The Importance of Authenticity Over Performative Activism

November 7, 2023
By Gabrielle Poirier and Jen Farr

In today’s era of heightened consumer awareness, the relationship between consumers and organizations has undergone a significant transformation. The evolution of social media and increased access to information have empowered consumers to closely examine and scrutinize organizations’ commitment to causes and CSR efforts, making authenticity more important than ever. This underscores the importance of sustained, sincere support to cultivate trust while driving lasting, positive change.

What is performative activism?

Performative activism is when an organization or individual publicly expresses support or concern for a movement, cause, or issue to boost their image or drive profits without taking real, actionable steps to drive meaningful change. We see this when organizations adopt timely socially-conscious messaging or imagery to appear progressive rather than genuinely wanting to do the right thing (e.g. green-washing, rainbow-washing, etc.).

Do people really notice?

Yes. As an organization, only observing or supporting a cause for a certain month or day of the year because you feel that you should – or because everyone else is doing it – is not authentic and consumers have learned to see right through it. They demand more than just empty gestures and opportunistic marketing tactics that exploit important issues, and this type of superficial support can lead to reputational damage and loss of brand loyalty.

On the other hand, ongoing support that comes from the heart effectively demonstrates an organization’s commitment to making a positive impact, extending beyond mere marketing opportunities. This conveys alignment between an organization’s actions and values which builds trust, credibility and positively impacts bottom lines.

What should organizations take away from this?

Above all else, it’s important to remember the following:

  • The demand for authenticity and year-round commitment to meaningful causes is not a trend but an opportunity for impactful long-term engagement, among both internal and external audiences.
  • All organizations – big or small – have the potential to drive real change while staying true to their core value systems.
  • Consumers aren’t just watching, they want to be part of something greater and are actively associating themselves with brands that want to do the same.

Rather than reacting opportunistically to timely movements or observances, developing a comprehensive and intentional corporate social responsibility strategy (and sticking to it!) is key to ensuring authenticity. Organizations that do this will find themselves at the forefront of positive change and consumer loyalty.

By remaining rooted in who we are, what we stand for and supporting causes that resonate with us year-round, we all have the opportunity to make this world a better place – both as organizations and consumers.

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