value-driven marketing valuewashing
Marketing,  Opinion Piece

Let’s talk about Movement-Washing Marketing

Movements, that’s what millennials care about, right? Brands know this and splash their chosen crusades across their sites, reports and even product packaging. Greenwashing and sustainability-washing are passé and we’re now in the era of movement-washing. This is when a brand spends a lot of time and money hitching themselves to a particular movement, but on closer inspection, comes up very short. It may seem attractive to champion a cause, but with greater access to information, preaching about what you don’t practice is risky business.

Values are in and PROFITS ARE OUT!

Research shows it’s trendy to be values-driven and to champion a movement that your target market cares about. Less carbon emissions, more gender-equality and sustainable agriculture are all things that make millennials tick. Honest food, inclusive products, work life balance; there are an array of movements to pad your brand with. Because consumers don’t care about your bottom-line, they care about the difference you make to their causes.

But you need to back it up

As you can’t just say it. You now need to be able to support your climb onto the soapbox. As a result, this is where brands fall apart. Failing to check their own houses, they brush past the finer details. They rush to promote green cars, their eco-friendly stance, an emotive Superbowl spot or put up a statue in Wall Street. Yikes, this is embarrassing. As, in the age of the Internet, it is quick work to test the strength of their commitment to the cause. Most end up with egg on their face, the campaign loses integrity and is as meaningful as lipstick on a pig.

so long integrity

These campaigns have important messages but once the brand is exposed, they become a finger-pointing exercise. Goodbye credibility and hello damaged brand value. The attempt to build the brand, has instead yielded skeptical consumers and lowered brand value. As a result, the brand now needs to navigate the resulting distrust and claw back some credibility.

Go deep or get out the water

With little evidence to support campaign claims, they emerge as shallow attempts to connect with a target audience. As a result, the original message disappears in the noise of a thousand fingers poking holes in the brand’s integrity. Yet, the bad PR caused by these unwise endeavours probably elevates the movement further. So that’s a silver lining, but not one that the brand will benefit from.

Do consumers care?

We can argue that most consumers don’t care whether or not brands live up to their stated values. That maybe this debate is a luxury for those with high levels of disposable income. Not for those struggling to put food on the table. Yet, with all the choice consumers have today, it seems safer to live by your values, rather than be found wanting. Especially if you’re going to make a lot of noise about them.

SAY No to movement-washing

Values-driven marketing that aligns with consumers is powerful, but shouldn’t be at the cost of brand value. Because you can’t just cherry pick a trendy cause and hope for the best. As it will only take so long for you to be caught out. Hence, it’s wise to make real commitments to the movement, before adding it to the marketing mix.

So, don’t indulge in costly movement-washing. Before you take to the soapbox, ensure that you do in fact practice what you’re going to spend millions preaching.

What do you think?

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