Brands and Activism: Is It Ever a Good Idea?

Monday 25th November, 2019

Our Marcomms Account Executive Tabby attended the Festival of Marketing in London last month, listening in on some fascinating talks from various industry leaders. She’s been sharing her intel with the Cats since then, so we thought we’d share a particularly interesting talk with you.

Heading up the Brands and Activism talk was Lizzie Barclay, Head of Marketing at LADbible, alongside James Turner and Zac Shwarz, Co-Founders of Glimpse, a collective that works with both NGOs and brands. In the past 12 months, we’ve seen a wave of brands embracing activism and wading into political and social debates, so this session discussed the challenges of mixing advertising and politics, and what brands should consider before aligning themselves with political and social causes.

LADbible Getting Down with the Kids

Lizzie Barclay, Head of Marketing at LADbible, discussed the brand’s UOKM8? and Trash Isles campaigns, emphasising that Gen Z is very interested in social good and are more likely to support any brands that can demonstrate they are too. The first campaign focuses on breaking down stigmas surrounding mental health issues with a series of videos of friends chatting to each other openly about their experiences, while Trash Isles was a campaign to empower young people to lobby the United Nations to acknowledge the plastic in the oceans as a country, in order to force the issue to be addressed. As an entertainment brand, LADbible’s key to success is using humour to deliver serious messages, although Lizzie stressed the importance of admitting they don’t know all the answers in order to retain their brand authenticity.

A Glimpse of Social Good

The Co-Founders of Glimpse then relayed examples of their own brand activism. On the website, Glimpse states that it wants to create campaigns that shift culture and raise consciousness to get serious issues into popular culture. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds challenged them to come up with a campaign that could get nature back into popular culture, as not many are aware that the UK has lost 40 million birds since 1966. To launch the campaign Glimpse released a single of pure birdsong into the official music charts, featuring a chorus of the UK’s most loved – and most endangered – birds.

Glimpse also opened the world’s first store to sell real products for refugees in its Choose Love campaign. From children’s coats to hot food and blankets, every purchase goes towards a similar item for someone who needs it. If you’re not engaging with important issues, the Co-Founder James Turner said to the audience, ‘what’s your excuse?’

So what IS your excuse?

If you’d like to get involved in brand activism, what questions should you be asking yourself?

  • Are you willing to take a risk? Some people are bound to hate your campaign but that’s what marks a good one.
  • Does your chosen cause fit your own brand values? Are you personally passionate about the cause you’re setting out to promote?
  • Can you demonstrate that you’re an authority on the subject? If you’d like to engage with difficult topics then you could consider working with ambassadors that relate to your audience, such as Trash Isles’ collaborative approach with Ross Kemp, or chat to charities and campaigners to gain invaluable insight into the issue.
  • Are you going to simply cover the issue as news or are you going to show you have a point of view on it?

Above all, remember the difference between activism and tokenism! Make sure you have authority to be in that space rather than simply jumping on the do-good bandwagon, and listen to the right people in order to inform your campaign to keep it as authentic as possible. Happy campaigning!

Written by Tabitha Ives Marcomms Account Executive

Monday 25th November, 2019

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