Branding Trends 2022

Brand Activism

Yes. It’s that time of the year again. We are closing another roller coaster of a year that saw profound shifts in almost everything we knew up until a couple of years ago. This is especially relevant for products and services sales, and therefore branding.

2022 promises to be an exciting, disrupted year too. So, getting a feel for what the branding trends for this coming year can come in handy.

In this series of Branding Trends 2022 articles, we will dive in with the first big trend: Brand Activism.

Brand Activism = More Business

By Elliot C. Willcox | December 2021

Brand Activism is not a new phenomenon. And even if the title of this article can be construed as disrespectful to people’s beliefs or values, it is a fact that we increasingly put our money where our heart is. We prefer buying from companies that stand for something we consider important.

Brand Activism has been around for a while, but now its presence in our lives and influence on our buying patterns is omnipresent. The truth is that people care about a whole bunch of things, because essentially people are good, and we are mostly driven by a genuine desire for a better world.

While researching Brand Activism trends, I stumble on some interesting takeaways.

  • Most brand experts conclude that It’s not a passing trend of fad.
  • Consumers want to interact with brands that share their values, whether sustainability, social justice, inclusivity, religious values and so many more.
  • Showing you care is important and your marketing needs to reflect this.
  • It is easy to pay lip service and look for shortcuts in a search for values to link to your brand. However, consumers possess quite a good BS detector. It pays to be authentic.
  • What people care about is not always what we think or what is promoted by the media.
  • Promoting values or causes needs to be backed by tangible actions the consumer can witness and/or in which he/her can participate.
  • Brand Activism is a natural evolution from CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).
  • Brand Activism is being involved and getting results, however small or slow.


Brand activism sways buying behavior, brand impression for 58% of consumers


Let’s start with stats. They are always useful to understand where things are heading.

In a recent survey by on 1,100 adults, coming in at 63% as the top value perceived by consumers is how well a company treats its employees.

It is followed by:

  • Policy transparency (where it sources materials, employee stats, etc.): 60%
  • Brand is local or locally sourced: 56%
  • The brand is environmentally or eco-friendly: 56%
  • The brand supports and acts upon causes we have in common: 53%
  • The brand connects me to others like me and gives me a sense of community 49%
  • The brand takes a political stance on issues close to me: 45%

The top consideration of a consumer when evaluating a brand is how the brand treats its own employees and those of its suppliers.

Other interesting stats before delving into what they mean and what are the best actions to take:

  • 2 in 5 (43%) say they view social activism from a brand positively with a majority saying they are more likely to buy from and trust purpose-driven brands.
  • Only 15% say they view social activism from brands negatively. 42% are neutral.
  • Quality and performance (39%), low prices (35%) and quality customer service (35%) are the top three reasons when buying a product, but:
    • Consumers purchase from a brand that is committed to sustainability (21%),
    • represents a lifestyle they identify with (21%) and
    • represents ethical standards they agree with (20%).
  • 9 in 10 consumers believe that sustainability should be standard practice for brands.
  • 1 in 4 (24%) say locally sourced or supporting local economy are top drivers in brand choice.
  • The Piplsay survey found that 61% of U.S. consumers were not completely certain that removing racist brand mascots or labels will make a huge difference in brand perception when consumers were challenged to recall such moves by major brands.
  • However, 65% of U.S. consumers said brands should take a stand against racism.
  • The Piplsay survey also found 55% of men view brand activism positively compared to 45% of women, while 57% of millennials say it impacts both brand impression and buying behavior compared to Gen Z at 43%.


Where is Brand Activism heading and what does it mean for you?

The above statistics tell us a lot, first of them being that Brand Activism influences consumers in product choice. Some dismiss brand activism but all the signs are that brand activism is here to stay and can transform purpose into profit.

There’s an increasing expectation among consumers that brands don’t just exist to make a profit. As a company or business owner, Brand Activism is all about communicating your commitment to making positive change and following through. It is how progressive businesses are taking stands to create a better world. Conversely, how a brand ‘fits’ in your customer’s values, beliefs system and lifestyle will determine whether he/she buys into your brand.

