As the world watched Greta Thunberg sail into New York Harbor for her visit to the U.N. Climate Action Summit on September 23rd, there was a glaring omission – no logos on her zero-emissions yacht. Not one. She even removed BMW and Swiss wealth manager EFG International from the vessel before she agreed to sail on it.
Greta living her values and foregoing any sponsorship for her trans-Atlantic voyage is on full display. Also in the spotlight is the changing nature of marketing and how brands show up with consumers. Now, more than ever, it’s not as much what a company says or where their logo shows up. People, particularly younger generations, want to see action – not words. And that’s having an enormous impact on us as marketers. And words are clearly not enough for Greta.
In fact, public interest in corporate responsibility is on the rise: a July survey of 1,026 adults, by polling firm New Paradigm Strategy Group, found that nearly three-quarters (72%) agree that public companies should be “mission-driven” as well as focused on shareholders and customers. Today, as many Americans (64%) say that a company’s “primary purpose” should include “making the world better” as say it should include “making money for shareholders.”
From a marketing perspective, enterprises have to make similar decisions to Greta when it comes to if, how, and when to use social responsibility, sustainability and other social impact efforts to generate revenue. As marketers, this is changing our profession and how we feel about our work and the best new ways to create awareness and drive demand.
This new wave of conscious consumption, driven largely by millennials and Gen Z, is pushing companies to innovate around social causes. In today’s politically charged world, brands can’t afford to sit out of the conversation. Nor can marketing purely focused on features and functions work in this new environment. Brands need to be decisive and transparent about taking a stand on important social issues, live these values in company operations, and develop programs that contribute to the cause.
In fact, according to Edelman’s 2018 Earned Brand Study, 86% of consumers believe that companies should take a stand for social issues and 64% of those who said it is ‘extremely important’ for a company to take a stand on a social issue also said they were ‘very likely’ to purchase a product based on that commitment. Let that sink in. Only 14% want the “old way”.
It’s not just Greta. Plenty of companies are abandoning traditional marketing in an effort to appeal to the socially conscious consumer. Just look at Proctor & Gamble and what they’ve done with “The Talk” and “The Look” to illustrate the unconscious bias that plagues black women and men.