
But why should brands care? A recent study we ran at Channel Factory found that 69% of consumers want to buy from brands that stand behind a cause that matters. They also recognize when brands are supporting the wrong thing. Another study done in conjunction with Magna Media last year found that consumers remember ads that appear next to the wrong type of content, but for the wrong reasons. A direct quote from the study had one user state ‘Brands that want to be taken seriously should stay away from these creepy ass [mukbang and ASMR] videos’. Great quote aside, the data reflects that consumers think brands owe it to them to stand up for something, do the right thing and support media that is safe, suitable and not “creepy”.
Building cause-related strategies
Cause-related strategies must be introduced in nuance and authentic ways to establish purpose-driven measures that make sense and align with corporate values. Slack, for example, is living by its core values—Diversity, Engagement and Belonging (DEB). Slack embraces diversity while actively fostering inclusive work conditions with equitable outcomes. Slack’s DEB program aims to unlock the full potential of all their employees by investing in community centered education and training. Additionally, Slack launched Rising Tides, a six-month sponsorship program, to better engage and retain high performers of diverse groups and emerging leaders who have historically lacked access to career development support.
Another noteworthy company that is making impactful changes to embrace diversity as it strives to give everyone access to the same opportunities is LEGO. To mark the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl in 2021, LEGO released a video, titled ‘Ready for girls’, featuring girls engaged with creative entrepreneurial projects. The girls featured included Fatima Al Kaabi, the United Arab Emirates’ youngest inventor of 2015, her sister Shaika, who aspires to become the first woman to land on the moon, Chelsea Phaire, who, at the age of 11, set up a charity offering free art supplies to children in need and Mahiru Suzuki, a member of SEEDS+, an organization committed to bringing joy through music.
LEGO released the video after commissioning a piece of research revealing that girls feel increasingly confident to engage with creative games and activities, but are held back by gender stereotypes ingrained in society as they grow older. The research surveyed almost 7,000 parents and young people aged 6-14 across several countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, China and Japan, and put a spotlight on the need for society to rebuild perceptions around women and creative professions. By showing inspiring examples like those of Fatima, Shaika, Chelsea and Mahiru, LEGO is raising awareness of how girls can reshape the world through creativity.
Conscious, responsible and ethical marketing requires a tech stack review
Technology can be a double-edged sword when it comes to conscious marketing: while it can enable super targeted and efficient campaigns, it can’t be “set-it-and-forget-it” either. There are discussions across the industry emerging as it relates to unbiased AI and ethical technology that does not inadvertently leave out any one group or groups. Algorithms programmed by certain types of people can negatively impact others. And if you aren’t looking at your technology stack frequently to ensure you are evolving with cultural norms, you could be guilty of exclusion.
An example is a common industry practice in which brands looking to avoid inappropriate content leverage lists that block certain words, news items, or key phrases. The problem here is that while it might be well-intentioned, it also might be exclusionary and block diverse creators. A 15-minute video about the Black Lives Matter movement might trigger a blocklist and prevent important content from connecting with an audience that is keyed into that issue. To avoid insensitivities, or anything punitive that might hurt diverse creators, brands should take a careful look at their tech stack through an ethical lens and ensure that platforms, AI, and tech don’t have inadvertent blind spots.
Consciousness isn’t just about being socially aware. Another effective way brands can stand up for causes that matter in an authentic way is being conscious of where, when and how their content appears. Remember when the world became fascinated with pimple popping videos? Just because something is popular, or trending at the time, doesn’t mean brands should want to run their advertisements around it.
Consumers want the brands they support to be aligned with their values. When they aren’t, it has a profound impact on the consumers’ respect and trust of the brand and purchasing intent. Being conscious, responsible and ethical can take brands a long way.
How to live your values through your marketing
A good starting point is knowing the values of the company you represent. If your brand stands for social diversity, inclusion, and sustainability, then support marketing strategies that align with those values is key. So perhaps an example is working with top sustainable-focused creators that can tell the story of how we can help save the planet. Or creating a pledge to spend a certain portion of media dollars against Black owned media channels, like GroupM and IPG have. Or the brand can invest in news to ensure that it is funding unbiased journalism, as Magna Media & Disney called for in a recent study. Whatever the cause(s) and values your company or organization represents are an excellent guiding light toward utilizing your marketing dollars to live your values.
Culture changes rapidly, so it is important to keep an eye on the latest trends to ensure you are updating your marketing tactics accordingly. Consumers are paying more attention now, and brands have the opportunity to be more conscious and ethical by starting from within its organizational DNA. Being more aware of the tech it is using, ensuring that it is unbiased and remembering that where it chooses to say something matters just as much as what is actually being said.
“We don’t always ask enough questions about where those eyeballs are, and what they’re surrounded by,” says Jerry Daykin, EMEA Senior Media Director of GSK & Director of the Conscious Advertising Network. “That’s created an internet that has monetized clickbait, hate speech and other inflammatory content that does unfortunately get eyeballs and clicks. Advertisers need to take a step back and say, yes programmatic media is important, but we should also care where we appear.” Jerry and Harriet Kingaby, an Insight Lead for Media Bounty & Co-Chair of the Conscious Advertising Network, joined Lauren Douglass of Channel Factory for a conversation about diversity and inclusion in tech. Watch the entire discussion here.
Consumers are looking to support brands that stand up for what is right and hopefully as brands become more conscious, consumers will no longer have to choose. 2022 is the time for brands to authentically live their values.