Standing out on social (or at all) no longer means just daringly different content or copy with a kick. With the rise in conscious buying habits, consumers want and expect more from their brands. They want to understand their beliefs, share their values and know the company inside and out before choosing to support them. With increased competition, particularly within the food and drink sector, it’s important to win that support.

With the movement, we’ve seen a shift in advertising content. Feminine hygiene product ads are no longer just models in white bikinis on a beach, intermittently interrupted with an unnamed blue liquid pouring from nowhere onto a pad. Now, the women are playing sports, showing off their strength, and the blue liquid has turned red, which at least is somewhat more realistic to the blood it represents. Brands like Bodyform are going as far as calling out the outdated behaviour with tag lines like “Contrary to popular belief, women bleed blood”.

Recently, for the first time ever, I heard a radio advert talk about a man looking after children and a woman playing golf. That’s the first time in my entire life that I’ve heard golf associated with a woman. Some people may argue it’s pandering to ‘the snowflake generation’ but advertising can have a huge impact on how we, as a society, see things. Demonstrating equality in advertising could genuinely impact the way we make equality a reality.

Key players in the big industries like fashion are making it clear where they stand on the new unwritten rules of brands getting more involved. Nike’s chief executive Mark Parker made a statement in Highsnobiety’s Incomplete Guide that “consumers also want to know what you stand for as a company” and that brands must “speak out against inequalities.”

The latest controversial take was Gillette’s ‘The best a man can be’ advert. The short film blends together various narratives, weaving in news clippings, the #MeToo movement and Terry Crewes statement on the Sexual Assault Survivors act. It takes powerful moments of recent history, contrasting the message with outdated advertising and modern-day issues. It’s a call out for us to call out negative behaviour. It’s a how to guide on making a difference, in everyday life. The message is about making positive changes. It’s not placing blame. The advert says ‘this is how it is… And this is how it could be’.

Yet a large section of the audience reacted adversely, with Piers Morgan weighing in to call it an attack on men. More online complaints flooded in, saying Gillette were just piggy backing on the movement. Given the number of people professing to ditch the brand forever, it was a bold move either way by the brand, to show what they stand for (regardless of whether they genuinely believe it or not).

Conscious brand values and shifts towards minimizing waste, better choices and reducing animal products are still big priorities for large groups of consumers right now. And for brands that are acting on it? It’s paying off. Since the launch of their ‘controversial’ Vegan sausage roll, Greggs have seen sales boost by 14% for the first part of 2019*. There’s a clear pay-off to sharing your values on topics that aren’t just your product, as a way to connect with your audience. Now you just need to define what those values are and who are the people that share them.

If you want to be a brand that stands for something, or need help sharing your brand beliefs, let’s get the conversation started.