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Industry Contributor 30 Sep 2019 - 4 min read

Brands: Don't try to take a stand on everything

By Karen Halligan, Practice Lead – Media Value Advisory

New research looking at how consumers view brands taking a stand on societal issues show that  consumers do not expect companies to take a stand on all issues – but they do expect action on the issues that are under a their control.


Key points:

  • FleishmanHillard research conducted in Canada, the U.S., China, Germany, the U.K. and Brazil, shows companies increasingly feeling pressured to take a stand on divisive issues, but that doesn’t mean they should act on that very issue.
  • Fleishman reports that three out of every four consumers expect CEOs to take a position on issues that impact their customers (74 per cent), products and services (72 per cent) and employees (71 per cent).
  • 75 per cent of respondents indicated that climate change is what they feel most strongly about however only 53 per cent expected corporations to take action.
  • Data security (83 per cent) and data privacy (82 per cent) also come up as areas that consumers felt most strongly about, yet again a lower amount of consumers expected corporations to take action, 59 per cent and 58 per cent respectively expect work on the issues.
  • Consumers do have a view that companies should proactively protect them, this study stated that in relation to data and privacy a majority of respondents (73 per cent), want businesses to have protection practices in place that go beyond regulatory mandates.

When it comes to cause marketing, brands must tread carefully. Inauthenticity will quickly raise heckles and risks more damage than good.

Cause marketing has become something of a buzzword lately, with the idea that a company’s promotional campaigns should both increase profitability while at the same time bettering society, at large entering political and business spheres.

However, in this day and age consumers quickly see through a company’s approach to cause related marketing and assess them. Front-of-mind for consumers is the link to the brand’s product/service being sold, the authenticity of the association between the brand and the cause, and the way in which the association is bought to life.

People filter fast when it comes to the authenticity of a brand’s engagement with social issues. Case in point: my daughter recently asked me why an unrelated brand was talking about homelessness, and she is 10. And it was very hard for me to give her a logical reason.

As a passionate member of the UnLtd Board (A charity that galvanises the media, marketing and advertising community to utilise our skills and influence to raise money for youth charities), I am a huge believer in the impact that organisations can bring for greater good of our community but it works best when done well, authentically, consistently and with an aligned and logical strategy.

Choosing the right properties to align to is critical. Doing it right can be very positive for brands. We have all seen the work that Dove has done with Women and positive body image. But on the flip side the recent abandonment of plastic bags in the retail space, closely followed by the distribution of plastic collectables can clearly show how tenuous these things can be when not thought through in a holistic and long-term way.

What this research shows is that brands need to be aware of which issues they choose to address in cause marketing – and authenticity is key!

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Karen Halligan, Practice Lead – Media Value Advisory


Karen Halligan currently leads the KPMG Media Advisory as a part of the Customer, Brand and Marketing team at KPMG.  Karen has held roles in all three areas of the media industry having held client, agency and media owner roles, she has a diverse range of experience across Marketing, Media and Marketing measurement.

She has led some of the country’s largest accounts including Reckitt Benckiser, Yum Restaurants, Procter and Gamble, Coca-Cola and the Coles Myer business when it was spending $180 Million.

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