Brands need a more sustainable strategy to connect with consumers on purpose

by maria
Editorial & Advertiser disclosure

By Jacqueline Junke, UK Market Lead at Appinio

In June each year, LGBTQ+ communities all around the world connect online and in person to celebrate the month of Pride; a vibrant celebration that promotes self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as a social group. Many household brands release their rainbow-themed logos, showing their support for the cause. Even during the Euros, whilst the football takes place, we can see Volkswagen advertising it’s new electric vehicle with the rainbow colours behind. But even whilst their intentions may be pure, is that enough for consumers?

We were keen to delve further into this topic so we conducted nationally representative research to see whether Pride-related campaigns were resonating- and it proved very interesting. Appinio found that 4 out of 5 British people believe that brands only use Pride for commercial purposes and don’t genuinely care about the LGBTQ+ community, which highlights why a simple logo change once a year may not be the correct strategy. It’s a great gesture and likely very well intended but consumers are demanding more authentic, meaningful commitment and support from brands, and are likely fed up with half-baked efforts.

Brands know that consumers are increasingly more conscious and vocal about important social causes, be it environmentalism, racial equality, sexual preference or gender equality to name a few. Social media has allowed for these discussions to take place on a much bigger scale, with many brands contributing – and rightly so, as our study tells us that consumers want to see their favourite brands meaningfully aligning with these causes. But words and colours alone aren’t enough.

Consumers want more meaningful purpose

In fact, our study told us that 64% of Brits believe brands should do more to support the LGBTQ+ community outside of Pride month, outlining how consumers want to see sustained efforts and intention from brands to show they really care about these issues all year round. And some brands have already recognised the need to make this change. This year we’ve seen brands like Happy Socks, who decided to donate a percentage of profit for certain products all year round to an LGBTQ+ charity, gain positive attention as a result.

It’s a similar story when it comes to environmentalism. Another nationally representative  study we conducted in April, in line with Earth Day, found that over a quarter of Brits believe that sustainable products are not trustworthy and see it as just a marketing ploy. A clear theme is present: there seems to be a lack of trust; a disconnect between consumers and brands.

So what can brands learn from this?

Our research tells us that more tangible support of social causes would resonate more effectively with consumers. People want to be able to see the work that brands are doing to enact social good, and they aren’t afraid to boycott if they aren’t impressed and inspired by what they see. Our study told us that 50% of Brits believe brands only pretend to care about the environment, with 54% revealing that on one or more occasions they have stopped buying from a brand that they believe does not care enough about the environment.

Further to this, 75% of Brits often check whether a brand is sustainable before buying which ultimately shows how committed modern day consumers are to these issues, and how brands can’t afford to overlook this as they may risk losing customers to socially-conscious competitors.

In addition, having a genuine commitment to social responsibility beyond the commercial benefits will have a positive impact on society- so what a fantastic opportunity that is presenting. As the association between brands and social causes becomes the norm, we will hopefully start to see year-long commitments becoming far more frequent, and the distrust between consumers and brands will likely decline as a result.

Opportunities

There’s an opportunity for brands to really own a large portion of this space. Two of the main barriers to purchase for consumers are a lack of information and being priced out. The fact that 62% of respondents said no sustainable brands sprang to mind when asked to name one, shows that brands who are willing to onboard environmental initiatives have a chance to really seize the market. Furthermore, if they can make it affordable, they can tap into the 60% of people who believe sustainable brands are too expensive.

We are really seeing the role of a brand being redefined. Our regular research is proving that consumers’ expectations are changing at a faster rate and it’s important for brands to keep up or they risk being left behind. Pride is an opportunity for brands to connect with consumers on new and different levels – supporting communities and committing to diversity and equality. Now in July, we will see the logos switching back and the Twitter bios are returning to normal; Pride month may now seem like just another date on the calendar for 2022 – if that’s the case, it might be a good time to reevaluate and see it as less of an initiative and more as a fundamental strategy all year round.

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