Brands and their responses to social issues

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) nowadays does not translate only into charity, donation or large-scale programs. The new generation of consumers requires businesses to respond and react promptly to major social issues.

To speak or not to speak?

During crisis, not every brand can put out a quick response. Some chose to keep silent, or give their statement cautiously. In such situation, what is the wisest response to win consumers’ heart?

In order to answer that, it is necessary to learn what consumers want from brands. A recent survey on Gen Z (born between 1995 – 2015) consumer behavior conducted by McKinsey in collaboration with Box1824 showed that 70% of respondents tried to buy products from ethical companies, 80% denied to purchase from companies that involved in scandals. Gen Z has a great influence on their families’ purchasing decisions as they often consult their parents on which brand to choose. When ethics is becoming the new trend in daily decision making, businesses’ attitude to emerging social issues is one of the criteria for consumers to evaluate corporate ethics.

According to Dr. Clāra Ly-Le – Managing Director of EloQ Communication: “Many companies are afraid to make their remarks on social issues for fear of making a slip of the tongue. However, silence also translates into “We don’t care” – an attitude that is not welcomed by consumers. The public in the 21st century expects brands to be socially responsible with realistic statements and actions. Timely and appropriate response also contribute to businesses’ crisis management.”

 “Taking a stand” means trading off

Social issues are often complicated and raise mixed opinions in the community. Therefore, speaking indecisively can make the audience upset. Once the brand has chosen to take a stand, it must accept that the other party will not be quite happy.

Practicing ethics is not an easy thing. In a civilized society, only few people publicly admit to being racist, however, the BLM movement is still opposed by thousands of people. Likewise, supporting social distancing for the purpose of Covid-19 pandemic prevention will displease those who want to open up the economy. You simply cannot please everyone. If you already choose one side, you must prepare to face backlashes from the opposing group of customers. But in return, your advocates will support the brand stronger, including those who have never used the brand’s products before. And remember, businesses’ comments on social issues should be consistent with their prior and latter announcements and actions.

Giving opinion on heated topics is not an easy task, but it is necessary if the brand want to build a bold, responsible and mature image.

Speaking up or not, what is your choice?


Author Nhung Do is a copywriter of EloQ Communications. Nhung Do has over 10 years of experience in journalism, book writing, teaching and content creation. Read more articles relating to marketing and communications at EloQ’s Blog.