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EMAC 2021 Annual Conference

Brands Taking a Stand – Consumer responses to ads that tackle gender stereotypes

Published: May 25, 2021


Stefanie Wannow, Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen; Martin Haupt, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen; Christina Schacht, Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen


Today, more and more companies are following the example of purpose-led brands like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s that are known for their value-driven communication and actions. By taking a public stand on relevant, but at the same time controversial sociopolitical issues, companies seek to enhance their brands’ reputation; but they might achieve just the opposite (such as the backlash after Pepsi’s infamous Kendall Jenner ad). Therefore, it is crucial to understand the factors that drive consumers’ responses to activist campaigns. Contributing to the emerging research on brand activism, we analyze nearly 50,000 comments on five ads on YouTube that address gender-related issues. Our research shows that many users experience strong emotions, which drive attitude and behavior change – especially in case of disagreement. Gender identity threats and general dispositions to brand activism also evolve as influencing factors. However, a convincing storytelling can dampen these harmful effects.