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Digital insurance platform Acko marked Pride Day by nudging its viewers to consider what true support for the LGBTQ+ community looks like.

It shared the story of a man who proudly shows his friends how he has changed his Facebook profile banner to the Pride flag, only to accidentally find out through them that his son belongs to the community. The video wraps with him standing dumbstruck as he tries to make sense of a reality he never considered his own.

It seems that Acko created him as the archetype of the person who enthusiastically voices their support for a cause till it comes down to actually standing for it. Who often climbs aboard the bandwagon of social media activism to match the popular sentiment but isn’t able to replicate that support in real life.

Spotting the trend

Consciousness around click-activism seems to be growing in the space of brands and communication. In Acko’s example, the focus was on the brand’s audience. But this concern has especially grown in relation to brands themselves that voice support for causes but don’t actively work towards them. Especially when it comes to causes that are seen as trendy among the youth, such as acceptance of LGBTQ+ community.

So, when brands have ended up nailing both – the online activism and the act that should accompany it – the marketing community has made sure to highlight it.

Britannia Marie Gold is also recognised for ‘My Startup Contest’ (2019+) that has empowered homemakers to become businesspeople by granting each winning business idea with Rs 10 lakh.

Or as it did at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2021, where it awarded creative agency FCB Ulka for Times of India’s ‘Out and Proud Classifieds’ (2019). A campaign that covered the stories of people from the LGBTQ+ community and introduced a section in the publication’s classifieds that would carry ads and announcements from people like them.

This consciousness to go beyond click-activism has also surfaced in some of the more recently developed campaigns. Gillette India’s ‘Barber Parivar Suraksha Programme’ (2021) has been developed to provide a health insurance cover of Rs 1 lakh to barbers and their families. This campaign has been launched in continuation of its Barber Suraksha Programme from last year that began by covering just barbers as a start.

Then there is the third instalment in Vicks’ #TouchOfCare campaign. Released last week, it doesn’t just share a true and inspirational story as the first two did, but it also highlights what Vicks has done to support the people that the story is based on.

The video is about Dr Bhosale, a paediatrician who migrated to a nearby village with his family, aiming to provide the children there with the same kind of health care facilities available in the city. Although he tragically passed away during Covid, his dream lives on through his wife who continues to work towards it and through Vicks that has contributed to the building of his hospital.

What can explain this shift in the approach to cause marketing?

The last two examples from Gillette and Vicks can be seen as part of the Covid relief measures that have especially increased since the second wave. But what about the campaigns by Acko, Marie Gold and Times of India? Those weren’t a response to an immediate crisis but to social causes that have been relevant for decades, if not more.

Clearly, the marketing and communications industry is coming to a saturation point with click-activism. What had started as a way to amplify conversations about social issues (and to be fair, still continues to be that, to some extent) has slowly turned into a way for brands to mark their participation in the woke movement. For many, talking about trending causes has become a way of managing their social media calendars instead of serving its original purpose – a chance for brands to wield their influence for social good and connect with consumers in a way that goes beyond selling products.

So now, creative marketing by itself doesn’t feel enough. Participating in cultural conversations seems more genuine when brands accompany it with the right action. What does this mean for the future of branded content?

Either the content itself should make a concrete contribution to the social movement it is focused on. Like Swiggy Instamart’s The Better Half Cookbook (also won at Cannes Lions 2021) that entered the offline world of consumers to change their outlook on kitchen duty and turn it gender-equal. Or, the content should be integrated with a bigger brand initiative, as has been done by the brands above.

It is only then that brands will be able to overcome the glut of click-activism, even while employing branded content. And in doing so, stand out to the people who have been the focus of social activism to begin with – younger generations that wish to connect with brands that have a purpose and a sense of the greater good. In the end, walking the talk acts not just ads is what will win the respect of younger consumers. They are more likely to endorse brands that don’t just adopt a social stance in the digital world but also work to execute them on the ground.