Companies Are Springing Into Action: The Age Of Activism

Picture this: it’s Friday night, and everyone is ready to head out to the bars.
One boy says, “I’ll call an Uber.”
Another boy agrees.
All the girls in the room, including myself, simultaneously yell, “No!”
The now controversial app is quickly deleted, and a Lyft is called instead.

Photo from Flickr by Washington State Department of Transportation

This is just one example of the hottest trend: activism sells. From everyday scenarios as mentioned above to large purchases, people are making a conscious effort to ensure their consumer habits align with their social beliefs. Trends are pouring in from the Internet, tarnishing the reputations of companies like Volvo, which lied about emission tests, and Under Armour after CEO Kevin Plank praised Trump. Do you want to know which other stores sell or support the Trump brand? Just refer to the #GrabYourWallet movement, which has influenced corporation giants like Nordstrom to cease selling Trump products; its list of stores to avoid is constantly updated. Or take it from the #DeleteUber trend after the company’s very public sexism allegations, especially in contrast to Lyft’s $1 million donation to the ACLU. Modern marketing now focuses campaigns around the new market: millennials and their desire for social justice. The global recognition of our individual and combined consumer power is realized. Companies that conflict with those beliefs are failing under social pressure while companies that are embracing and supporting causes are thriving.

More examples include Patagonia donating 100% of their Black Friday sales to conservation measures, Ben & Jerry’s statement in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, AirBnB’s promise to house 100,000 refugees, Budweiser’s Super Bowl commercial in support of immigration, and Target’s swimsuit campaign with unphotoshopped women of all shapes.

Are these donations and campaigns simply marketing ploys to attract the attention and money of social thinkers? Probably. Are they still helping causes we care about while spreading awareness? Yes. After all, isn’t this better than the “sex sells” method of selling women’s bodies rather than their empowerment? Keep in mind that if you want to support socially conscious brands, it is also important to do a bit of research yourself. Does the company follow through with their promises? Make sure the company isn’t just joining the trend, but becoming a part of the movement. And luckily for brand marketers, there are many causes in need of support.

But that doesn’t mean all campaigns are successful. One example is the latest Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner. The ad features Jenner in a fashion shoot as a protest is in full swing outside. The model eventually tears off her ensemble to join the collection of young people, gifting a police officer a Pepsi and ending the tension. If only it were that easy. Jenner was accused of trivializing many important movements and discrediting real social leaders of this generation. Pepsi pulled the campaign after severe backlash and publically apologized…to Jenner.

However, there is a bright side to the outcry that immediately followed the release of this campaign: it further proves that real social justice cannot be sold. Millennials’ social media influence lead to the campaign’s takedown, but it also shows that this generation is not willing to buy superficial attempts of activism and authenticity wins more often than not.


By: Sabrina Canepa