Public Relations

Rise of consumer activism – PR boon or bane

In the digital era, the landscape of brand communication is evolving rapidly, with the emergence of influencer and consumer activism reshaping the dynamics of consumer-brand interactions. The recent controversy surrounding Bournvita, a popular powder supplement, exemplifies the significant influence wielded by social media influencers and the power of consumer activism in shaping brand perception and consumer behavior.

In today’s digital age, characterized by widespread internet access and the ubiquity of smartphones, brands are facing unprecedented challenges in managing their reputation and navigating unforeseen controversies. Social media platforms serve as powerful amplifiers, capable of swiftly disseminating information and fueling public discourse. Against this backdrop, brands must prioritize robust crisis management strategies to effectively respond to crises and safeguard their reputation.

The Bournvita controversy underscores the importance of understanding the nuances of social media dynamics and audience sentiment in crisis response. Brands must carefully assess the nature of the crisis and tailor their response strategies accordingly. Whether the crisis is driven by misinformation, social activism, or industry-specific issues, brands must respond with empathy, authenticity, and transparency to maintain consumer trust and credibility.

Transparency emerges as a critical component of effective crisis management. Brands must proactively communicate with their audience, offering transparent insights into their products, processes, and practices. By implementing robust quality control measures and maintaining openness and honesty, brands can mitigate false accusations and misinformation, thereby bolstering their credibility and trustworthiness.

Beyond the immediate implications for Bournvita, the controversy highlights broader shifts in consumer attitudes towards health and wellness. As consumers become increasingly conscious of nutrition and dietary health, they are scrutinizing product labels and demanding transparency from brands. This trend has significant implications for the food and beverage industry, which must adapt to changing consumer preferences and regulatory standards. The government is mulling guidelines that mandate that influencers reveal their qualifications before giving advice on health, according to a news report in the Business Standard.

Influencer activism has emerged as a potent force in shaping brand perception and consumer behavior. Brands must recognize the power of social media influencers and consumer activism in driving conversations and influencing purchasing decisions. In response, brands must adopt a more transparent and responsible approach to marketing and communication, prioritizing authenticity, credibility, and accountability.

As consumers become increasingly discerning, brands must invest in building genuine connections with their audience and demonstrating a commitment to transparency and integrity. By prioritizing consumer trust and loyalty, brands can navigate the complexities of the digital age and thrive in an era of heightened scrutiny.

The rise of influencer and consumer activism is reshaping the dynamics of brand communication in the digital age. The Bournvita controversy serves as a cautionary tale for brands, highlighting the importance of transparency, authenticity, and accountability in crisis management and communication. In this evolving landscape, brands must adapt to changing consumer expectations and prioritize building meaningful connections with their audience to maintain trust and credibility. The rise of consumer activism presents both opportunities and challenges for PR professionals. On one hand, consumer activism can serve as a boon by providing brands with valuable feedback, driving positive change, and enhancing brand reputation. Engaging with socially conscious consumers and addressing their concerns can strengthen brand loyalty and foster long-term relationships.

However, consumer activism also poses significant risks for brands, as it can lead to reputational damage, boycotts, and legal repercussions. In an era of social media dominance, negative publicity can spread rapidly, amplifying the impact of consumer activism on brand perception and financial performance.

To navigate the complexities of consumer activism, PR professionals must adopt a proactive and strategic approach. This involves actively monitoring social media conversations, engaging with stakeholders, and addressing grievances in a transparent and timely manner. By demonstrating authenticity, accountability, and a commitment to social responsibility, brands can mitigate the risks associated with consumer activism and leverage it as an opportunity for positive brand engagement and growth.

Bhaskar Majumdar

Head Marketing Communication, CSR & Digital,

Egis – South Asia

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