In August, the Home Secretaries comments regarding the refugee crisis and taking back control of the UK’s borders made headlines.

In response to Patel’s comments, Ben and Jerry’s pulled together a twitter feed for Patel explaining why they believe the real crisis is our lack of humanity for others.

It was interesting to watch the following debate unfold on twitter from both sides. Some said that they’d boycott Ben and Jerry’s and Immigration minister, Chris Philp, told them to stick to what they know best and focus on ice cream.

But others announced that they’d proactively buy their ice cream in an act of solidarity.

Ben and Jerry’s have a long history of raising awareness of social and political issues and will release a new ice cream flavour to mark social campaigns: Cone Together (Refugee Crisis), Apple-y Ever After (LGBQ+ Equality), and Save our Swirled (Climate justice). This has led people to accuse Ben and Jerry’s of virtue signalling, where a brand speaks about moral values to enhance their own image. Ever the optimist, I’d disagree. Look at Ben and Jerry’s actions over the years. They don’t just “talk the talk.” For example, in Australia, to raise awareness of marriage equality, they stopped serving two scoops of the same flavour to protest their Marriage Act.

In 2018, Edelman conducted a survey with 8,000 people across 8 markets which found that two thirds of consumers worldwide now buy based on beliefs. It also found that consumers believe that brands are a more powerful force for societal change than government.

The President and CEO of Edelman, Richard Edelman, believes that the rise in consumers electing brands as their change agents marks the birth of brand democracy.

“Brands are now being pushed to go beyond their classic business interests to become advocates. It is a new relationship between company and consumer, where purchase is premised on the brand’s willingness to live its values, act with purpose, and, if necessary, make the leap into activism.”

Taking a stand on current social issues can be difficult for brands. One of the most famous examples where a brand clearly missed the mark is Pepsi’s 2017 advert which featured Kendall Jenner offering riot police a Pepsi during a racial protest. Pepsi removed the ad after they were accused of trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement. Being agile and commenting on current issues can also be difficult for brands and consumers are quick to call out any brands that they believe are being disingenuous or jumping on the bandwagon. We saw this happen recently when Loreal posted a message of support for the Black Live Matter movement on their instagram feed. One of their former models, Munroe Bergdorf, publicly lambasted them for being hypocrites as they had fired her three years previously for speaking out against racial inequalities. Loreal has since apologised to Bergdorf, and she has been offered a place on their diversity and inclusion advisory board.

But with research from Kantar Monitor showing that 68% of consumers expect brands to be clear about their values and take a stand on them we may begin to see more brands moving into activism. Here are three of my favourite campaigns that have helped to tackle social issues:

Heineken – Worlds Apart

It is widely accepted that our social media feeds are echo chambers and that our natural inclination towards confirmation bias means that we seek out news that supports our own beliefs. With such a limited world view, tensions surrounding social issues can rise quickly.

For 150 years Heineken has been bringing people together over a beer. Their Head of UK Marketing, Cindy Tervoort explained as a brand, it’s committed to championing openness, diversity and crossing borders. With a world that seemed more divided than ever, Heineken felt that they could make a difference.

“Our tagline has been Open Your World for years and we saw that there was a place for us to inspire people to look for common ground, have real discussions face-to-face and really look for more understanding, even if they don’t agree with the other point of view.”

They created a social experiment to see if common ground could unite people. The result was the “world’s apart film” which quickly amassed 40 millions views…

You can read Cindy Tervoort’s full interview here: Contagious – Worlds apart. 

This Coke is a Fanta

In Brazil “That Coke is a Fanta” was a well known homophobic slur. To challenge homophobic behaviour, Coke created a campaign and made a limmited edition can which contained Fanta with the label explaining “This Coke is a Fanta. So what?” The campaign completely transformed the expression’s meaning, turning it from a homophobic slur and turning it into a symbol of Pride.


If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Burger King’s marketing.

To help promote Peace Day (September 21st) and support the charity ‘Peace One Day,” Burger King created the ‘McWhopper’ campaign. Burger King took out a full-page ad in the New York times to showcase an open letter to their rivals McDonalds. In the latter they ask them to put aside their differences for one day and come together for world peace. This resulted in a 40% increase in awareness of “Peace Day” which Jeremy Gilley, Founder of Peace One Day called an unequivocal, unprecedented, success.

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