Stand for something.

As we trust institutions less, we crave what we think they lack
– a social voice.

Over half of us now think it is important for brands to have a clear and transparent view on the wider issues in society (YouGov), something we expect to increase in 2019.

In 2018, Nike threw down the gauntlet and supported sportsman and divisive civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick. After the explosive tweet “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”, Nike’s stance on America’s institutionalised racism was clear. Nike saw a huge increase in social chatter – but not all was positive, with #justburnit famously tweeted by disgruntled patriotic Americans (YouGov)

The move was disruptive, but as they picked an issue their target care deeply about, they saw huge gains in brand values. Nike chose carefully what – and who – to stand with. In this instance, a specific subject in a game they share a long history with, not the broad topic of human rights. And so they continue to avoid issues (such as labour rights) which are farther from their stomping ground.

This side of the Atlantic, Iceland took on a less controversial but equally emotive issue: environmental concerns. Their banned Christmas ad – originally made by Greenpeace – featured Rang Tan, a homeless Orangutan. The palm oil protest video helped the retailer dominate the Christmas conversation – with over 70 million YouTube views and not a penny spent on TV.

But purpose marketing isn’t just about upper-funnel brand building. It translates into purchase too.

Nike’s provocative allegiance saw a 31% increase in sales (YouGov). And overall, 57% claim to be belief-driven buyers – up 20% year-on-year (Edelman).

A similar number (58%) are more likely to buy from a brand that expresses a view they agree with. Validation, rather than a challenging world-view, is what consumers seek from purposeful brands (YouGov).

Nonetheless, success isn’t simply a case of parroting back consumer opinions. It comes down to authenticity: credibility of commitment and relevance to join the conversation is key.

Iceland’s support for Rang Tan wasn’t a savvy marketing stunt: removing palm oil from own-brand products followed a series of market-leading environmentally concerned changes. This gave the campaign credibility. Iceland moved outside category conversations on product, price and promotion – and made an unexpected partnership, with Selfridges stocking their mince pies.

67% of Gen Z believe being true to your values is what makes someone cool; brands who win at purpose in 2019 will have to be equally woke.