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Human Brands: How brands like Nike, Airbnb, and P&G are creating social impact and taking a stand.

Before, organizations were all about sales and using traditional marketing tools to rake in the revenues. It was quite unusual for brands to take a stand for, or against something because their sole motive was to sell products/services. However, due to the rise of “social media, citizen journalism, access to publishing tools”, consumers are more aware than ever before, the dissemination of information is more rampant than before, or as millennials, centennials and Gen Z like to call it, they are “woke”. Consumers now look beyond just the product/ service itself and look into what the brand stands for, their vision or even why they exist. They look for the human in the brand. Cohn and Wolfe found that 87% of the global consumers felt that it was important for brands to adopt a sense of integrity and always be clear with what their values are. 

Cohn and Wolfe conducted research to understand the rapid shift towards socially conscious brands and came up with the “Millennium Mandate” which essentially outlines how the millennial generation (which makes up 50% of consumers) has driven huge brands like Nike and Airbnb to adopt a social consciousness through the products that they sell, and how these brands benefit from this. 

Brands like Nike have shown that they understand the directive of modern-day brand building through some of their “risky” yet solid social campaigns that have seen them not only tighten their customer loyalty but also increase sales and enjoy a fruitful ROI. For their 30th anniversary of “Just Do It”, Nike launched the iconic Dream Crazy campaign ad, that was aimed at celebrating athletes who “dared to dream crazy”. The ad featured Colin Kaepernick with a caption that read  “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything”. Kaepernick is an NFL athlete and political activist who is known for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racism against black Americans. Kaepernick has received immense criticism for the act that has almost cost him his career. By inviting Kaepernick to star in the ad despite the widespread criticism that he received, Nike took a stand against the injustices of police brutality and racism by supporting the athlete. Nike did not stop at Kaepernick but has included other star athletes like Serena Williams and LeBron James in their campaigns. 

These risky moves have certainly cost Nike consumers but they have also shown the “human” side of the brand. They have lost consumers, but they’ve also gained other consumers, built even stronger customer loyalty and people associate the brand not only with sports merchandise but as a product that supports inclusivity and stands up against injustices. Nike is not the only brand to take a stand against social issues. With their #LikeAGirl and #WeSeeEqual campaign, P&G stands up against gender inequalities. When President Trump closed American borders, Airbnb aired its #WeAccept ad which directly stood up against this decision. All these brands prove that they have taken the time (and money) to understand what matters to their audience and have therefore cultivated life-long brand loyalty. 

The benefits supersede customer loyalty and fall into generated revenue. Because of its #DreamCrazy campaign, Nike’s sales increased by 31%, their brand value increased to $6 billion and a $163 MM media earned. Nike also went on to receive awards for the creativity of the ad. 

Being a “Human” brand is fast becoming a necessity for brands. Consumers now require a brand they can feel accepted in and can relate to. Companies that are yet to establish themselves as people brands need to ensure that being socially conscious is part of their culture and integrate “wokeness” into their models.

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