Case illustrations from progressive to regressive
Keywords:brand activism, brand purpose, case study, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice
In the context of a global pandemic, social inequalities such as health disparities, systemic racism and economic shutdowns are amongst the challenges of a harsh reality. Given these myriad societal issues, consumers are becoming increasingly distrustful of governments and public service support systems. Consequently, there is a call for the corporate world to take a stand on significant societal issues. Yet, brand activism can be precarious ground. In seeking to address the question of brand activism, this paper presents three cases that demonstrate the range from progressive to regressive brand activism. The Patagonia case shows progressive brand activism with a foundational brand purpose of environmentalism. The National Rifle Association (NRA) case also shows a strong brand purpose of gun rights but demonstrates regressive brand activism. The National Football League (NFL) case demonstrates both progressive and regressive brand activism with a weakened brand purpose of a national football league. Theoretically, the dimensions of brand activism are shown to include social, legal, business, economic, political and environmental dimensions. More practically, brand activism consistently demonstrated in an authentic and transparent manner over time reinforces brand purpose. Values based organisations demonstrating brand purpose in an active and activist manner will engage increasingly discerning consumers who hold similar values. Consumers supporting progressive brand activism will generate momentum. Conversely, consumers withdrawing support for regressive brand activism will also make an impact. Collectively, brand activism may positively influences society’s most urgent challenges and effectively build societal resilience.
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