Every year we take stock in what’s been happening – and look to identify the cultural forces that will be shaping the year to come. Typically we find several indicators of a number of cultural shifts happening or emerging; but this year we witnessed a full-on revolution, not the normal evolutions.
In 2017, the status quo was shattered.
The seismic shift of 2017 that will define our culture going forward can be captured in one word: Solidarity.
It wasn’t an isolated event that triggered this change, but a confluence of events that started as far back as 2014 with Bill Cosby’s allegations of sexual misconduct. Since that time, there had been accusations bubbling in virtually every industry – news, business, politics, sports, etc. But it wasn’t until 2017 when the high-profile victims of Hollywood came forward, which in turn, fueled a social media frenzy. The sheer number of sexual misconduct allegations among well-known people has been staggering and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight as more women become vocal about their personal stories of experiencing inappropriate behavior.
Solidarity is Golden. Not Silence.
We saw bravery at its best. It was not for the select few, but it became contagious. It seemingly became wrong to not speak up when something was not right. Actress Alyssa Milano reignited “me too” into the “#metoo movement” with the impact of social media. This originated years prior by Tarana Burke, who intended the two simple words to convey that victims are not alone and should not be ashamed. As #metoo exploded, we all have experienced the universal truth that we are never alone; we are all connected. Appropriately, “The Silence Breakers” are being celebrated as Time’s 2017 “Person of the Year”.
Zimmerman Analytics reports that #metoo has reached well over 2 million social media mentions; and if you add in all of the off-line conversations and efforts that never became a blip on the mass media radar screen, you’d see that the number of people touched by #metoo is massive. Despite how impactful this has been, we anticipate that it’s just the beginning.
Power is in play.
What is considered culturally acceptable constantly changes. “Society decides what’s right and wrong” cites Patti Sunderland, cultural anthropologist and founding principle at Cultural Research & Analysis, Inc. She continues, “As we look across the world, the human record of possibility is so much wider and the variety of expressions of sexuality so much broader than what we imagine is right and wrong in our country. But what we have to consider for the US are the ways ‘issues of power’ – who holds it and who does not – are in play”. The power has shifted. And, while men haven’t necessarily lost power, women have come together and have certainly claimed it.
Brands have three choices: watch the change, embrace the change or be the change.
Brands have an opportunity to fuel the positive change they want to see. Advertising has long had the ability to shape our culture, and today that ability has intensified. Consumer motivation goes beyond ‘what’s cool in my world’ to something much more noble with people asking how they can help change the world with their voices, actions and wallets. Remember what Simon Sinek reinforced to all modern marketers – people no longer buy products alone, they buy into beliefs. We’ve born witness to this truth with the impact that for-profit brands can have on our culture by asserting their stance on issues. Stereotypes have been challenged thanks to Under Armour’s work with Misty Copeland, the first African American to land a leading role with the American Ballet Theater. We care more today about what goes into the food we eat thanks to Chipotle. We are more conscious about empowering girls’ confidence thanks to Always. Eighty-three percent of companies that over-perform on revenue growth associate everything they do to Brand Purpose, as opposed to only 31% of under performers (Interbrand Best Global Brands 2017).
“Shopping good” is an easy and immediate way for people to do good.
We know that people want to be part of a cause, but we also know that people can be lazy or too busy, so the best of intentions never come to fruition. Supporting brands is a simple way to participate. Seventy percent of millennials say that they would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social or environmental issues, according to The Deloitte’s Millennial Survey, 2015. “Consumers are voting with their wallets because they know the impact that it has on businesses” states Michael Goldberg, Zimmerman’s CEO. He continues, “just look at the sharp sales response when Patagonia spoke out against the largest reduction of protected land in American history with “The President Stole Your Land”. Patagonia’s sales were 7% stronger than the week prior, which interestingly also included Cyber Monday.
To win, Brands need a position, not just a positioning.
We witnessed that 2017 took the conversation to a new level – one that is even more personal and is emotionally charged. We must be authentic and true to our brands. More than ever, we need to have a firm grasp on our brand’s belief systems. When you know what you believe, you know how to behave.
Saying nothing is no longer safe or even an option. Having the courage to say and do what you feel is right will not only show solidarity, but will build a solid fan base which will extend far beyond the product and or service you sell. According to Edelman’s 2017 Earned Brand Study, one-half of global consumers are “belief-driven” buyers, willing to buy a brand, switch from it, or boycott it based on a brand’s stance on controversial or social issues.
As poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou profoundly stated, “When you know better, you do better.”
As we enter 2018 knowing better, we all should be stepping up and standing for the change we want to see in the world. Now is the time. Do you know where you stand? Are you brave enough to speak up about it?