The Power of Conscious Advertising And Why It’s the Future

By Tony Chen, CEO and founder, Channel Factory

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The seismic shifts the world has grappled with in the past year: a global pandemic, social unrest, misinformation and increasingly louder calls for equality, have changed nearly every aspect of how we do business. It’s also had a significant impact on consumer priorities, with consumer sentiment changing drastically. We have all begun to look at commerce through a more socially and culturally informed lens.  People want to be involved with socially relevant and conscious causes, and they want the brands they support and products they buy to reflect that.

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These socially conscious sentiments have been bubbling under the surface of society for years, but no more. Consumers are no longer tip-toeing around the need for advertising to be held more accountable – to be ethical, conscious, and conscientious. It’s no longer a nice-to-have for brands to carry a deeply embedded purpose, it’s table stakes. Consumers have made it clear that they want to be surrounded by content that speaks to them while being relevant and engaging. Brands must now carry a finely woven thread of social conscience throughout every part of their business: the idea of being socially conscious through their advertising – conscious advertising – is key for brands today and tomorrow.

Why conscious advertising matters

Brands have always been cautious with issues that arise. Fear of saying the wrong thing, coming off as inauthentic or performative, or potentially alienating a portion of their audience are often cited as reasons why brands are hesitant to speak on certain topics. However, recent data is showing that consumers actually prefer brands that take a stand on important social issues. In fact, in a study we recently conducted, 69% of U.S. consumers would prefer to buy from brands committed to socially conscious causes such as donating to charities, taking a stand on climate change, or ensuring their corporate culture supports inclusivity and diversity.

When brands are committed to making online environments more diverse and inclusive, 60% of consumers surveyed in that same study said they would favor that brand over another that is not as active in social causes.

Conscious advertising matters. Consumers notice when a brand has remained silent on an important social issue or when their ad appears alongside a video that does not align with their values. A consumer’s first reaction to those scenarios stays with them through their purchasing process, and greatly impacts a consumer’s decision.

How to be a socially conscious brand

By now, most people know why brands should be conscious in their advertising, but how a brand goes about this remains a bit unclear. The question looms large among brands looking to take a conscious approach to their next campaign. Being conscious while also being authentic to your brand and your message is a balancing act many struggle to perfect.

There are brands that are getting it right. Take, for example, Ben and Jerry’s who have an entire section on their website dedicated to issues they care about including LGBTQ+ equality, social justice and climate change. Ben and Jerry’s has not only supported these causes, but has been outspoken in their support. They are not shying away from being strong in their beliefs, speaking up, and incorporating these ideals into their advertising strategies.

With the example of Ben and Jerry’s, their outspokenness does not feel inauthentic to their brand because Ben and Jerry’s has a long history of speaking against social injustices and relevant current events. But what if your brand is just starting to enter this conscious space?

Advertisers must ensure that their campaigns have careful purpose, different perspectives from people of all backgrounds and a diverse range of minority creators. There is a common misconception that diversity in advertisement is limited to skin color; it also implies to LGBTQ, people with disabilities, religions and more. Diversity does not stop with the ads themselves; it includes those making the decisions as well.

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Another important thing to remember is to remain authentic to your brand. When your message feels disingenuous, it is unlikely anyone is going to believe it. So speak from what you know and lean into how you can activate the very core of your business for social good. For example, in times of disaster or crisis, InBev Anheuser Busch stops beer production to bottle and distribute water to parts of the world who need it.

Brands can also be socially conscious by letting their actions speak louder than their words. Don’t just say something needs to change; be a part of that change. Have a strong call to action and encourage your consumers to take part in it. That way, not only are you enacting change, but you are creating a consumer engagement that will not be soon forgotten.

A conscious future

Conscious advertising is an important strategy for future-proofing a brand. Consumer sentiment changed dramatically over the last year as priorities for consumers have shifted to being conscious and focused on making a difference. It is difficult to imagine consumers will give brands a free pass moving forward. Consumers want to support brands that have values that are similar to their own, and to know that these brands are willing to put their heads on the line to stand up for these beliefs.

Brands and advertisers will continue to be held accountable by consumers and will be expected to have firm beliefs while making decisive statements when it makes sense. It is not crazy to think that in the future, one of the most important ways in which consumers will decide which brands to buy from is if those brands are outspoken on issues that matter.

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