The concepts of corporate social responsibility and brand social responsibility have been around for decades. They reflect the expectations that consumers have that businesses aren’t just responsible for boosting their profits; they should work to benefit their broader community as well.

In the past few years, this concept has been growing in popularity among consumers who are looking to purchase from (or work with) organizations that are as committed to their values as they are. 

And, it’s a more widespread desire among consumers than one might realize. Seventy-seven percent of consumers believe it’s either “somewhat” or “very important” for companies to make the world a better place. What’s more, 73 percent of investors share that they are driven by efforts to improve both the environment and society, as shared by the Harvard Business School. As a result, 90 percent of S&P 500 brands publish an annual Corporate Social Responsibility report.

This article will examine the current consumer drive for more ethical, socially driven messaging from the brands they shop for and what it means for organizations that are planning their media strategies.

The Importance of Social Responsibility

Consumers are looking to see their values reflected in the brands they choose, starting with eco-conscious products and organizations. One survey shared by Strategy + Business found that 81 percent of polled consumers expect companies “to be environmentally conscious in their advertising and communications.”

The publication chalks this up to the pandemic, stating, “All over the world, business leaders and analysts have been pondering which of the consumer behaviors accelerated by the pandemic will persist and deepen and which will recede. [This] survey, conducted more than a year after the first outbreak of COVID-19, suggests that eco-friendly consumerism is here to stay.”

But, it’s not just the more mindful, environmentally-friendly practices that consumers are looking for. They are also looking for socially-conscious storytelling. 

As Forbes shared, socially conscious media is all about partnering social responsibility with advertising. Now, brands must thoughtfully consider the social and political implications of what they do or what they offer. Regarding media buying, brands have to think about their stance on social issues and think about what is best not only for their customers, but also for society as a whole.

Forbes shares that transparency is an important element in this. Consumers want to know the full impact of their purchasing decisions and having this information accessible to consumers establishes trust. 

The Digital Marketing Institute reported that two-thirds of consumers state that it’s important that brands take a position on social and political issues, even on places like social media, where 58 percent of consumers are open to brands sharing their position on important issues. It’s important to note that the Digital Marketing Institute also offered that social media is the top channel for receptivity among consumers. 

When it comes to social issues, consumers are listening, and brands can channel their media planning and buying efforts accordingly. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, taking a stance on social issues can benefit brands in the following ways:

  • Improve your following with Millennials and Gen Z, as 46 percent of Millennials and 42 percent of Gen Z expect brands to be vocal on issues that matter to them. The brand Bodyform shared stories that focused on highlighting women’s health issues and then received 1.1 million views on Instagram and 3.4 million likes on Twitter.
  • Build revenue. Consumers rank brands as the third most trusted criteria when they go to make a purchase, regardless of location, age, or gender. 
  • Boost brand loyalty and improve trust among consumers. Since the pandemic onset, consumers report that they are more worried about their physical and emotional health. Brands that work to allay fears about these worries are four times more trusted compared to other brands, according to Digital Marketing Institute.

What Does This Mean for Media Buying?

So, with all of this information in mind, how should you move forward if you want to incorporate or share a message of social responsibility? It’s a concept that requires intentionality, awareness, and a great deal of thoughtfulness. Here are some considerations to take with you as you build your brand’s reputation as a socially-minded organization.

Be Mindful. Always. 

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

Just as consumers are looking for brands to have social consciousness and authenticness in social media. A disingenuous message or one not informed by those close to the subject can backfire and garner negative attention.

Don’t Make Empty Promises

In all of this talk about socially responsible and socially conscious media, it’s important for brands to remember that they must follow through on the claims they make, and the beliefs they express in their media strategies.

Digital Marketing Dive shared that 73 percent of consumers reported that brands have to act “now” for the well-being of the planet and for the good of society. The same publication also shared that 71 percent of consumers are skeptical; they don’t think brands will keep up with their promises. 

There’s even a term for this: “CSR Washing,” or corporate social responsibility washing, that can put a brand’s reputation in jeopardy. When consumers report that only around 47 percent of brands seem trustworthy, it’s essential that no matter the media channel or strategy a brand chooses to implement. In other words, to “talk the talk”, they must “walk the walk” when it comes to their socially responsible messaging.

Go Mobile

Gen Z is made up of consumers who are passionate about social issues–-and they spend lots of time on their phones. In fact, Forbes reported that Gen Z spends an average of 4 hours per day on their phones using apps, which is exclusive to the time spent playing games. 

This is one channel where brands looking to share their message with Gen Z can have some success. What’s more, 65 percent use social media to find entertaining content and 61 percent want to see more video content. To reach target demographics like Gen Z, brands should use current, popular social media channels to meet them where they are, on apps like Tik Tok, Instagram, and Pinterest. 

Plus, as Forbes shared, Brands that want to capture this audience’s attention need to prioritize authentic, organic content rather than the more polished output they became accustomed to producing for millennials.“

You Make a Difference, We’ll Help You Make an Impression

According to a study conducted in 2020 and shared by Forbes, 81 percent of all consumers across the globe are driven by their values or their inner purpose. They want to find products and services that fit with their values. 

Additionally, Forbes shared that nearly 60 percent of these survey participants felt very strongly about their expectations for the brands they interact with, stating that, “it is no longer acceptable for companies to be silent on social justice issues.” In fact, staying silent on topics that are important to consumers may end up costing you loyal customers. Nearly half of these same survey participants reported that, “they assume companies that remain quiet on social justice issues don’t care.”

The stories you tell in your advertising can help ignite conversation and action with socially conscious consumers—the very same ones who want to support brands that share their values. It’s how you show them you care, and importantly, how you build the lifelong customer relationships you’re seeking.

Building a legacy as a socially responsible brand can help you connect with new audiences, drive consumer loyalty, and make an impact wherever you are sharing your messages—if you take the right approach.

But, how do you get this message in front of your target audience? And how can you connect with the right audiences? MBI will help you locate the ideal channels to share your message. To learn more about how we can help, reach out today!