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Is a fear of getting cancelled holding brands back from making positive change?

9th December 2021

Our new Brands & Movements Report uncovers the truth.

The Context

No one can say we are living in boring times. Whether it’s addressing climate change, systemic racism, economic inequality, the COVID-19 pandemic, or supply chain disruption, there is a lot on the world’s plate right now.

But how much change and uncertainty can the world handle? There is a collective sense that someone needs to step in and fix what’s broken. In the past, we would have turned to the government to provide solutions.

However, following COP 26, it has become more apparent than ever that governments are too slow, hamstrung by politics, to address the major challenges and issues of today.

This leaves the door open for brands and businesses to align with the values of their stakeholders and deliver a positive impact on the world beyond simply offering a great product or service.

That’s where our research comes in…

Brands & Movements

Our first-ever Brands & Movements Report released today shows brands understand expectations about the role they play in society have shifted dramatically, but a sizeable number struggle with how best to adapt.

The report which compared insights from UK and US business leaders and consumers outlines that this is not only an opportunity that has been created by the current context, but it aligns with the expectations of consumers. That said, there are pitfalls involved when brands look to shift and embrace this new reality.

Being cancelled as a result of getting it wrong is a clear and present danger for brands looking to serve and support a variety of global movements.

On the back of the research, we have created the Movement Model to navigate these issues and demonstrate how brands can build movements around key issues that matter to their audience, and truly embed them within their business.

You can find a link to our report in full here -but here are five key takeaways if you are short on time:

Most business leaders think consumers’ and society’s expectations of business and brands have changed over the past few years, expecting business and brands to have higher standards for environmental and social impact (21%) and to focus on “purpose and profit” (16%)

In response to these changed expectations, business leaders are most likely to say that their organisations are becoming more environmentally and/or socially responsible (14%), and listening and responding to the changed expectations (12%)

Two thirds of business leaders agree that purpose and profit go hand in hand, that “Investing in purpose will ultimately make a business more successful” (67%) and that “By supporting the issues that matter to our customers/stakeholders, we will ultimately be more successful as a business (67%)

However, four in ten say that concern over getting action right or backlash if they get it wrong (42%) is a challenge for their organisation, suggesting that fear of backlash or getting cancelled may hold many brands back from engaging with purpose movements

In fact, we find that business leaders who say they are concerned about backlash for getting it wrong, are much less likely than those who are not concerned, to say their organisation is taking concrete action on social and environmental issues (48% concerned vs. 71% not concerned).

The Bottom Line

While cancel culture is a barrier that is stopping some from embracing this new reality, many are already on their way, succeeding, growing, and making money, while also making the world that little bit better.

We’re in an age of conscious capitalism that leverages the positives of the framework, while adding a moral filter to ensure that profit is not the only driver.

The gratifying irony is that the brands that do embrace the new reality will be the ones that succeed commercially, over those that simply focus on their product, service and profit, ignoring the broader context and issues.

Consumers have set a clear direction on the role of brands over the next decade, and beyond and we’re excited to play our part.

To download our Brands & Movements Report, please click here.  

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