What is Brand Pandering?
Most people have witnessed brand pandering without even noticing. The most common times of year you witness brand pandering are during Pride Month, Black History Month, Juneteenth, International Women’s Day, Pinktober, and the list goes on. We are not suggesting businesses don’t genuinely align with social movements and causes, but pandering is becoming standard in the marketing world and sadly taking the place of brand activism.
Brand pandering is when an organization temporarily alters its visual aesthetic, purpose, or mission to reflect a trending topic, cause, or movement. Instead of maintaining a consistent brand, companies create ads advocating for causes and movements when the companies themselves do not align with the values they are portraying. Even though many companies actively pander to select audiences, there are dangers to consider, as discussed below.
Some of the most common examples of brand pandering are pictured below:
In this photo, you see that brands changed their logos to depict support during LGBTQ+ month; however, in other parts of the world, they do not change their logo where the movement may be viewed as controversial. In addition, many of these organizations only display these logos at Pride events or during Pride Month.
Why Do Organizations Pander?
The primary reason brands run disingenuous campaigns is to see a temporary increase in revenue. Another reason brands jump on the next relevant topic rather than staying genuine to their mission and organizational goals is to remain relevant in platform streams. Lastly, they believe they are connecting with groups and people on a personal level in hopes of creating long-term brand loyalty.
Dangers of Brand Pandering
The intended outcomes are true for Brand Activism, but Brand Pandering is poorly executed Brand Activism in many cases. Brands are now attaching themselves to causes without critical thought and follow through. Consumers now have access to information about organizations at the click of a button. In many instances, customers find that organizations are not advocating for the causes they are marketing in their operations, through volunteer efforts, or monetary resources. The inconsistency in messaging and the conflicting actions of the organization result in distrust.
In some cases, this distrust can spark counter-movements that expose the contradictions of a brand. If this occurs, the effects are damaging to revenue and potentially the organization’s future survival. Sometimes, the damage cannot be reversed, and no amount of public relations or marketing dollars will correct the bad press.
How to Avoid Brand Pandering
People that are influenced by true Brand Activism are also highly engaged in social movements. They are looking for real backing and advocacy, not temporary support. Below are some strategies to truly engage in movements that your organization supports while avoiding pandering:
- Collaborate with people directly associated with a movement or cause when creating campaigns and promotions.
- Donate monetarily or create match campaigns to the cause or organization you align.
- Volunteer the time of your executive team and staff.
- Make sure the cause or movement you are aligning with is represented in your organization’s leadership and executive board.
- Advocate for the cause or movement in all geographic regions.
- Show your support of the cause or movement throughout the entire year, not only when a “holiday” approaches.
Remember that a brand’s purpose is to tell the story of your organization’s purpose and existence. If a movement or cause can’t be integrated into your story permanently, you may want to reflect on the motives of your organization’s support. Consumers now value the causes an organization supports and its authenticity equally. As information technology evolves, the number one rule to carry forward as a brand is that actions speak louder than words.
If you want to incorporate brand activism correctly into your marketing plan, contact our team today!