It’s high time Philippine brands include brand activism in their CSR agenda

Makati, 5 Aug 2020, Reprinted with permission from Comm&Sense, Inc.  Big brands like Nike, Lyft, Patagonia, and Viber have embraced particular advocacies and causes that reflect their values. They’ve been able not only to voice out their take on pertinent social issues regardless of whether they’re with or without the backing of popular opinion, but also mount successful brand campaigns that voice out strong political stands. These activities fall under what we call Brand Activism.


People, in their role as consumers and online audience, are on the lookout for authenticity from the people and things they spend time on and engage in. We are already allergic to product and service-centered sales pitches that we used to get from our exposure to traditional media. As we are now supposedly more in control of our interactions in the digital sphere, we want brands that align with what we feel and think. We engage with the brands that represent us and speak our truths. What we are after is authenticity and Brand Activism seems to fill in this particular need.

Brand activism is gaining popularity among companies globally as more consumers are motivated to buy from brands that embrace advocacies that align with their values. According to the 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study, about two-thirds or 64% of consumers around the world expressed that they will either buy or boycott a brand based solely on the brand’s stance on social or political issues.

It sounds like a hit or miss, yet more and more brands see bigger returns for brands that embrace brand activism as based on another study by Ubermetrics, there is an exponential increase in cause-related marketing campaigns among companies, especially in 2017 when brand activism campaign spending hit an all-time high of $2 billion.

The trend has yet to catch up in the Philippines as local brands still embrace product and service-centric messaging in their marketing, which remain socially and politically neutral. While many local companies claim that they recognize corporate responsibility for the communities they are part of, these claims are limited to traditional Corporate Social Responsibility activities that do not permeate these companies’ core operations.

Many of our local companies still believe that neutrality allows them to enjoy the entire consumer universe by not alienating any group due to standing up for a particular belief on social or political issues. By this, companies miss out on the opportunity to establish a more lasting connection with their consumers on the basis of trust and loyalty.

Engaging in brand activism allows companies to create communities that will remain loyal to them. While embracing advocacies, companies gain the opportunity to also create advocates not just for the values they represent, but also for the brands they want to build. Brand activism also adds up to the credibility of these companies as it allows the human side of companies to surface. This is what neutrality, a characteristic upheld by traditional advertising and marketing, cannot achieve.

Brands are now being demanded by consumers to be more in tune with the realities of the communities they belong to. This is part of the authenticity consumers require of brands they align with. Any company’s neutrality can be seen only as opportunistic for being purely profit-driven.

It’s high time local brands re-evaluate where they really stand and take a closer look on the why’s of their enterprises. Being more in touch with their core could make brand activism more innate.

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