As people become more aware of the importance of engaging with social issues and unequivocally speaking out against injustice, brands are starting to realise that they too have a responsibility to participate in important conversations that concern a majority of their consumers.

Below are a few local and international brands that are taking a stance on social issues.


Castle Lager – #smashthelabel campaign

We live in a society where everyone is judged by the colour of their skin, the way they wear their hair and even the style of clothes they wear. From a very young age, we are conditioned and socialised to think about people in a particular way, before we even interact with them. Castle Lager’s #smashthelabel campaign was a call to action—make an effort to read the book before you judge it by its cover.

“We asked ourselves, ‘what is keeping people away from each other, what is it we can fix’, and the main barrier we found is the pervasiveness of labels and stereotypes and the misconceptions we carry about other people,” says Vaughan Croeser, brand director for Castle Lager Africa.



The Castle Lager campaign challenges us to put our prejudices aside and stop making assumptions about people; the campaign invites us to have a conversation with those who are from different worlds. Once you sit down with someone and approach the interaction with a beginner’s mind, you will find that you have a lot in common. The brand hosted a panel discussion for people to talk candidly about the stereotyping and discrimination they had faced because of what the looked like. The panellists included wheelchair tennis star Kgothatso Montjane, Springbok rugby player Handre Pollard and plus-sized model and blogger, Thickleeyonce. The campaign received a thumbs-up from the Department of Arts and Culture because it was in line with the government’s mandate of working towards creating social cohesion amongst South Africans. “The reason the department likes the idea, is because it is responsible for outcome 13 of the National Development Plan, which is social cohesion and building stronger communities. And the work we’re doing aligns with the outcomes of the NDP,” explains Croeser.

So, #smashthelabel and have a conversation with someone over a cold beer.


Gillette – The Best a Man Can Be

In their latest campaign, men’s hygiene brand Gillette takes on toxic masculinity by exposing what is most problematic about. The major problem with masculinity is that it depends on the disempowerment of the “other” (women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, for example) for it to have a leg to stand on, and this is what makes it toxic. Not only does toxic masculinity lead to homophobia, transphobia and misogyny, it is also damaging to boys and young men because it sets them up to be abusive in many ways—physically, emotionally and mentally—and it encourages toxic belief systems. 

“This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own,” said Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette brand director for North America, in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.



In the ad, we see everything from moments of mansplaining, fathers saying, “boys will be boys” to excuse problematic behaviour in boys, to everyday sexism. There are clips from the #MeToo movement and there is a clip of American actor Terry Crews saying “men need to hold other men accountable.” The Gillette ad is important because it is challenging men to reflect on their behaviour and consider the ways in which they perpetuate toxic masculinity. The ad was obviously met with mixed reviews, with some men taking offence—this just shows how fragile masculinity is that is shudders every time it is challenged.  While the ad can be perceived as a brand being opportunistic, it is a great start for a men’s brand to be speaking directly to its target audience about a problem that they are a part of. The ad is also saying to men: not only do you need to change, but you can change—you can be different.


Carling Black Label – #NoExcuse

Similar to the Gillette campaign addressing toxic masculinity, last year Black Label launched a campaign challenging traditional masculinity in South Africa and the ways in which it is violent. It is a known fact that femicide and violence against children are major problems in South Africa. Black Label’s #NoExcuse campaign is aimed at raising awareness around child and woman abuse.



Lidl Ireland – Mental health awareness

Lidl is a German brand that has supermarkets across Europe and the United States. The brand has collaborated with mental health organisations in Ireland to raise awareness around mental health issues. They set up pop up bakeries in Dublin, Limerick and Cork. Young people are encouraged to come enjoy baked goods while speaking openly about their struggles with mental illness. Lidl has also committed to donating €1 million to Jigsaw Youth Mental Health, a charity that they have partnered with.


Gone are the days of relying on your product to win the attention and loyalty of the consumer. Consumers want brands that are conscious and are taking a stance on social issues. The above-mentioned are examples of brands that are keeping abreast of what’s going on in society and responding accordingly. We hope that brands can move beyond campaigns and actually start putting their money where their mouth is.  





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