Brands Should Take a Stand on Societal Issues But Avoid ‘Goodwashing,’ Study Says

Their intentions must be authentic and not just the new 'greenwashing'

Younger generations care more about what brands do than previous generations. Getty Images
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

For brands looking to take a stand on societal issues—as recent studies have shown more consumers want—it will be a balancing act. Brands will need to simultaneously take a stand, while being authentic and without “goodwashing,” according to the second annual Corpsumer study from public relations firm MWWPR.

Last fall, MWWPR coined the term “corpsumer” to represent the growing number of brand activists who care as much about what a brand does as they do about its products. The number of corpsumers is on the rise with 35 percent of the U.S. population now identifying as corpsumers, which is up 2 percent from last year,  according to the new study. For marketers, that means more consumers are paying attention to what the brands do, such as how they treat their employees, what their leadership team is like and whether the brand takes a stand for societal issues.

But if a brand’s good intentions don’t seem genuine, it could backfire.

“Ten years ago, there was a lot of discussion around ‘greenwashing,’ when companies would do these little things to try to make claims about being environmentally good, and they were outed for that and shamed for it,” said MWWPR chief strategy officer Carreen Winters. “‘Goodwashing’ is the new ‘greenwashing.'”

Winters continued: “Companies that attempt to take a stand on issues but don’t really put their money where their mouth is, or what they are doing is not aligned with their track record and core values, will find themselves in a position where the corpsumers don’t believe them. Fifty-nine percent of corpsumers say they are skeptical about a brand’s motives for taking a stand on policy issues.”

It will be crucial for brands to figure out how to take a stand authentically as “corpsumerism gets stronger across each new generation,” noted Winters. “Millennials are more corpsumer than Gen X, and Gen Z is going to be even more than millennials. The coming bulk of purchasing power will be between millennials and Gen Z, so every brand needs to be thinking about the corpsumer. Every brand needs to be thinking about how do we build our reputation and tell our company story in an integrated way with our brand marketing.”

See more findings from the new study in the infographic below:

Source: MWWPR

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: October 23, 2018 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT