From Nike’s Kap ads to Airbnb's pro-immigration call-to-arms, more and more brands are beginning to push the boundaries of their remit in 2018 by becoming increasingly politicised. And while it's certainly the right direction to be moving in, it’s certainly not a new direction.
What is new, is seeing brands beginning to back their words with more than just declarations and donations, and focusing on creating tangible actions on a large scale. The brand currently at the forefront of this evolution is a shoe-maker, led by a guy called Blake Mycoskie.
In 2006 Blake created TOMS, who would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One™. This month, Blake appeared on the Jimmy Fallon show to announce the TOMS #EndGunViolenceTogether campaign. (Heads up: it’s an emotionally-charged interview, but that’s because it’s an emotionally-charged subject)
During the show, Blake reveals that TOMS will be making a $5,000,000 donation to organisations across the US who are committed to ending gun violence, which is a valuable step forward in itself, but what's more powerful is the portal TOMS have created on their website. The campaign provides every American with the opportunity to act by sending a postcard to their local representative, encouraging them to pass universal background checks throughout the country. That's it — a postcard.
It's a simple gesture, but it’s one that legitimises TOMS’ donation, and arguably surpasses it, because the war against gun violence isn’t going to be won through money alone; it's going to be won through voices and positive actions. By creating this portal, TOMS has helped facilitate a real-life action that turns a whole host of brand aficionados into engaged social activists.
To put this into context, if there was a hierarchy of needs for the brand world then tangible / experiential action would be at the very top of the pyramid. It would be the branding equivalent of 'Self-Actualisation', because by creating an experiential element to their activity TOMS has enabled other people to demonstrate their beliefs and become the values-driven person they always aspired to be.
That's the kind of action that demonstrates genuine belief in the issue. And that's the kind of action that people — consumers — will respond to.
For brands of the future, talking the talk isn’t enough anymore. Nor is simply putting your money where your mouth is. Today's consumer demands more. Today's consumer wants to live their values, and it’s the role of brand to facilitate that experience.
TOMS has delivered, and brands who want to continue growing will need to watch and listen and learn.