A brief typology of corporate campaigning

I’ve been thinking a little about different models and approaches to campaigning towards companies and corporate targets over the last few months, and as part of that came up with this short typology.

It’s not complete, so I’d welcome additions in the comments below to add to it, and h/t to my colleagues Andrew and Rachael who contributed to this;

  • Consumer pressure – When a consumers or customers are encouraged to take action directly to a company to account for their actions. Lots and lots of examples of this – some focusing on getting consumers of a specific brand to take action, others focused on mobilising those concerned about an issue. The Tearfund’s ‘This is a Rubbish Campaign‘ is an example of this – I love the idea of getting supporters to send their single-use plastic bottles back to Coca Cola. Lots of the campaigning that platform Sum of Us have traditionally done would be another example.
  • Adbusting – use of art to subvert a well-known brand to highlight the hypocracy of their actions. I’ve seen lots of this happening in the climate space at the moment (see photo at top of article) trying to put the spotlight on the greenwashing of so many travel firms around climate.
  • ‘Social license’ campaigns – when the focus is on getting institutions (often in the cultural, academic or sporting space) to walk away from bad corporates and remove the . For example BP or not BP –which has put pressure the Royal Shakespear Company and the British Museum to drop BP as a sponsor, or the focus on removing gambling brands from football shirts.
  • Campaign partnerships – when a corporate uses its platform to ask consumers to take to engage the public on an issue – this can be on a wider issue (see Ben and Jerry’s on refugees) or on a specific benefit to the brand (see Uber and City Hall in London). Lots more on this as a theme here.
  • Ratings and rankings – A well used approach – publishing lists of corporates and their performance based on a set of criteria. The aim being that corporates will want to be driven to move up the rankings or stay at the top – see this from a Australian charity, Baptist World Aid on clothing companies, or this from Oxfam and their Behind the Brands campaign on food companies.
  • Shareholder pressure – buying shares and using them to push for change at AGMs/through resolutions. Share Action are absolutely brilliant at doing this and have a track record of success over many years.
  • Direct action – preventing the operations of a corporate by actively disrupting their supply chain/distribution network.
  • Product boycott – a boycott of a specific product or service, see the Nestle boycott that started in 1977 for it’s aggressive marketing of baby foods around the world in breach of international marketing standards and continues today. Also buycotts (h/t Pete Moorey) using consumer buying power to shift markets – for example the Which? Big Switch in 2021 on energy.
  • Advertiser pressue – targeting those who advertise in media outlets (papers, blogs, etc) or online, and encouraging supporters to ask advertisers to remove their adverts from those outlets or sites. This is an approach so Stop Funding Hate have used effectively in recent years. Closely linked to ‘social licence’ campaigns.
  • Employee pressure – Directly working with employees to put pressure on their bosses to change policies. See Amazon employees on climate and more here. Also working through unions to put pressure on their employers – see this with Civil Servants opposing the current Home Secretary on Channel crossings.
  • Leverage – When you campaign against decision maker A in order to target company B. Examples are usually economic boycotts like divestment campaigns, ‘banks: don’t finance fossil fuels’ etc. But there’s other types that aren’t really captured in that. For example, in the past Unite the Union got the Conservatives to threaten BA with a Heathrow landing slot review if they didn’t roll back their fire-and-rehire plans, and it’s a tactic their new General Secretary, Sharon Graham, wants to do more of (see below)

And some great examples being shared on social media to grow this list;

  • Recruitment pressure – suggested by Ben in the comments below. Targeting a company’s stand at a recruitment fair to say why they’d look embarrassing on your cv one day, or asking venues such as universities not to invite particular companies – a good recent example of that at work here for Shell.
  • Legal action – suggest by Pete and Claire on Twitter. Bringing cases through the courts to hold companies accountable for their actions. This example of using UK court to make UK registered tobacco companies accountable for their actions in Malawi.
  • Regulatory action – getting the government to create new frameworks to operate – a systematic way to make change as doesn’t require convincing each company in turn to change, and important when reputation is less connected to share value. (also suggested by Pete and Claire on Twitter)

So that’s 11 15 ideas, but I’d really welcome more – please do comment below and I’ll add to this over time 👇👇👇👇👇

4 thoughts on “A brief typology of corporate campaigning”

  1. Enjoyed this blog! Recruitment pressure might be another, targeting a company’s stand at a recruitment fair to say why they’d look embarrassing on your cv one day, or asking venues such as universities not to invite particular companies. Don’t know what tactics work for this online, you could target social media ads to say ‘don’t work for company X because of dodgy behaviour Y’ but you might need a big budget. Don’t know how much big companies really care about the quality of their graduate trainees – I’m sure they say they do, and they might well mean it.

  2. quite a good typology. Worth developing more – to see if we can understand which tactics work under which circumstances. There could be diagnostic tools, etc. And, of course, things change and tactics that once work, no longer to. And new tactics come into play.

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