What’s trending now?
Morality Marketing. Brands are using their influence, platforms and advertising reach to deliver moral lessons to society.
Why it’s important
Morality marketing is the logical evolution of brand activism which saw brands and businesses taking a public – and sometimes quite brave – stand on controversial social issues. Recent examples include ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s support for gay marriage, ride-hailing company Lyft’s rejection of US President Trump’s anti-Muslim immigration policies and Nike’s backing of controversial footballer Colin Kaepernick.
Morality marketing takes this a step further. It sees brands and private businesses appointing themselves as arbiters of justice. Acting as judge, jury and executioner, morality marketing brands take it upon themselves to dish out sentences and issue appropriate punishments to customers and private citizens who don’t conform to the brand’s values.
For example, football clubs Chelsea and Lazio both proposed that fans caught engaging in anti-Semitic behaviour, would be allowed back to watch club games only if they attended a club-mandated tour of Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz to atone for their sins.
A different type of morality marketing sees brands offering preferential pricing to certain groups.This includes brands getting involved in “wealth redistribution” by charging different prices for people of different socio-economic standing. This sort of social-justice pricing strategy is already common in the medical insurance industry, where premiums often vary according to income. In South Africa, most private medical insurers, including Momentum, Fedhealth and Bonitas offer salary-banded progressive pricing models.
We foresee other industries joining this trend towards progressive pricing as a social-justice marketing tool, a future trend we are calling Purpose Driven Pricing.
An early example of this emerging trend is the Robin Hood restaurant in Madrid. It charges wealthy customers premium prices, so that it can afford to give food away to poor and homeless diners.
What’s the butterfly effect?
Morality marketing is all well and good as long as brands don’t cross the line into corporate censorship, propaganda or unethical, perhaps even illegal discrimination.
There is a significant difference between using your brand’s leverage to influence society for good, and using your influence to control conversations and silence dissent. Political choice is a personal matter as are moral grey areas such as abortion and gender identity.
Facebook crossed the line in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when it allowed its algorithms to be exploited to further particular political agendas.
Twitter, likewise, has crossed the line into corporate censorship with its new usage policy that specifies that tweeting “a man is not a woman” is a ban-able offence. The man/woman viewpoint is highly contested among social justice activists, feminists, and academics alike. Considering how many writers and bloggers in all spheres use Twitter to make a living, being banned can have significant real-world consequences. So, while Twitter’s policy may be well intended, when social media platforms with massive reach start suppressing opposing viewpoints, there could be significant, unintended, negative social consequences in the long run.
A further evolution of this trend, for good or ill depending on your political viewpoint of course, sees businesses refusing to serve customers or hire staff with opposing political viewpoints. For example, a New York City judge recently ruled that a bar was allowed to refuse entry to anyone wearing “Make America Great Again” merchandise. This story may be amusing to anti-Trump supporters, but it does suggest that brands are giving themselves a licence to engage in forms of discrimination as an attempt at social engineering.
The pioneers and the global hotspots
Anywhere in the world you find woke consumers.
By: Bronwyn Williams
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Image credit: Vision Media