Marketing Paradigm Shifts to Expect in 2021

How the tone and authenticity of messaging is continuing to evolve

Marketing Paradigm Shifts to Expect in 2021

How the tone and authenticity of messaging is continuing to evolve

In an age of accountability and increasing political consciousness, many brands are taking a public stance on social and political matters. Brands and marketing professionals are finding it impossible to overlook current issues, tempted to jump into political conversations for the sake of relevancy. In some cases, their consumers expect it in order to retain their loyalty and trust. Brands must now walk the fine line of saying too little or saying too much, doing nothing at all or becoming overzealous. So what does this mean for brand marketing in 2021? 

Today, brands must evolve with the times and ask themselves what is at the core of their brand values and what role does that play in their messaging. There are many reasons brands may feel inclined to take a public stance, including the following:

  1. The Brand’s stakeholders have personal ideations and values that align with certain causes, topics, and issues, which makes for passionate stakeholders who are compelled to use their brand as a wider platform in support of a cause.
  2. Brands might see it as an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon because it could increase their social footprint, create buzz for the brand and make them seem socially and/or politically conscious.

When Should A Brand Speak Out?

While brand’s may find it enticing to take a public stance on sensitive topics, joining with your brand’s platform may not be the best idea. In deciding what to speak out about, where to do so, when to do so, and how to do so…you must start with the WHY? For instance, it might not make sense for an establishment such as Chuck E. Cheese to speak out against new automobile smog regulations.

Having meaningful conversations with key stakeholders is imperative in deciding what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. Oftentimes, individuals can confuse their personal opinions and feelings with a brand identity. This is why we always recommend that when creating your brand’s identity, you put all personal opinions aside and focus solely on your brand. Doing so creates parameters and guardrails that help the marketing team make decisions on what to convey on behalf of the brand.

A brand that suddenly takes a public stance on an issue that has never been mentioned before, or doesn’t align with the brand’s core values and identity, could be damaging in irreparable ways. Doing so without careful consideration could be seen as virtue signaling. It could lead to alienating some of your target audience and It could come across as inauthentic.

That is not to say a brand cannot speak out in support of or against current issues, but it has to make sense and the brand must be willing to alienate some loyal or potential consumers. Take the ice cream giant, Ben & Jerry’s for example.

They’ve dedicated an entire page on their website to issues they care about, remixed their ice cream flavors in support of social justice, partnered with non-profit organizations to make a difference, advocated for community action, and spoke out promptly and unabashedly about political issues. One might ask, why is Ben & Jerry’s speaking on such matters? They are an ice cream company. I don’t get it. Visit their website and you will find it stated clearly in their values. They operate on a three-part Mission guide in their decision making: economic mission, product mission, and social mission.

When it comes to their three-part mission guide, the ice cream giant states: “Central to the Mission of Ben & Jerry’s is the belief that all three parts must thrive equally in a manner that commands deep respect for individuals in and outside the Company and supports the communities of which they are a part.”

Ben & Jerry’s asked themselves the hard questions and made a choice that fit within their values.

What A Brand Needs to Consider

So before brands decide on whether to take a public stance on delicate issues, consider asking the following:

  1. What are the brand’s core values and identity? Does the brand already take a stance against or for certain ideals?
  2. Is the desire to take a stance based on the feelings and opinions of individuals rather than the company’s values and identity?
  3. How does taking a stance protect the values that the brand has always stood for?
  4. Will doing so hurt the brand’s reputation?
  5. Will taking a stance alienate some of the current and target audience?
  6. If taking a stance, what do we say, when do we say it, how do we say it?

This is where placing value in inclusive, authentic, and transparent messaging comes into play. How has your brand worked towards ensuring inclusive messaging? Is you brand authentic in its approach to messaging and customer relations? Has your brand taken measures to improve its transparency with company values?

In an article written by Holly Fearing on Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is the Future of Marketing, she identifies the opportunities present for honing in loyal consumers. Fearing said, “The future is diverse. Consumers demand equity, and growth happens through inclusion.” Building these brand-to-client relationships is reliant upon trust. This starts with comprehensive research and understanding of various cultural and social matters that impact your target market.

Consumers want to know where their money is going, who the brand supports publicly and privately, where materials are sourced and produced and if they are environmentally conscientious. If a brand missteps, consumers want to see genuine and swift accountability. Conscious consumers rely on transparent and authentic messaging in order to trust in the brands they choose to invest in.

Takeaways Moving Forward

Using the lessons learned from 2020, we have learned to slow down and listen to the concerns of individuals representing different social and political causes. This crucial step helps to better curate a brand that is cognisant of limitations and opportunities. If your brand aims to be an active influence in the communities you are trying to reach to sell your products, be sure to ask yourself if your methods of communication and messaging is sensitive to that market’s interests and values. It’s not always about what you say, but why you choose to say it.


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