Image for Brands Walk Tightrope in Aligning with Causes Authentically

Consumers increasingly look for and reward brands with a purpose. But many consumers aren’t pleased when brands brag about ‘doing the right thing.’

Brand purpose, brand managers, content marketing, authenticity, consumer expectations, Morning Consult, marketing PR, issue management, bragging, CFM PR

New polling by PRWeek and Morning Consult finds more than 40 percent of consumers think brands stretch authenticity by trumpeting their charitable endeavors. Gen X and Boomers are the most skeptical.

A 53 percent majority of poll respondents said brands should “stick to what they do” and avoid involvement in political or cultural issues. One-third of Gen Z consumers want brands to align with issues, but they overall are split on whether companies should “show off”.

Accenture Strategy conducted research in 2018 that revealed a trend toward consumers as the ultimate referees of a brand, not the company or its spokespeople. “Up until recently, a brand belonged to the company that invested in shaping, growing and monetizing it,” according to the Accenture report, which was titled To Affinity and Beyond/From Me to We. “This is no longer the case and brands are now community property belonging to shareholders, employees, and customers.”

There are tools, such as Google’s Progressive Shopper that track brand affiliations and political cxontributions.

The Accenture findings coincided with a 2018 Edelman Earned Brand Study, which found “64% of consumers worldwide will make a purchasing decision based on a brand’s social or political position.” The report found a majority of respondents believed brands have more power to address critical issues than the government. As a result of these findings, the Association of National Advisers crowned “Brand Purpose” as the 2018 word of the year.

This mix of data suggests brand managers face a delicate tightrope walk between demonstrating purpose without parading their virtue. Overreaching may be as disqualifying as shunning political or cultural issues.

The bottom line, then, is authenticity. Aligning a brand with a purpose needs to make sense and have a consumer-driven value that is self-evident without proclaiming it in bold, capital letters.