17 November 2016

By Warren Johnson

The “Stop Funding Hate” campaign won its first battle last weekend, when Lego announced it was ­severing promotional ties with the Daily Mail. The hard-hitting campaign, which is putting ­pressure on retailers and brands to redirect ad budgets from the Mail, The Sun, and the Daily Express, wants to financially penalise Britain’s tabloids over their divisive coverage of refugees.

Lego is the first consumer brand to officially distance itself from the paper. Meanwhile Co-op, Waitrose and Walkers Crisps (backed by Gary Lineker) have been called on to follow Lego down the yellow brick road. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote and Trump’s shock victory, it would appear that many people are looking to challenge established norms and are driving change via marketing, rather than government.

The rise in this type of brand activism heralds a new era in which customer-centric brands are choosing media partnerships based on inclusivity and reputation; a new form of press regulation that transcends the failures of the post-Leveson settlement, and which is driven by advertisers, rather than policymakers or any of the demonstrably dysfunctional media self-regulation mechanisms.

Considering Lego only spent an estimated £2,500 on advertising with the Mail in the past two years, a single blow like this is unlikely to impact the paper’s ad revenues. But perhaps it presents an opportunity for other consumer brands, which don’t currently advertise with the tabloid press, to join the conversation.

The campaign’s decision to specifically target consumer and fmcg brands via social media is also a savvy one; it shows an understanding of how these brands are talking to their customers and, in Lego’s case, a recognition of the influential role it plays in shaping consumer behaviour and brand perception.

Retail and fmcg brands embody our familial and societal values, which is why people trust them. At a time when the world seems to be dividing, not uniting, these values couldn’t be more important for brands and retailers to get behind.

The Grocer, 17 November 2016