As Pride month came to an end in the United States, one of the biggest trends we noticed this year was the growing number of TikTokers calling out corporations engaging in “rainbow washing.” This term has been coined to describe brands and merchandise that look like they show support for LBGTQ+ consumers and colleagues, only to completely forget about them between July 1st and May 31st.
Social causes have become bigger events in the retail calendar. Product, in-store visual merchandising, social media content, and advertising for causes such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Earth Month, and Pride have taken on a much larger role than in the past. Social causes are impactful ways to signal inclusion and awareness while providing retailers with major promotional opportunities outside of the classic “big moments” on a retail calendar. They may never fully supplant the conventional Easter, Back to School, and Holiday buying and shopping patterns that have dominated for the past fifty years, yet these contemporary “holidays” are gaining traction, especially for less traditional younger consumers and employees
The right messaging and product around social causes can give retailers an important distinction in the market and thus improve loyalty, engage employees, and expand brand awareness. However, as consumers begin to expect their favorite retailers and brands to support the causes that they themselves support, it’s vital in the age of social media and cancel culture that commercial entities spend time discovering how to get their message right.
Gen Z consumers support brands that reflect their own values of inclusivity, diversity, and sustainability. Along with Gen Z’s increasing spending power, data from First Insight's recent Sustainability report reveals that this generation - the one born between 1997 and 2012 - has an outsized influence over older generations’ purchasing decisions and brand perceptions. As mainstream celebrations of formerly less commercially-acknowledged causes begin to grow in importance, a deep dive into consumers’ and employees’ opinions can yield the insights corporations need to create the brand halo they seek.
Listening to the voice of the consumer is just one way brands and retailers can avoid costly missteps. Learning if cause-related messaging resonates can be done easily with Experience Management (XM) tools. Utilizing predictive analytics and machine learning, XM tools help brands and retailers identify the initiatives that align with customers before rolling them out. Everything from merchandise to marketing campaigns can be tested, allowing retailers and brands to improve brand perception, customer loyalty, and bottom-line results with data-driven decision making.
An often overlooked source of invaluable information is employees themselves. Simply engaging associates working for a brand or retailer can make the difference between an initiative’s success or failure. Soliciting employees’ opinions on benefits, internal programs, as well as merchandise and messaging lets them know that their employer cares about them and values their opinion. First Insight's Employee Experience XM software gathers input from employees, analyzes the data, and then quickly summarizes the results to provide answers to questions on topics ranging from product offerings to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives to benefit plans. When employees are treated as a business’ number one customer, everyone thrives.
Finally, why go to market without first gaining a greater understanding of how the broader market perceives the message? Testing marketing and advertising campaigns before launch can inform brands on the successful delivery of potentially sensitive messaging. Soliciting feedback from target audiences maximizes the power of a brand’s messaging while simultaneously mitigating potential stumbling blocks. First Insight’s Risk Alert capability gives retailers and brands a confidential way to keep reputations safe by identifying controversial or offensive products and/or messaging before they are released to the public at large.