Heroes are out of fashion – how activists are filling the void
So. Activists are outlaws.
The word ‘activist’ has a negative connotation which is why in general, people are reluctant to adopt the behaviours that activists promote.
At least, this is how it has been for a long time. But a huge societal transition is now unfolding.
Activism is on the rise. As more people are rallying to the aid of huge global movements such as the extinction rebellion, and in even larger numbers the black lives matter movement, the path of an activist is no longer a lonely one.
In fact, we feel that the global social sentiment is moving towards the disapproval of non-participation in activistic action. At the moment the talk is all about broadening the perspective of what activism is. This is exemplified by people who don’t necessarily feel compelled to go out and protest. They move to self-education on inequality and climate change to do their part. Everyone can (and should?) be an activist.
Something business should consider as well.
Still, taking an activistic approach is considered to be extremely tricky. Many brands have struggled in their efforts, making missteps that lead to serious reputation damage. Remember this PEPSI commercial and its huge backlash?
One book that came to mind when thinking about successful ways to navigate this transition, is ‘The Hero Trap’ by mr. goodvertising Thomas Kolster. His core thesis revolves around the idea that brands, in their effort to win over the public’s trust and loyalty, used to position themselves as heroes, as the catalysts of change. Now, Thomas brilliantly argues, brands are starting to realise that they will never be able to fully live up to that promise; how much of a hero could a toilet paper company convincingly be?.
Instead, Thomas’ new books tells businesses to stop asking Why and start asking Who. They should ponder the question ’who can you help me become’ from the perspective of employees and customers.
In other words: you’re no longer the hero. Heroes are out of fashion. It’s now about what meaning others derive from your presence, a somewhat more humble – and truthful? – approach.
In the new normal, businesses need to start thinking of ways to support and facilitate their activists. After all, doesn’t activism imply action? And isn’t every successful company culture based on proactiveness? Maybe it’s time to embrace your corporate activists and to start treating them like some your most valuable assets.
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How Athlon involves employees to create positive impact locally and globally.
Athlon is part of Daimler AG and one of the biggest mobility providers in the Netherlands, managing one hundred thousand cars. Athlon Netherlands is actively engaged in reducing its CO2 footprint and focuses on 4 SDGs.
The organization takes reducing its impact on climate change serious. We talked to Alexander Heijkamp, Athlon Netherlands CSR director, who has been in charge of sustainability strategy since two and a half years. He details how Athlon facilitates behavioral change with both a global and local impact.
A good deal of advice by Richard Levick
Richard Levick has been named four times as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the Boardroom.” We found a gem of an article of his on Forbes.
“As companies deal with the pressure to Do Something, Dammit! they need to think through their social activism – and create a commitment that’s deeply rooted and an authentic reflection of their corporate values.”
Three part series on brand activism
This three part series by Neil Grasso on business2community.com shines a light on successful examples of corporate activism with barely any backlash. With its publication date in 2019 we might consider it outdated already (this is how fast this movement is unfolding!), but its a listing of some nice examples nonetheless.
Employee activism is on the rise
This article by Kathy Gurchiek is packed with relevant sources. An opportunity to really read into the topic.