How brands are making values-based marketing decisions

Lauren Douglass, senior vice president, global marketing, Channel Factory

Almost every brand has a set of values it attempts to weave throughout the organization to guide decisions from production to media buying. It’s no longer enough for a brand to exist only to sell products. There must be a rationale behind the selling, a desire to use ethical practices, thought to how products and services are marketed and care in how they are distributed. 

Take a brand like Dove, which famously stands for empowering voices and changing beauty standards for women, female-presenting and non-binary people. Now, Dove is focused on what goes into its products and how they are packaged to ensure they are healthy and safe for both consumers and the environment. Additionally, Dove’s parent company, Unilever, is striving to buy media responsibly and has joined the Global Alliance for Responsible Media to ensure it’s marketing products ethically and against content that ladders up to its brand mission, otherwise known as conscious advertising.

But why should brands take these steps? A recent study by Channel Factory found that 69% of consumers want to buy from brands that stand behind causes that matter and they recognize when brands are supporting the wrong thing. Another study with Magna Media found that ads that appear next to the wrong type of content are remembered in a negative light. This data reflects that consumers think brands owe it to them to stand up for something, do the right thing and support media that’s safe and in line with their values.

Values-based marketing starts within the organization

Cause-related strategies must be introduced in nuanced and authentic ways to establish purpose-driven measures that make sense and align with corporate values. 

Take Target for example. Its DE&I strategy focuses on four areas: creating an inclusive guest experience, having an inclusive work environment, ensuring a diverse workforce and leveraging influence to drive positive impact on society. 

Target’s advancement toward a more inclusive and sustainable culture is prominent when walking its store aisles, where BIPOC-owned brands are highlighted and their stories are shared through promotion. And the company’s commitment doesn’t end there. During the civil unrest in 2020 when many brick-and-mortar stores around the U.S. were damaged, Target’s CEO, Brian Cornell, defended the communities affected, sent first-aid supplies to impacted areas, ensured displaced employees had full pay and benefits and rebuilt damaged stores. Target’s 2021 Forward initiative pledges a 20% increase in Black team member representation by 2023, along with goals to improve advancement and reduce turnover for people of color. Target’s conscious DE&I strategies are noticeable from the outside looking in and these strides are groundbreaking for both Target and the underrepresented populations it supports. 

Conscious and responsible marketing requires a tech stack review and an ethical human lens

Technology can be a double-edged sword when it comes to conscious marketing. While it enables targeted and efficient campaigns, a set-it-and-forget-it strategy doesn’t always work in this context. Across the industry, discussions are emerging about bias in AI and other technologies. If regular reviews of an organization’s tech stack aren’t happening to ensure it’s evolving with cultural norms, it could be excluding people and opportunities unknowingly.

An example is a common industry practice in which brands leverage lists that block certain words, news items or key phrases in order to avoid having their ads appear near inappropriate content. While this strategy may be well intentioned, it might also be blocking content from diverse creators. 

A 15-minute video about the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, might trigger a blocklist and prevent important content from connecting with an audience that is keyed into that issue. To avoid insensitivities, or anything punitive that might hurt diverse creators, brands should take a careful look at their tech stack through an ethical lens and ensure that the platforms, AI and other tech they use don’t have inadvertent blind spots. 

Being conscious of where, when and how a brand’s content appears helps signal their values and authenticity, and simple blocklists or allowing content that’s trending won’t accomplish this. Remember when the world became fascinated with pimple-popping videos? Just because something is popular at the time doesn’t mean brands should want to run their advertisements around it. 

Consumers want the brands they support to be aligned with their values. When they aren’t, it has a profound impact on the consumers’ respect and trust of the brand and purchasing intent. Being conscious, responsible and ethical can take brands a long way.

How marketers can live their values through their marketing

A good starting point toward conscious marketing is knowing the values the company represents and then supporting marketing strategies that align with those values. Working with sustainability-focused creators or pledging to spend a certain portion of media dollars against Black-owned media channels, like GroupM and IPG have, are a couple of examples of this alignment. The values a brand prioritizes are an excellent guiding light toward utilizing marketing dollars in authentic and potentially change-making ways.   

Culture changes rapidly so it is important to keep an eye on the latest trends to ensure the tactics employed are up-to-date. Consumers are paying more attention now and brands have the opportunity to be more conscious and ethical by starting from within their organizational DNA. Being more aware of the tech they are using, ensuring that it is unbiased and remembering that where they choose to say something matters just as much as what is actually being said are key steps.

Consumers are looking to support brands that stand up for what’s right and hopefully as brands become more conscious, consumers will no longer have to choose at all. 2022 is the time for brands to authentically live their values.

Sponsored By: Channel Factory

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