Brands and Activism


Special issue of the Journal of Brand Management; Deadline 31 Jan 2022

POSTING TYPE: Calls: Journals

Author: Megan Garry-Evans

Journal of Brand Management

Special Issue

Brands and Activism



For decades, activism was reserved for political and social domain, most often deliberately and strategically avoided by companies and brands. Even more, brands themselves were frequently targets of different forms of activism induced by various stakeholders such as consumers or NGOs. Echo Research (2019) has found that two-thirds of under-35s in the US and the UK have already taken part in marches or protests, written to government or companies or signed petitions. This indicates that brands have become an important concern not just for business but for society as well. As a consequence, the manner in which consumers tend to interact with brands is changing and there is a growing pressure that existing perspectives about the role of brands in the contemporary society need to be rethought (Swaminathan et al., 2020).

In the era of social and political polarisation global societies are faced with various pressing issues such as capitalism, consumerism, poverty, climate crisis, LGBTQIA rights, racial discrimination and injustice, and Covid-19 pandemic consequences. At the same time, in the hyperconnected world individuals have gained an instant and continuous access to networks, other people, political organisations, brands and other entities anytime and anywhere. They can easily become involved in various issues and express their opinions. Doing nothing has become a form of complicity and this mindset seems to be entering the business world as well (Moorman, 2020). Therefore, consumers now increasingly expect that their favourite brands enter the socio-political domain (Hoppner and Vadakkepatt, 2019) and majority of individuals want companies and their CEOs to take a stand on social issues and other causes (Edelman 2018). It seems that in the future it will be harder and harder for brands to stay silent on their political and social positions or avoid being the target of different forms of activism, including the anti-brand activism. Different social movements are on the rise, and brands are forced to face them and respond.

Definitions of activism are numerous. However, they share a common denominator: activism is related to a desire to bring about the change – whether it is personal, social, political, economic, and/or environmental (Alsop and Bencze, 2010). Social activists are individuals and groups engaging in collective action to remedy perceived social problems and political positions. They operate through groups or social movement organisations characterised by varying degrees of formal and informal organising (Briscoe and Gupta, 2016).

Business literature explores social activism in relation to its intentional and unintentional effects and consequently organisational change. Corporate stakeholders – consumers, shareholders, employees, NGOs etc. – and their activism are categorised on the »insiders-outsiders« spectrum. This shows a broad range of different actors involved in activism and their relations to organisations. Brand management literature adds a concept of brand activism as the type of activism in which companies and their brands plays a leading role in the processes of social change by taking stance on social and political issues (Moorman, 2020).

A shift in consumer practices, which goes beyond the utilitarian values of brands has not only caused the urge for companies to respond to various forms of stakeholder’s activism but also to seek out the allies within social movements, activist groups, promote activism among their employees and manage their own brand activism. This places activism in the midst branding efforts. It also influences the ways corporate communications and brands are operating.

The aim of this special issue

However, stepping into the field of ideology and political as well as social divisions, brings about unanswered questions and dilemmas for brands and their managers. A better insight is needed to understand not only consumers’ expectations of brand activism but also corporate motivations to brand activism and the processes behind it. Thus, research considering activism related to brand management from different perspectives can offer new discoveries, plus potentially innovative and creative ways towards encouraging and supporting more effective brand practices. It can contribute to a better cooperation between brands and their social and political environment. There is a growing interest in the potential to bring different streams of research together, in order to see how theory and findings can be integrated around the common phenomenon of social activism in and around brands.

On that note, the Journal of Brand Management (JBM) invites submission of papers for consideration in a Special Issue focused on brands and activism. The aim is to explore how the activism in its various forms continues to alter brand management practices and stakeholder attitudes towards brands, as well as to identify associated challenges and opportunities. It specifically wants to investigate a various form of stakeholders’ activism in regard to different types of brands. It also seeks to examine numerous consumer/stakeholder responses on brand activism, which companies are trying to implement. It wants to focus on brands participating in political/social activism or being target of it.

Papers should have an explicit activism and brand management orientation and should outline the theoretical and/or practical implications derived from their research. Papers should also be relevant to the wider global readership of the Journal of Brand Management. The special issue welcomes rigorous, thoughtful and insightful papers covering the above, including those derived from empirical research (qualitative, quantitative and case study research).

As such high-quality papers may be suitable which address activism and brand management with (but not limited to) the following aspects:

  • Customer, shareholders, stakeholder activism
  • Corporate and brand activism
  • Activism as a brand strategy and purpose driven brands
  • Anti-brands and pro-brand activism and communities
  • Types of activists and activism related to companies and brands
  • Positive and negative effects of brand activism
  • Antecedents and consequences of brand activism
  • Activism as a mean of brand cocreation
  • Brandjackings
  • Authentic brand activism, faux activism, wokewashing, slacktivism
  • Political advocacy
  • Prosocial consumption
  • Brand activism as a competitive advantage
  • Role of activism in building/damaging brand identity, position, equity and reputation
  • Using activism for internal branding
  • Activists as brand ambassadors
  • Brand-rooted in activism
  • Scepticism toward the corporate and brand activism
  • Risks and opportunities of brand socio-political stance
  • Social activists’ strategies and tactics to influence brands
  • Online activism and corporate social media
  • Branding activism and activist brands
  • Brand boycotts, petitions, demonstrations, digital activism, hacktivism, subvertising, culture jamming, lobbying, adhertising
  • Activist community building and branding
  • International activism and brands
  • Commodity activism
  • CEO activism and brands

Submission of Manuscripts

Papers submitted for consideration in this JBM Special Issue must conform to the author guidelines for the JBM as outlined via the Journal website and should be between 5,000 and 8,000 words in length, inclusive of words in tables but excluding references. They should be submitted via the online submission system, Editorial Manager:

ensuring to select the Special Issue on Brand activism option during submission. The papers will be managed by the Journal Guest Editors — Klement Podnar and Urša Golob.

The SI submission option will open in the above system on 15th January 2022.

The closing date for submissions: 31st January 2022.

Submission queries can be referred to the Editorial Office at


Alsop, S. and Bencze, J. L. (2010) Introduction to the Special Issue on Activism: SMT Education in the Claws of the Hegemon. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education 10(3): 177-196.

Briscoe, F. and Gupta, A. (2016) Social activism in and around organizations. Academy of Management Annals 10(1): 671-727.

Echo research (2019) We Are All Activists Now. RNS Number : 7337L, 10 September 2019.–we-are-all-activists-now/201909100700237337L/, accessed 12 January, 2021.

Edelman (2019) Edelman trust barometer. Global report, 2019., accessed 12 January 2021.

Hoppner, J. J. and Vadakkepatt, G. G. (2019) Examining moral authority in the marketplace: A conceptualization and framework. Journal of Business Research 95: 417-427.

Moorman, C. (2020) Commentary: Brand Activism in a Political World. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing 39(4): 388-392.

Swaminathan, V., Sorescu, A., Steenkamp, J. B. E., O’Guinn, T. C. G. and Schmitt, B. (2020) Branding in a hyperconnected world: Refocusing theories and rethinking boundaries. Journal of Marketing 84(2): 24-46.