rainbow colored gay pride flag waving in wind

Empathy and Purpose in Brand Momentum

— Liz Hebditch, Sr Account Manager 

Same-Sex Marriage Vote: The Role Empathy and Purpose Play in Brand Momentum


With the welcome news of the same-sex marriage survey results hot off the press, the role of empathy and the power of purpose for brands is particularly pertinent and a trend which can’t be ignored.

There’s no doubt that the way Australians are consuming entertainment and media is changing to reflect sociopolitical issues. We’ve seen empathy become a key stakeholder in global branding and audience engagement. Campaigns centered on key sociopolitical and socioeconomic issues allow organizations to harness the power of empathy and align consumer drivers with company initiatives.

A great example of this in the last few months has been the response from brands to the same-sex marriage debate in Australia. The NRL took a public stand by inviting Macklemore to sing ‘Same Love’ at the NRL Grand Final and further demonstrated their support by displaying statements such as ‘We Stand For Inclusiveness’ on the screens around the stadium.

Despite much political furor at the time, a survey conducted by YouGov and Monash University’s Behavioural Science Lab found that majority of sports fans were happy that the organisation pledged their public support for marriage equality. In fact, the survey found that up to three quarters of ‘superfans’ (74% of rugby, 62% NRL and 61% of AFL superfans) believed it was right for sporting bodies to publicly advocate for gay rights and same-sex marriage.

Researchers commented that the fan base, particularly millennials, cared deeply about the issue and felt their sports organisation should demonstrate that they cared as well. The NRL didn’t bow to political pressure, instead they stuck to their guns and came out stronger because of it. Empathy matters.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce, a major advocate for marriage equality, also believes that businesses have a role to play in lending their support to a range of social issues such as the same-sex marriage. Brands and media outlets must ensure they understand how their brand messages are felt within the context of any sociopolitical conversation and continue to evaluate how their company values are being reflected in what they do and say.

We’re also seeing the power of purpose globally. According to WE CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin, 63% of consumer correspondents in WE’s Brands in Motion study believe that the government should be responsible for stability. With the recent onslaught of political turmoil around the world, consumers are turning to brands for security. This means that consumers are looking to brands to establish calls-to-action, take a stand and ‘build momentum through belief and conviction’.

Sportswear Company Under Armour demonstrated their brand purpose when they recently signed Yusra Mardini, a Syrian refugee and Olympic swimmer, for an endorsement deal. Under Armour is working to prove that they practice what they preach in their mission statement, which is to ‘perpetuate willpower and passion through the relentless pursuit of innovation’. Mardini, who fled her country for safety and had to swim for hours in the choppy sea to push her boat to safety, clearly demonstrates the values that brand is trying to align with.

So what does this mean for brands Down Under? Consumers are looking to brands and media outlets to provide a sense of social stability, through powerful extrinsic messaging and strong moral conviction. By pinpointing your brand purpose and championing a cause, your brand can reach consumers in a deeper, more authentic and thought-provoking way.

If you would like to learn more about our Brands In Motion research, visit https://www.we-worldwide.com/brands-in-motion.