Brand Activism

13 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2018 Last revised: 25 Aug 2018

See all articles by Jenny Craddock

Jenny Craddock

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Jeffrey Boichuk

University of Virginia - McIntire School of Commerce

Luca Cian

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Bidhan L. Parmar

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

This technical note offers students a definition of brand activism (as contrasted to corporate social responsibility) along with an explanation of the different forms that this corporate practice can take. Specifically, students are introduced to the concepts of both progressive and regressive brand activism, in addition to the different causes the activist efforts may champion, whether social, legal, or environmental, to name a few.In order to illustrate these different categories and the sensible ways for managers to approach brand activism, examples of both successful and unsuccessful brand activism initiatives are provided, including those of Benetton Group, Dove, Patagonia, and Pepsi. While these companies' moves were intentionally designed to resonate with consumers, students are also presented examples of companies that unwillingly elicited activist customer responses (including GrubHub, Uber, Nordstrom, Starbucks, and Papa John's). Finally, the examples of Jack Daniels and Chick-fil-A illustrate deliberate corporate decisions not to communicate their values, while an explanation of boycotting and buycotting helps students understand the impact that brand activism initiatives can have on the bottom line.

Excerpt

UVA-M-0963

Jun. 27, 2018

Brand Activism

Brand activism is an increasingly popular corporate practice in which companies voluntarily take a stance on what they think is “good” for society and then make corresponding public statements and, occasionally, adapt their operations in ways that support their chosen social causes. Unlike corporate social responsibility efforts (which focus on making a company's core operations more sustainable or ethically minded), brand activism often tackles societal, environmental, or human issues that are not directly associated with the company's core product or operations.

Passionate consumer reactions following instances of brand activism are usually immediate, and success stories linked to such activism are not difficult to find. At the same time, companies attempting to align themselves with an activist message can often miss the mark and, even worse, can alienate customers. (For examples of brand activism from companies such as United Colors of Benetton, Dove, Patagonia, and Pepsi, and the respective consumer responses to each, see Exhibits 1–4.)

In order to effectively engage in brand activism, managers may find it beneficial to define their planned brand-activism campaigns according to the categories in which they fall. (It should be noted that successful campaigns can fall into any category, assuming the company is acting in accordance with its customers' values.) Philip Kotler and Christian Sarkar have identified the multiple categories of activism as the following:

. . .

Keywords: marketing, brand activism, promotion strategies, good publicity, bad publicity

Suggested Citation

Craddock, Jenny and Boichuk, Jeffrey and Cian, Luca and Parmar, Bidhan L., Brand Activism. Darden Case No. UVA-M-0963. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3207042

Jenny Craddock

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Jeffrey Boichuk (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - McIntire School of Commerce ( email )

P.O. Box 400173
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4173
United States

Luca Cian

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Bidhan L. Parmar

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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