We live in a new era of full exposure, whether we like it or not. A friend goes to a restaurant and immediately shares her opinion – either good or bad – on social media, often with pictures. Your neighbor smells your operation on a summer day, and promptly takes pictures of flies or anything else that supports a negative view of your business, even if it’s not a fair representation, and promptly posts it on social media.
This is the “call out” culture, says Euromonitor, which researches consumer trends and more. In its 2018 report, the company says this call out culture is one of the top 10 trends for this year.
“Whether it is airing a grievance on Twitter, sharing a viral message or signing an e-petition, consumers are having their say,” says Euromonitor. “‘Hashtag activism,’ while not new [the Twitter hashtag turned 10 in 2017], is rapidly gaining momentum as internet usage explodes and more people have access to social media.”
Activism among consumers is a growing trend, which Euromonitor says is “fueled by a high degree of social unrest, combined with unprecedented consumer power.”
Case In Point
Just this week, an article in Britain’s Telegraph and another in the Daily Mail reported on a secondary school that was targeted by animal rights activists, and pressured to change plans because of a petition with more than 30,000 signatures.
According to the news items, the school had four pigs that the students at Priestlands School had raised to help them understand where their food comes from. The animals were scheduled to be harvested next month, but a parent (who had reportedly been a vegan for three months) raised concerns about the project. After not convincing the school to send the pigs to an animal sanctuary, the parent contacted Ed Winters, a vegan activist and founder of the group Surge Activism, who launched the online petition.
Chris Willsher, the school’s executive head, explained in the Telegraph article that the pigs were “borrowed from a farm,” and were “already destined for the food chain.” The pigs have since been sent back to the farm.
The project had been conducted without complaint every year for 10 years, the Telegraph article said, and “has been supported by Prince Charles.” But all because of one parent’s action, the situation escalated, and led to school staff members being verbally abused by campaigners.
Not Likely to Recede
Euromonitor believes the call out culture trend will likely accelerate. According to the research group, global internet use is forecasted to reach 48% by 2018, up from 21% a decade earlier.
“While in the past, consumers may have felt powerless to stand up to brands on their own, social media has given them collective clout,” the report says. “A Sprout Social survey in 2017 found that 46% of U.S. consumers voiced an opinion about a brand online. Also, when they saw a complaint on social media, 65% of consumers said they would research the brand before buying it, while 32% would reinforce the message by liking or sharing it. A poor brand response was most likely to lead to a boycott by the consumer (50%).”
Euromonitor notes that not only are consumers utilizing social media to highlight bad practices, they also “are voting with their wallets to force companies to take a stance on current issues, from refugees and climate change to transgender rights.
“According to a global Edelman survey in 2017, 57% of consumers either bought or boycotted brands based on their corporate values,” the report says. “With trust in public institutions at a low ebb, 51% of respondents said they ‘believe brands can do more to solve social ills than government.’
Business Responds – And So Should You
Marketers and businesses are recognizing the need for transparency and interaction with not only customers but with the public in general.
“In his book ‘Hug Your Haters,’ Jay Baer claims that customer service is the new marketing,” Euromonitor says. “A quick and effective response by companies is crucial.”