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Is There Gold at the End of the Rainbow? The Dangers Surrounding Cause Related Marketing

It’s not news to anyone that, in the age of social revolution and #metoo movements, purpose-driven marketing is the new black. The days of the passive consumer are over, and those of the customer who demands transparency have arrived.

Today what a brand stands for matters at every single consumer interaction level. What Edelman refers to as belief-driven consumers (64% of consumers in 2018!) will choose, switch and avoid brands based on their political and social involvement and representation. It is therefore no surprise that each year throughout summer, rainbows magically appear everywhere we look.

Hanging up an LGBTQ+ flag or getting your in-house designer to make your old boring logo a bit more exciting with rainbow colours, seems to have become CMOs’ easy-peasy, go-to move, to show that their brand is, in fact, socially aware and active.

So what is the problem with this ‘rainbow washing’? Cause-driven marketing, like that during Pride, is today seen as essential in building relationships and customer loyalty, especially when it comes to younger consumers – however, it is all too easy to get it wrong.

Consumers today are marketing literates and must not be underestimated. Millennials have grown up with marketing – and all the scandals surrounding the field in modern times. They demand transparency, despise capitalism and will spot that gold at the end of the marketing rainbow. So is it truly a surprise, that cause-driven marketing has been called out on its seemingly blurred lines between support and brand purpose?

A one-off shot at ‘purpose’, such as the flag inspired pride logo your boss wants to utilise, is no different to a lazy attempt at seasonal marketing. A one-off gesture, created around a profit-based approach – one that all marketers should know is long outdated. Pride is not just a celebration, but a political stance for acceptance – something which is often forgotten by marketers everywhere.

So as our consumers become more and more belief-driven and voice their concerns surrounding brands taking a stand on issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, racially driven issues, sustainability etc. what is a company to do? Stand idly by or engage in #rainbowcapitalism? Here are a few tips on how to genuinely walk the walk, be authentic and truly make a difference that will, in the end, appeal to a market of increasingly aware consumers.

 

 

Don’t Bullshit – Walk the Walk

Brands that campaign on the claim that they support causes such as the LGBTQ+ community, and don’t have policies in place that facilitate the practice of what they preach, are the ones that should reject that suggested rainbow logo sent to them 1 week before pride, and stay quiet on social media. Don’t campaign for something insubstantial.

Take Starbucks’ #racetogether campaign scandal for example, which was prompted by the fact that customers didn’t see the connection between the campaign and claimed support, and what the company actually offers in forms of services, both internally and externally. By exploiting a social issue, Starbucks received an incredible backslash, especially on Twitter. And remember, in a time of e-word-of-mouth, where one tweet can reach millions of global consumers within a couple of hours, the brand damage can be irrevocable.

However if you can do it well, and in fact ‘walk the talk’, you can appeal to ethically-aware consumers in a whole new way. Great examples, in my opinion, include Smirnoff, Vodafone and ASOS.

Vodafone overhauled its recruitment processes to appeal to a more diverse workforce, with more inclusive job ads, code of conducts etc. all while introducing a support programme for LGBTQ+ graduates.

Supporting social issues can be a great thing but has to be non-exploitative to be successful.

Also don’t be fooled into thinking this is primarily a matter of Pride either (pun intended). You don’t have to go far back to remember the backlash Pepsi received while trying to seemingly cash in on Black Lives Matter marches. Supporting social issues can be a great thing but has to be non-exploitative to be successful.

Don’t get me wrong, it takes planning, budget and a genuine mindset. But if you get those things right, this gives you not only organic PR (millennials love sharing ‘the capitalist world is finally changing’ type stuff), but also a genuine ground to stand on when it comes to advertising on the back of events such as Pride.

Connect your actions to your purpose, all year round – don’t underestimate the marketing literary consumer of today, and understand that we must have an authentic and integrated ally, throughout our organisation – from PR to community management – and turn your brand personality into a truly inclusive one, for a forward thinking modern society.

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