Bullying, both in and out of schools, has been an issue for decades, even centuries. In recent years, the stories we’ve heard of bullying and the research that shows the impact it has on our children has become more and more worrying. Gone are the days of brushing these issues under the rug—now is the time to take a stand for our children.
We’re in the time of what many parents call the most wonderful time of the year: back-to-school. Kids are no longer sitting at home all day, nor are they forced to do their summer reading. Time to get back to a routine. What many of us don’t realize, however, is that this could be the worst time of the year for some children. In fact, 52 percent of Gen Z teens have reported being victims of some form of bullying. As a parent of two girls, I am aware of what is going on in my kids’ schools and how they are impacted by it. This goes beyond just school, too. Our entire environment impacts a child’s day-to-day life, and this is where brands can play a role.
In the most formative years of a child’s life, brands matter. They matter a lot. So, what can brands take away from this? A lot, actually. There are many opportunities to influence your audience for important causes.
Make the cause the center of your focus
If a brand they love is on the same page as them, [Gen Z is] going to pay even more attention and truly support both the cause and the brand promoting it.
Remember that the message you are trying to make is not about your brand, it’s about the cause itself. The brand gives the cause a bigger voice and validity, and that’s when the rallying cry can truly start.
Take Channel 4 in the U.K., for example. Cyberbullying is an epidemic, and Channel 4 showcased that beautifully with their overlaid commercials using bullying remarks left by commentators online. It was a simple yet effective way to bring validity to this issue and make it something everyone can relate to, care about and identify ways to get involved.
Don’t underestimate your sphere of influence
Brands, especially those that are designed for our younger generations, have a large impact on their consumers. They are a part of their identity. The positive influence these brands have with their fanbase should be used for social good whenever possible.
Sustainability is crucial
Like with anything that is woven into the fabric of our society, the issue of bullying is not going to go away overnight. Think of bullying as a disease. It takes years and years of research and trial and error to find a cure. We cannot assume for any millisecond that issues like these don’t manifest in the same way.
If your goal is to end bullying, be committed to the long game. In 2016, Tarte Cosmetics launched the #KissAndMakeup effort to end cyberbullying after noticing negative comments on their own products. Now, more than two years later, Tarte still uses the hashtag and has truly engrained anti-bullying into their mission statement.
How you act says a lot about you
The initiatives you support, the type of people who you feature in campaigns and the audience you influence are all critical. Our youth take note of important causes, and if a brand they love is on the same page as them, they are going to pay even more attention and truly support both the cause and the brand promoting it.
Remember who you’re talking to
In this instance, you’re talking to the next generation of leaders. This is the group that is shaping society for the future. They are our future: our teachers, lawmakers, brand CEOs and so much more. This is the generation that truly believes they can end bullying and build an inclusive world where everyone feels welcome. Positively influencing them now will shape the way they look at your brand for a lifetime. More importantly, your brand platform can give a voice to causes that will help them define who they are in the future.
It only takes one
One person, one brand, one message. If only one person can create a world of difference in our children’s lives, just imagine the influence and power that comes with your brand. Recently, River Island launched its newest campaign, and it is brilliant. The brand partnered with anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label to create clothing with the “Labels are for clothes” message. Showcasing people with different disabilities, cultures, etc., is all it takes for a child to look at an ad and say, “Hey, that’s me!”
Bullying is one of the many issues our children face today, but as with any challenge, knowing that you’re not alone and you have a voice can be the gateway to change. As leaders in the advertising industry, we are the gateway. We have the voice, the brand platforms and the promise that our community can make a difference. Like I said before, it matters.