Consumers do not believe brands care about the social causes they promote

Following Pepsi’s widely criticised activism-themed ad, a study finds that a third of British people believe that brands don’t care about the social causes they promote.

Some 30 per cent of us are somewhat or extremely likely to campaign against a brand when it has damaged social causes, amid a wave of brand scandals by companies including Uber, Tesco and United Airlines.

The findings come from Future Thinking’s recent poll which surveyed more than 4,200 respondents.

Some 29 per cent say that brands do their best when it comes to doing social good, but don’t always get it right, with just 15 per cent believing brands make a valuable contribution to the social causes they care about.

When asked how likely are you now to campaign against a brand when it has done something offensive, 8 per cent say ‘extremely likely’, 22 per cent ‘somewhat likely’, 14 per cent ‘somewhat unlikely’ and 16 per cent ‘extremely unlikely’.

Shaun Austin, research director at Future Thinking says, ‘Now more than ever, brand transparency and ethics are key. Consumers are becoming more aware of malpractice and brands should be doing more to not just implement damage control, but actually make an effort to improve their ethical practices.

‘We’ve seen it with the recent Uber and United Airlines scandals, and Future Thinking’s latest research clearly shows that 30 per cent of consumers would campaign against a morally unappealing brand. This is a sizeable demographic and, as the age-old adage states: the customer is always right.’

Consumers now want brands to represent positive, ethical values, Austin adds. ‘So while mistakes happen and nobody is perfect, brands have to handle every situation with the utmost respect for their audience and aspire to be genuinely authentic. When this happens, we’ll see a real boost in brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.

‘Brands with ethical values trying to be morally appealing can also get it wrong – take the recent Pepsi ad as an example, which completely misjudged the audience and as a result had to withdraw the ad very quickly. In these instances, a fast, appropriate response, which considers the public mood, will help with damage limitation.’

Further reading on social causes

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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