Corporate Responsibility and Brand Loyalty

Bo Burnham’s new Netflix special, Inside, features a hilarious bit where Burnham pretends to be a consultant helping big brands support crucial social issues. He subtly calls out brands for their pandering to causes to grow their brand. He asks, deadpan to the camera, “Are you willing to use your brand awareness to effect positive social change…which will create more brand awareness?” and then pokes fun at awkward brand juxtapositions to social causes, such as Wheat Thins and Lyme disease.

Burnham can joke all he wants, but the general consensus in the industry is that corporate responsibility and larger societal values really do play a role in consumers’ brand loyalty. The Association of National Advertisers, Havas, Hall and Partners and Wolff Olins all take it so seriously that they each developed measures and metrics to try and gauge a brand’s extrinsic values.

MediaPost summarized these metrics (ANA’s ESG, Havas’ Meaningful Brands and Hall and Partners and Wolff Olins’ Conscious Brand rankings) in a recent article:

brand rankings

“While direct comparisons of the explicit rankings may or may not be relevant, it is worth noting that the ad industry is striving to understand the broader societal impact brands have on their consumers.”

Efforts and initiatives like the “green GRP” mentioned in our blog two weeks ago, Netflix offering 52 weeks of paid parental leave, Tom’s donating a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased, Starbucks’ socially responsible hiring practices and Pfizer’s commitment to “corporate citizenship” are all examples of brands attempting to do the right thing in today’s day and age (and, perhaps keep or gain new customers).

In addition to loyal customers, the workforce now has greater emphasis on these extrinsic values as well. Socially responsible practices and supporting social causes will be very important to keeping the Gen Z workforce happy. According to, 74% of Gen Z rank purpose ahead of paycheck. That’s even higher than their older sibling, the Millennial, who ranked purpose ahead of paycheck only 70% of the time. Brands need to give their employees as well as their customers a reason to believe.

So, while we can laugh at Burnham’s rhetorical question: “The question is no longer do you want to buy Wheat Thins, for example. The question is now will you support Wheat Thins in the fight against Lyme disease?” …we must admit. It’s funny because, well, it’s true.

(PS – the majority of the content in Burnham’s Inside is suitable for adults with a mature sense of humor. So view at your own risk.)