Wednesday, February 15, 2017


As brand planners in an increasingly polarized world, it may at times seem that remaining neutral in the face of social issues is the safest place to be as a business. As a graduate student in the Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) program at Northwestern University with a deep interest in brand strategy and social entrepreneurship, I’ve found two articles that wonderfully present arguments for businesses taking a stand on social causes as a liberating and successful brand building strategy.

In her recent article on Forbes, brand building expert Denise Lee Yohn discusses how Lane Bryant navigated these uncertain waters with grace, changing the conversation about women, and with it, boosting perceptions of their brand. By taking bold measures to free women of the “Angelic” ideal portrayed by brands like Victoria’s Secret, Lane Bryant launched their unashamed “I’m No Angel” campaign to assert their brand as a mark of body positivity at a pivotal time for Women’s rights. The social media and public display campaign deeply resonated with audiences, generating over 16 Billion social media impressions in the first 4 weeks alone. “I’m No Angel” leveraged the power of conversation to propel the brand into acute relevancy and acclaim for the firm stance with a meaningful message. As the images below show, Lane Bryant isn’t alone in their stand- TOMS, Starbucks, and 5 Rabbit Brewing are also brands publically throwing support behind social causes.

In a second article, “Social Media: Should your brand take a stand? by Nick Westergaard, of Brand Driven Digital, addresses the issue head on. Here stances on social causes are depicted as a differentiator – something to speak directly and genuinely to your audience in an ever more saturated market. Thinx and Tea Collection are two companies that have built their brands on involvement in and commitment to their customers and the causes that deeply matter to them. Successful stances stand on a foundation of knowing yourself, knowing your customers, and seeking alignment in values and causes with more than a bottom line mindset.

Based on my review of these two articles in tandem with relevant studies through Northwestern University and Southern Vermont College, the 3 stand out action items to help brand planners determine how to effectively navigate social causes as a brand are:

1.     Promote Brand Conversations - Brands are no longer telling a story, they are shaped by conversation.

2.     Build your soul - Be the change your audience needs through devotion to mutually meaningful causes.

3.     Look for alignment - seeking alignment in values and causes with customers strengthens the relationship, bolstering engagement.

The next time you find yourself contemplating how to navigate social causes as a brand consider how a stance may enhance the essence of your brand to build your communities and help your customers achieve their ideals.

I am currently a graduate student in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at          Northwestern University with a focus in brand strategy and digital and interactive marketing. I’ve developed a committed interest in brand planning, social entrepreneurship, and the intersection of business and culture. You can connect with me through Twitter @HaleyOmasta or through LinkedIn.

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