Whiplash Team. November 2017.

Whether brands should get involved or not in social issues is no longer a matter of debate. Users demand that companies assume their social responsibility and base their purchasing decisions on the ability of organizations to demonstrate their commitment to the causes that concern and motorize society.

Consumers are clear: the business sector can and must do a lot more to help solving the problems that afflict society. According to Edelman’s global study Earned Brand 2017, more than half of world consumers think that companies have a better chance of solving social problems than governments, and points out that, when it comes to taking a product home, more and more users are basing their decisions on the affinity they have with the values, culture and causes that the brand defends.

Another study –by Unilever– indicates that a third of consumers buy a product because they believe it has a positive impact on society or the environment. Thus, the current consumer makes decisions by conviction and is willing to buy, change or even boycott a brand depending on its position on critical issues for society.

Since early 2017 –when US President Donald Trump launched his first migration veto– several brands have begun, partly due to pressure from the society, to take a public stand on issues such as immigration, gender equality, racism or the environment. But it is not just about claiming it or leaving it in writing, but about doing things. As in the case of Starbucks, who actively committed to hiring refugees and can give proof of this. To convince and win over the current consumer, companies need to be perceived as agents of social change, not only through CSR actions but as part of a vital principle that is transferred to all its activities and brand communications.

As Christopher Smith points out, companies “must adopt a deep and sincere commitment to support and help society move forward in its desire to make the planet a better place, that necessarily implies embracing a new understanding of the institutional role of the company in which it assumes an active role in the face of the challenge, as opposed to the position of a spectator seeing if there’s something to gain”.

To adopt the commitment to its new social role, and to transfer it to its users with conviction, brands need to make a profound analysis to discover what really matters to them and express why they care. The key lies in the purpose, in the why of the company and how that vital principle is linked to the social problems it wants to address.