Performance Activism: Why Marketers Should Steer Clear

Performance Activism: Why Marketers Should Steer Clear_

Performative activism is when a person or brand appears to support a cause to gain attention or support, rather than making a difference for the cause. It can be easy for brands to get caught up with showing support for a cause, but are they actually making a difference? Let’s compare some genuine brands and their efforts with the performance activism brands.

Genuine brands – Love Island X eBay

Love Island recently chose to partner up with eBay for this year’s series of the show. Usually, the TV show partners up with fast fashion brands such as I Saw It First to dress the islanders. However, this year they listened to their audience and their sustainability concerns. As a result, they decided to take a new direction for their partner. For 2023, instead of having a disposable attitude to fashion, they have switched to promoting pre-loved clothing by partnering with eBay. The islanders wore second-hand items from eBay or their own items from home (i.e. not performance activism).

A brand new attitude

This partnership encourages their impressionable audience to consider buying pre-loved items rather than buying new ones. This is a great collaboration that shows ITV intends to make a difference in this space. It also reflects the changing attitudes of consumers, with a younger Gen-Z demographic expressing more environmental concerns. To get the new ‘woke’ generation to tune in, they have to show that they’re listening to what they’re saying.

eBay has also carried on its mission to change the way consumers shop. They recently announced that Love Island finalist Tasha Ghouri is going to be the first-ever preloved ambassador for them.

Performance Activism Brand – H&M

Sustainability is a hot topic, with many people and brands talking about ways to be more sustainable. This can tie into many aspects of a product or business such as the design, or how they operate day to day. However, how much of this is superficial?


Big fashion brand H&M has been accused of ‘Greenwashing’, by misleading their consumers on their environmental scorecards which are displayed within stores and online. They claim that some clothes in the eco-conscious range are made using less water. This has been proven to be incorrect, and in some cases, they use more water than common materials. The argument is that this range is no more sustainable than the rest of the clothes they sell, which are also not very sustainable either!

H&M is misleading consumers into believing they are making a difference for the environment when they’re not. Using sustainability as a ploy to attract consumers is wrong if the facts are incorrect. A powerful marketing strategy can easily mislead consumers but unless you’re actually committing to making environmental changes to your practices, no amount of digital PR will be enough to cover your tracks and sustain your brand’s good reputation. A dirty secret like performance activism will always be found out.

As ‘Good On You’ (check them out here) have stated on social media, no fast-fashion brand can be sustainable.

How can this be applied to your next campaign?

There are many good and bad examples of brands working with causes or charities, but there’s no excuse for misleading consumers. When creating your next campaign think about the buzzwords you’re using. Can these be backed up with support to make a difference, or is it just an attention gain? You can weave your sustainability plan and actions in with your social media strategy to ensure that customers receive the full transparency they’re looking for. This way you won’t be accused of performance activism. The only way you won’t be subject to these criticisms is if you’re actually doing what you claim. Talk the talk? Walk the walk.

What does our full service marketing agency do?

At Punch, we work with many socially conscious clients, such as ForHousing. They provide their audience with tips on how to save money whilst also reducing their impact on the environment.

For more information, take a look at our portfolio to see our client work.