How to tread the line between CSR and falling off the bandwagon

Between Pride and the World Cup kicking off, June is a big month for events.

Increasingly, brands are getting involved with current events by releasing themed assets and campaigns. There are potentially big benefits for your brand image, but equally, there can be pretty deep pitfalls.

If your brand is considering jumping on the latest bandwagon, it’s wise to ask yourself a few important questions first.

Is it authentic?

Whatever the matter at hand – whether it’s Wimbledon or the #MeToo movement – you’ve got to realistically ask whether it matters to your brand.

If it does, you can create genuine affiliations that consumers will accept and applaud. Take Absolut Vodka, a brand recognised as an LGBT champion. The brand has earned the support of the LGBT community, and not just because of rainbow bottles, queer celebratory advertising and sponsoring Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Absolut has consistently supported the LGBT movement since the 1980s.

But if you’re not being authentic, backlash awaits.

We’ve all seen – and cringed at – Pepsi’s faux social justice advert where Kendall Jenner halts police brutality with a can of Pepsi.

It was destroyed on social media and media outlets for its poor attempt to endorse ‘unity, peace and understanding’, and was swiftly axed. Which just goes to show, if consumers smell insincerity or pomposity, they’ll make their voice heard. And they have the power to damage your carefully guarded brand reputation.

Does it fit with your Corporate Social Responsibility?

These days, brands are expected to embrace CSR and do good in the community. So when a current issue arises that fits with your brand mission, it can be the perfect moment to ramp up your support and reap the benefits.

Take the LadBible – a proudly ‘blokey’ news and entertainment company that says it ‘strives to make a positive difference’. As the epidemic of men’s mental health came to the forefront of the public’s consciousness in September of 2017, they launched UOKM8?

Partnering with various charities and using the popularity of their brand, they reached over 38m people and encouraged men to talk more about their emotions. It was the perfect fit.

But if the issue doesn’t fit with your brand values – leave it be. Pringles, BIC pens and Monopoly thought they were doing great things by making the characters in their logos female for International Women’s Day. But for many, they were received as empty gestures by brands with seemingly no link to women’s issues.

Is it strategically relevant?

For many years, Coco Pops has been a favourite cereal of little boys and girls across the UK. And each time the World Cup hype builds, it releases its Jungle World Cup advert. This year you can get football stickers with promotional packs.

Working cleverly around strict rules against mentioning the World Cup unless you’re a fully paid up FIFA sponsor, Kellogg’s appeals to each generation of footie-mad boys and keep them with the brand as they grow. Job well done.

Not so well done – eco-friendly brand Lush missed the mark by a mile with their recent, heavy-handed campaign. It was an apparent exposé about police spies who are Paid To Lie’.

Lush sell soaps. And shows no sign of branching into the political arena or state policing. So why did they create such a provocative campaign? The slew of in-store complaints and 1* reviews on their Facebook page telling them to stick to what they know says it all.

Ultimately, the consumer will be the judge

A brand is only as authentic as the customer thinks it is. And, as you know, customers can see through any B.S. fast – especially younger generations who are placing a higher importance on brand morality.

Ask yourself: is it authentic, and does it fit with our CSR plan and our brand strategy? If the answers are yes, you could raise your profile, better your public opinion and boost sales in one. Not to mention make the world a little bit better.

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