However, being authentic is key. Consumers detect instinctively and differentiate between what is real or skin-deep and superficial.


Your choice of “cause” or purpose you want to embed into your own corporate culture should be something you care about. However, it does pay to be aware of what is important for consumers, which in turn is heavily influenced by whatever the media is promoting at any given time.

Balancing out what you believe and what is “popular”, even if valid and relevant, is down to you. Just make sure that the brand communication around your bigger idea or purpose is as effective as it is authentic.


Consumers are expecting you to believe and stand for something. Gearing your marketing and brand communication around your purpose is challenging at first. It requires a lot of groundwork, organization, discipline, and soul searching. Yet, as you go forward, the upside is that your beliefs and purpose will drive your narrative, storytelling, and reason for being as these values will permeate and rationalize your brand communication choices.

If you need an incentive, here is a little fact that will help you become active in your activism:

Edelman’s Trust Barometer finds 81 percent of consumers say they expect brands to do the right thing, and 71 percent say that placing profit before people will lose their trust forever. 

Important Activism drivers you should consider

Gen Z is growing in influence and they aren’t stopping:  Gen Z gets hooked on impact, much like a gondola-end deal in the supermarket that pulls you in. Gen Z also has tremendous buying power — an estimated $143 billion in the United States alone.

Dr. Arlo Brady, CEO of Freuds

Activism moves the PR machine: There are a lot of organizations that desire to emulate Ben & Jerry’s but lack a serious history of working on behalf of causes larger than their own success. There’s no manual, and there are no shortcuts to credibility. It requires a willingness to build a foundation that’s not driven by PR. If you can focus on impact over attention, the press will cover your efforts with the depth it merits — at a time when you actually deserve it.”

Adam Fetcher points out in Fast Company

People expect brands to fill the gap: By choosing brands that align with their values, shoppers are voting with their wallets for the kinds of businesses they want in the world — and paving the way toward a more sustainable and just economy. We’re in an unfortunate time where Governments and Institutions provide less and less moral leadership, and we now expect to see it from the brands we buy.

B the Change.

Purpose-driven brands perform better: Purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow three times faster on average than their competitors, all while achieving higher workforce and customer satisfaction.


Brand Z has also correlated brand Purpose to brand power. Omni-channel, omnipresent retail pretty much guarantees physical availability. Building mental availability, however, is much more expensive, fragile, and harder to win.


Brand Activism is paving the road to growth: By leading with purpose, being authentic in how they tell stories and articulate their impact, focusing on all humans and imbibing empathy, many of these companies are outpacing their competitors and leaving an impact on everyone they touch.

Moreover, if you are looking to buy into a brand that will grow in value and help to make the world a better place — basically, choose an activist brand.


Practical considerations when embedding Activism into your brand positioning

Here some practical considerations and steps you can evaluate and adopt on your way to either starting or enhancing your Brand Activist endeavors.

  • Activism starts from the inside out. Believe in what you are doing and saying to your customers.
  • There is no rule book, but once you start there is no escape from the responsibility you have taken upon yourself.
  • Things aren’t always going to go to plan. Be ready for a non-linear and at times, challenging
  • Be authentic.
  • Understand your purpose while connecting the ‘why’ of your purpose with the ‘way’ of profit. Your position is at the intersection of what your brand stands for, what it uniquely offers, what the world needs and what people want.
  • You no longer really have a choice. When there is a gap between your business and its values, and its customers or society is too large, business will inevitably suffer at some point.
  • How do brands align their values with the values of their customers, their employees, and society at large?  What is needed, now more than ever, is a mindset that views reality from the outside in.
  • Brand activism is different because it is driven by justice and a fundamental concern for the biggest and most urgent problems facing society
  • Brand Activism gives life to what it means to be a “values-driven” company.  You can’t be a values-driven company and disregard society – your employees, your customers, the communities you work in, andthe world.
  • The proof is in what you do, not what you say.