By The Malketeer
In an era dominated by increasingly divisive opinions and societal flashpoints, brands find themselves standing at the crossroads of influence and intense scrutiny. The landscape is fraught with challenges, with a large majority of consumers ready to cast their vote – either through purchasing power or boycott – based on a brand’s stance on a social issue.
It’s a consequential time to be a brand, but what if we shift our perspective from risk to opportunity?
“In the current climate, where fear seems to be a pervasive force, it’s crucial to recognise that creativity does not thrive in fear. Instead of shying away from the complexities of social, political, and economic issues, brands can leverage them as catalysts for real-world change.
It’s time for marketers to go beyond mere awareness and embrace a more profound role: that of an agent of change,” stressed Dato’ Shahrein Zainal, Founder and Managing Director of Friends Worldwide, one of Malaysia’s most successful local advertising and communications agency.
Brands As Thought Leaders Than Being Mere Participants
He strongly advocates that the fundamental step is in acknowledging that every social issue is a potential touchpoint for a brand to connect with its audience authentically.
“Brands must move beyond surface-level engagement, delving into the intricacies of the matter at hand. This depth of understanding not only fosters authenticity but also positions the brand as a thought leader rather than being a mere participant,” he reiterates.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on successful campaigns that transcended mere awareness and incited tangible action. These campaigns were not driven by fear or the desire to avoid controversy but by a genuine commitment in making a difference.
The festive commercials of Petronas are brilliant examples.
Brands need to recognise that their audience is not merely a consumer base but a community of individuals with values, emotions, and a desire for positive change.
According to local academician, Sandra Yap, engagement must be more than a marketing strategy; it must be a commitment to societal progress.
Brands that have successfully maneuvered these waters are those that have aligned their values with the causes they champion.
“It’s not about riding the wave of the latest social issue; it’s about embodying a consistent commitment to change, regardless of the prevailing winds,” she continued.
The authenticity of a brand’s engagement is crucial in the age of information. Consumers can discern between performative activism and genuine commitment.
To drive real-world change, brands must move beyond virtue signalling and embrace meaningful actions that reflect their dedication to social betterment.
“By actively participating in societal conversations, brands can contribute to shaping narratives and influencing perspectives.
This involvement extends beyond creating catchy slogans; it involves partnering with organisations, supporting initiatives, and, most importantly, listening to the diverse voices within the community,” added Balreet Gill, Founder and Head of Brand Experiences, SambalLab, a home–grown boutique agency.
Many seasoned marketing practitioners are of the consensus that in times of uncertainty, brands have a unique opportunity to rise above the noise, not by playing it safe but by embracing the transformative power of purpose.
Fear May Be A Powerful Motivator, But It Stifles Creativity
“Brands that dare to navigate the complexities of societal issues with empathy, sincerity, and a commitment to tangible change are the ones poised to make a lasting impact.
Brands permeating visible actions, ” articulated Jodh Dheensay, Partner at Sambal Lab.
He feels that the prevailing tumultuous landscape presents not only challenges but also a chance for brands to redefine their role in society.
“By transcending fear and embracing a purpose-driven approach, marketers can position their brands as drivers of real-world change,” adds Jodh.
It’s time for Malaysian companies to rise up and recognise the potential for positive impact within the chaos, not as a risk to be mitigated but as an opportunity to be seized.
The question is not whether brands can afford to take a stand, but whether they can afford not to.
The power to influence is in the hands of those who choose to lead with purpose.
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