• Annie Moyo

What Brand Strength Means in Our Current Social Framework

We have witnessed a dialogue in the past two weeks and some of us may have chosen to actively engage in that dialogue. The dialogue has been driven by the saddening and shocking events that have made mainstream media on South African shores and in some cases, worldwide.

The rising cases of femicide and violence against women across South Africa has sparked a national conversation on what needs to be done to affect the trajectory of the current statistics. Racism debates have also been rife and these have been sparked by George Floyd’s public execution and others that happened in May 2020. Up till now, the choice has been yours to have a say or remain silent as an individual or organisation. Whether you choose to speak or be on mute be prepared for the comments or judgment that will follow, from those listening and watching.

As people weighed in on social media regarding these two focus points, brands may have found themselves being called upon to take a stance and in many cases forced to publicly express their stance. Consumers and society at large are likely to evaluate brands based on this right now and in the future. Your brand strength and perception during these times should be of utmost importance and used as a strategic lever to grow your customer base. Brand strength is linked to brand equity. Brand Strength can be based on a number of factors that could be external and internal to the brand.

How brands relate and respond to contentious issues may play a bigger role in how they are viewed going forward. It can be assumed that strong brands that hold strong stances and express them publicly are better positioned for the win. It is, of course, up to the brand to decide what that stance is. It can be anti or pro the issue at hand.

How Does a Brand Choose a Stance? It is quite simple.

A brand should ask themselves one question. Are any of our employees, customers or community in the group that is affected by the current issue?

If yes, then we suggest the brand holds a strong stance and express it publicly and boldly, say it with your chest. The brand is obligated to take a stance and is further obligated to express it.

If no, we still suggest that the brand holds a stance but it may get away with saying nothing. However, the brand must be prepared for when called upon to comment or take a stance.

Recently, a South African retail eCommerce brand had its employees urging the brand to speak on its stance on racism. The ecommerce retailer expressed that they do not hold any stance at all regarding racism and the current affairs. This proved to be an unfortunate move for the brand which has subsequently come under fire on social media platforms. Over 85% of the employees are black. The brand could have avoided the negative publicity if the simple question had been asked and truthfully answered.

Not expressing your stance is one thing but not holding a stance at all is an entirely different ball game. It is a ball game that brands need to avoid playing in. Strong brands hold strong stances and express them boldly.

Members of society may be more forgiving when a brand does not say anything. Perhaps in some cases, the brand has not gotten round to saying anything. However, when a brand is asked to say something and then responds with “no comment” or tone deaf responses it leaves more than a bitter taste left in the mouths of those who could drive your revenue.

The level of consciousness of the society where consumers reside has shifted with time and so should the consciousness of brands that serve them. Being a conscious brand makes you a strong brand. It enables brands to positively impact society and create shared value. Strong brands evolve with society and society is forever evolving in the way in which they think, act and live. For the sake of sustainability and social impact a strong brand will practice good listening, open minded reflecting and respond with conviction when called upon. 

Racism and femicide are embedded in our systems, our history and our culture. Brands operate within these systems. We can no longer escape these discussions and topics. As atrocities continue to happen globally and locally we can expect more violent outcry and confrontations of these systems, our history and our cultures. The responsibility placed on brands to act or say something will be greater than before.

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#brandstrength #brandvalue #protests #opinion

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