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Carly Wickham, Head of Marketing

The last Stylus Forum event centred on ‘Consumers in Chaos’. How should brands engage with this confused and fearful audience? The advice was to press pause on convention and embrace the cynicism and disloyalty. Here are three suggestions around how to engage.

1. Find alternative narratives that your brand can reshape

Only 47% of consumers trust governments, whereas 61% consumers trust brands – brands therefore have influential power. And with great power comes great responsibility, to quote the well-known political influencer, Spiderman. During the forum event, it was even suggested that given this power to influence, if brands stay silent – they’re actually part of the problem.

Two brands demonstrated how adopting an alternative narrative could be successfully implemented during the recent US elections.

The Ben and Jerry’s ‘Empowermint’ range was a great example of a big brand using their influence positively and embracing a topical problem. The new product was launched alongside a vast source of information about make voting easier.

ben and jerry

Ben and Jerry’s ‘Empowermint’ range

This great campaign from Doritos offered a brand experience that powerfully demonstrated the importance of the vote and the consequences of not voting. Targeting a youth audience, notorious for not feeling politically empowered, this was a fantastic tactical campaign.


Doritos No Choice campaign

2. Connect with niche communities that share your vision

Brands are increasingly feeling empowered to get involved in social and political dialogue. Lush is a prime example of how becoming highly political, but in gentle, brand relevant way, can drive success. For Lush, this direction has been accompanied by soaring profits and unprecedented growth. Check out their #RefugeesWelcome and #GayIsOk campaigns.

refugees welcome

Lush #RefugeesWelcome campaign


Lush #GayIsOk campaign

3. “Don’t be afraid to ‘piss people off”

This fairly controversial the last piece of advice offered by Stylus was a challenging call to action. Patagonia apparently embrace this thinking, having been known for stating “if you’re not doing that to 50% of the people you’re not doing it right!”

In a similar vein US outdoor brand REI designed an entire campaign to counter the ‘Black Friday’ phenomenon. They closed all of their 143 outdoor stores and created an #OptOutside campaign. The resulting 6.7 billion media impression and 1.2 billion social impressions are empirical evidence of the willingness of consumers to go against the grain.

REI 'Opt-Outside' campaign

REI ‘Opt-Outside’ campaign

Political uncertainty, social volatility and complete distrust of anything ‘big’ (companies, governments, politicians) leaves brands searching for new ways to engage with disloyal consumers.

Should brands be using dissent and a sense of rebellion to attract audiences through their campaigning and retail expression? The Stylus opinion was yes. What do you think? Please do get in touch to let us know.