February 15, 2017

3 Brands Taking a Stand (and Why You Should Care)

From racism to immigration, more brands are taking a strong stance on social issues. For those who haven’t put a name to it yet, social advocacy is when a brand decides to address a social issue and use its voice to raise awareness and advocate for change. This blog will showcase three brands running in the minefield, and share the reasons why you should consider joining the fray.


The February Big Game Which Shall Go Unnamed ™ reflected the current social climate. It’s an age where some of us just want to laugh, some of us are actively crying, and others want to make a difference.

84 Lumber



Given the divisive times we live in, the brand had to understand this ad was destined to evoke a visceral and immediate reaction.

Choosing immigration for your social advocacy appears to take a very brave (or utterly asinine, depending on your ideology) stance on a touchy subject and hits it like a hammer. While many thought there was no misconstruing the message, 84 Lumber insists the message wasn’t to promote illegal immigration.


“We do not condone illegal immigration. The journey of the mother and daughter symbolizes grit, dedication and sacrifice. Characteristics that we look for in our people at 84 Lumber. President Trump has previously said there should be a ‘big beautiful door in the wall so that people can come into this country legally.’ We couldn’t agree more.”


No matter what the motivation, Lumber 84 knew its audience and knew the message it wanted to share with them. Turns out, this commercial is part of a hiring campaign.


This one wasn’t as commercially risky. It’s tied to the human truth that every modern-day feMENist or parent can relate to: wanting the best for your daughter. And in this case, that means equal pay.



While many lauded the sentiment behind the spot, others pointed out a perceived hypocrisy, in that Audi’s board of management has no women (cue the “boos”). 





This campaign won an Emmy, the top spot at the Webby Awards, a PR Grand Prix, a Glass Lion and a Film Gold Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. You can read how it came about here.

Now you know a few brands that are taking on social advocacy.  But are you still asking why?

Today’s consumers are fed up with fake. By sharing deeply held views, your audience can see how their values align with yours, creating deeper connections and brand loyalty.  This messaging is also transparent. You’re showing consumers that you put your money where your mouth is.


According to this study outlined in Adweek:


“Millennials are prepared to reward socially responsible companies; they are more likely to trust these companies, seek their employment and buy or recommend their products to others. After learning that a company is socially and/or environmentally responsible:

  • 83 percent are likely to trust the company more
  • 79 percent are likely to purchase that company’s products
  • 44 percent are likely to actively pursue working at that company
  • 74 percent are more likely to pay attention to that company’s message because it has a deep commitment to a cause”


In other words, Millennials are much more likely to follow and engage with brands who they see as contributing to the betterment of our world. All of us like nice things. It’s a huge bonus when buying those nice things creates something nice for someone else.


Overall, social advocacy is a trend that has risks.  You can’t dive in with no flak jacket, because the social media (and economic) backlash can be very negative.  Prepare like you’re head of the college Debate Team. Consult your PR and crisis communications teams. What will this look like to the public? How will they perceive your stance (accusations of liberal bias abound), and how will they poke holes in your motivation for doing it?


Hint: It has to be relevant to what you do, or you risk being pilloried on SNL:


Ask yourself if your idea for brand messaging is true to you, and if you can roll with the inevitable punches of the MMA known as the interwebs.  If the risk seems worth the reward, go for it. You just might gain more than you ever imagined. Let me know how it goes!


Have you seen a brand fully embracing their stance? Email me to share it.