Marketing and Social Change

One of the main themes of 2017 has been brand purpose, with an organisation’s morals and corporate social responsibility being a big driver of a wide range of marketing campaigns.

From Jigsaw’s ‘Love Immigration’ campaign to Heineken’s ‘Worlds Apart’ experiment, brands are seeing the opportunity to capitalise on the partisan nature of today’s society and the changes that have taken place with campaigns that can generate high levels of public engagement.

However, whilst some brands have used social issues as the key to their marketing activities, some companies have been slowly changing the tide on social thinking through small changes that are helping to create more representation and equality within society.

‘Everyone is welcome’ at Tesco

An advert which may have slipped under the radar this Christmas season, Tesco’s ‘Everyone is welcome’ campaign not only highlights the diverse ways people celebrate Christmas, but champions it. Not every family in the UK is made up of a mum, dad and two kids; Tesco’s one minute advert goes a long way to show this and celebrate the diversity which makes up the United Kingdom leading towards a more inclusive Christmas.

Another excellent campaign in 2017 was McCain’s fight back against popular culture’s failure to reflect with real families. Research carried out by OnePoll, found that 49% of Brits thought popular culture did not reflect the reality of modern families, while a huge 84% of families said they hadn’t seen anything in the last six months that related to them. This highlights the importance of presenting diversity, not only for the organisation, but for society too.


In honour of International Women’s Day, Procter & Gamble (P&G) launched a corporate #WeSeeEqual campaign aimed at uncovering gender bias. The video shows men, women, boys and girls defying gender stereotypes, using clips from a number of its brands – including Always and Secret – with messages such as “equations don’t care who solve them”.

While P&G brands have previously released ads with gender equality themes, this marked a concerted corporate effort from the world’s second largest FMCG Company to highlight the issues of gender stereotypes and bias, and has led a number of companies to follow suit in changing attitudes towards the roles of both men and women.

Another small action which made a big impact in 2017 was Audi’s ’Daughter’ Super Bowl commercial. Highlighting that, shockingly, it’s not only men that drive cars, Audi have extended their reach to the other 50% of the world’s population, simply by including them in the conversation. Small changes to a company’s marketing can create a large impact, with Audi reporting growing sales throughout 2017.

Purpose for purpose’s sake

It’s important to note that organisations should not just focus on purpose for purpose’s sake. “Couldn’t any other brand pull this off with equal legitimacy?” notes Mark Ritson, award winning columnist and marketing professor, about Heineken’s ‘World’s Apart’ campaign. Purpose needs to make sense for the organisation. Whilst those from across the political spectrum drink beer, you could easily replace Heineken with any other beverage and this ad would work.

When looking to drive social change, Companies need to look at themselves alongside the issues that are prominent in their industry – it can’t be forced, as Pepsi found out the hard way – but needs to be sincere and relevant.

How can your brand contribute to social change through marketing?

Brands do not need to run campaigns nationwide or spend millions of pounds to show that they’re an organisation with a purpose or committed to corporate social responsibility. As noted with Audi, small changes can make a big difference.

50.8% of the UK population is female, and 13% of the UK is non-white, take a look at your marketing communications and see how it can be improved to make it more inclusive of these groups. Asking yourself questions such as “Are men and women equally represented in this brochure?” or “Is everyone included in this advert?” will go a long way to show that you are an inclusive organisation driven towards social change.


Explore the Campaigns:

Jigsaw: Love Immigration

Heineken: Worlds Apart

McCain: We Are Family Advert

Audi: Daughter

Pepsi: Live for Now