Brands taking stands

Purchase behaviour is now beyond transactional and far from reaching ‘peak purpose’ consumers’ expect brands to stand for something more than their bottom line.

Aimee Luther, The Liberty Guild

Managing Director


The beginning of the year was a very fractious one. Not surprising really, considering a third lockdown, Brexit becoming real and the Sarah Everard case, leading many people to hit the streets in protest.

In fact, research we put out nearer that time showed that 58% of people (rising to 65% among 35-44 yo’s) felt they should protest when they thought something was wrong.  In London this number was 12% of, equalling 1 million residents of the Capital. 

While people hitting the streets have calmed down somewhat recently, the spirit of protest hasn’t disappeared. It is now just coming from a different source. It isn't just people waving placards anymore, it’s brands.

More and more brands  are stepping up and leading the way in standing up for what they believe in and trying to use the power they have to make the world a better place - not just through campaigns, but by actions. And consumers who can’t take up the placards and loud hailers themselves, want brands to do it for them.

In just the past month alone, there have been a slew of brands taking stands, such as:

-      The almost unanimous boycotting of GB News by brands when they realised that their ads were appearing on the station was heartening beyond belief.

-      During EUROS 2020, when UEFA decided that rainbow advertising at the games contravened their “no politics” stance, sponsors such as Just Eat and TikTok all proudly flew the rainbow flag in the face of pressure from the right.

-      As did Harry Kane on his Captain’s armband……(yes, he’s a brand).

-      And Pride Month saw so much amazing advertising during June. Even if a lot is still only for the duration of the month, the creativity and intensity of much of it was brilliant to see.

And for those brands that do stand up to be counted, to make a difference, to not be pushed around, they will be rewarded. We know this for a fact.

Our research also showed that 49% of respondents agreed people should boycott businesses that don’t reflect the things they feel are important and that one in three (33%) plan to show more loyalty to brands they do agree with. This rises to 45% among 18-24 year olds. 

The message here is pretty clear: Have a clear belief system and ethos that you stand up for when pushed, and you will earn consumer love. Fail to do so and you may well be cast aside, challenged or even boycotted.

More and more brands are stepping up and leading the way in standing up for what they believe in and trying to use the power they have to make the world a better place - not just through campaigns, but by actions.

Aimee Luther, Managing Director, Liberty Guild

Here are some ways in which you can ensure you end up on the right side of the barrier.

Purchase behaviour is now beyond transactional. It is an embellishment of what consumers  stand for.  Brands have become badges of their values, so make sure your brand is a badge they feel proud to wear.

Consumer product choice is now so bountiful, meeting all practical requirements, that they are now whittling down their  choices based not on efficacy or taste but on ethics.  'The only way is ethics', you could say. Brands should look for evidence of the values of their product. For example, if you’re a cheddar cheese, there are thousands of others like you on the shelves, so be the one that is BCorp registered and supports your local dairy.

Brands have become such extensions of people’s personalities, that consumers now stitch them  together to create a tapestry of individual beliefs that are then used as a form of activism-lite.   Consumers will vote with their money, they will support brands who are protecting the environment or supporting the things they believe in - brands need to give consumers a reason to choose them on an ethical and sustainable basis. Even the big utilities are moving to this approach.

No doubt that the pandemic has brought mindful consumption into sharp focus.  Consumers have had a lot of time to think and have all become more aware of their relationships, their environment and themselves more than ever before.

They’ve gone from fighting over individual inches to realising their collective power, so brands can be part of that collective and take a stand.  

Because in that time people have also realised the potential of herd-power in breaking a brand as well as the power to make a brand.

Guest Author

Aimee Luther, The Liberty Guild

Managing Director,


Aimee is Managing Director at The Liberty Guild. The Liberty Guild is an invitation-only curated association of the finest communication practitioners in the world.

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Purpose Sustainability