This technical note offers students a definition of brand activism (as contrasted to corporate social responsibility) along with an explanation of the different forms that this corporate practice can take. Specifically, students are introduced to the concepts of both progressive and regressive brand activism, in addition to the different causes the activist efforts may champion, whether social, legal, or environmental, to name a few.
In order to illustrate these different categories and the sensible ways for managers to approach brand activism, examples of both successful and unsuccessful brand activism initiatives are provided, including those of Benetton Group, Dove, Patagonia, and Pepsi. While these companies' moves were intentionally designed to resonate with consumers, students are also presented examples of companies that unwillingly elicited activist customer responses (including GrubHub, Uber, Nordstrom, Starbucks, and Papa John's). Finally, the examples of Jack Daniels and Chick-fil-A illustrate deliberate corporate decisions not to communicate their values, while an explanation of boycotting and buycotting helps students understand the impact that brand activism initiatives can have on the bottom line.