Swearing by brand activism

Some may question the legitimacy of corporates getting involved in social issues but there’s no denying they have an opportunity to spark debate.

If you like your shorts with a side of snark, Patagonia may well be the brand for you. In early September the brand confirmed that a story doing the rounds of the web was, in fact, true. They had really released a line of shorts whose care tag bore the words “Vote the assholes out”.

The utility wear brand is no stranger to activism and firmly held beliefs. For example, the company has a self-imposed ‘Earth tax’, taking 1% of its sales to pay for the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. The company claims to have awarded over $89m in cash and in-kind donations.

While it is not alone in putting values beyond product front and centre, it is one of a smaller cohort of brands who go further than just putting their support behind a cause in the form of ads or carefully-worded statements.

Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s may be part of a global superpower corporate brand but it has also stayed true to its activist roots. In May the company issued a strongly-worded warning that “We must dismantle white supremacy”, and then went on to install an exhibit in honour of late voting rights champion, Congressman John Lewis.

On October 1st the company announced it was relaunching its Justice ReMix’d flavour as part of a larger get-out-the-vote campaign targeting younger voters. In US stores, customers can check their voter registration status, register online and get local election information. Customers who pledge to vote will get a free upgrade to a waffle cone.

In the UK, the company targeted Home Secretary Priti Patel for her department’s stance on migrant crossings. The Home Office reportedly responded by saying “If it means upsetting the social media team for a brand of overpriced junk food, then so be it.” There were some more dissenting voices for the company’s stance, suggesting that its announcement coinciding with the hottest day of the year was more than just fortuitous chance, and that the company was not quite so squeaky clean itself (having been the subject of protests in 2017).

Featured image: Joshua Small-Photographer / Shutterstock.com