#MeToo – The Place of Social Movements in Business and Advertising

Remember 2017? It’s when we first saw the beginnings of the #MeToo movement. And the Internet (and professional offices across America) have never been the same. This movement gained huge traction via online engagement in 2018. Since then, this wave of digital activism has impacted industry behavior and the way women express themselves through advertising.

What do the success of this movement and its continued influence on media say about modern consumers? The connection may seem straightforward. However, we also now have a great deal of insight into consumers’ minds. We can more accurately estimate their willingness to interact with different types of ads.

So what exactly are your consumers looking for in this day and age? Let’s examine the #MeToo movement through a marketing lens.

Meet the #MeToo Movement

Tarana Burke pioneered the #MeToo movement. She coined the hashtag back in 2006, but it caught fire in 2017 as women began tweeting. The terms alongside sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Women from all industries began telling stories of the sexual harassment they endured along their career paths — and people listened. In 2018 alone, 201 men were replaced after reports of inappropriate behavior on their part rose to the surface.

Sure, small businesses may not have felt this impact as hugely as larger corporations. Even so, the ideals the movement holds at its core have remained fresh in the minds of consumers. First came the #ShopLocal movement, and now consumers particularly millennial consumers. And younger are taking the social impact of #MeToo with them while they shop online and in person.

How has #MeToo Changed Consumer Behavior?

Nowadays, consumers are hyperaware of the ways business employees face discrimination and sexual harassment. They’re also aware of the brands that have interacted with the #MeToo movement. The Weinstein Company — arguably the first business to see the full force of the #MeToo movement — may not have seen a drop in its sales, but Harvey Weinstein is still viewed as a social outcast in 2019, and his company name has become directly affiliated with a lifelong career of sexual assault. 

Smaller businesses with employees accused of sexual assault, comparatively, have seen a financial impact or will see one in the near future, according to Mine The Gap. Since October 2018, over half of the professional women looking for employment are less likely to apply for jobs at institutions where an employee has been accused of sexual harassment. Likewise, consumers have become wary of businesses whose employees have come under fire as a result of the movement. 

In short, if an employee is accused of sexual assault, the affiliated business develops a reputation for fostering that kind of behavior until it acts otherwise. Should it not, it risks alienating consumers and losing consumer conversions.

That kind of consumer reaction teaches marketers two things. One, consumers are investing in the reputation of businesses large and small. If a business makes a mistake on the scale of Weinstein’s, there may be no coming back from it. Two, consumers are more likely to positively engage with companies that express their support for movements that empower less-privileged individuals.

As mentioned, millennials and younger consumers, in particular, respond positively when companies announce their support for social movements. It’s to the point where 81 percent of millennial consumers expect companies to announce their stance when a public movement arises.


#MeToo, Social Movements, and Advertising

One of the best ways to do just that or to seize on the attention that. The #MeToo movement has generated is to change the way you advertise. While your business doesn’t have to outright support a movement or cause. You can emphasize the four following qualities in your ads to better connect with socially active consumers:

  • Invest, genuinely, in a cause that relates to your company’s ambitions.
  • Choose to make an impact on your affiliated movement.
  • Be honest about your business’s efforts to support the aforementioned cause.
  • Involve your consumers in your business’s social citizenship.

Gillette, for example, recently released a commercial that captures this exact spirit. The razor commercial expresses its support for the #MeToo movement through the lens of masculinity, encouraging male consumers to be more aware of their behavior while addressing their female colleagues. In producing this ad, Gillette is, while also encouraging sales, demanding its consumers engage with its goal: making the workplace more accessible for women.

Marketers’ ads need to keep up with movements like #MeToo if they want to stay culturally relevant. Our consumer audiences’ goals are changing. We need to respect them and our communities if we want our ads to continue generating conversions.

Image attribution: mvcaspel –