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How to Make Your Brand Politically Relevant (Without Risking It All)

Imagine having customers or clients who advocate for your brand. 

That is precisely what today’s consumers are becoming. Today’s organizations are being held responsible for more than the quality of products or services. They are being held to task when it comes to exacting progressive change in the world.

The 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study revealed that 64 percent of global consumers “buy on belief” which has become the majority across all age groups and income brackets. 

In a world where politics are questionable and everything is becoming more polarized, taking a stand is becoming increasingly essential for successful marketing campaigns.

A Remarkable Brand Example

Nike made a risky decision to make Colin Kaepernick one of the faces of their 30-year anniversary of their “Just Do It” campaign. Risky because Colin Kaepernick became famous for his silent protest against racial inequality and police brutality during an August preseason NFL game by refusing to stand for the national anthem.

Although some of Nike’s customer base actually burned their products, their “Believe in something, even if it means losing everything” message resonated with most of their target consumers and, consequently, their stock ended up skyrocketing, resulting in a $6 billion increase in the company’s value.

Boycott or Buycott

A 2017 study done in America showed that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become more important than ever in history.

In the UK, Brexit has nearly split the EU in half and with many of today’s politically slanted, privately-owned news agencies, it has become difficult for consumers to know what is really happening. 

Political Scientists have coined the term political consumerism as “actions by people who make choices amongst producers and products with the goal of changing objectionable institutional or market [practices]…” That is, how your brand is viewed by consumers is directly related to how well your organization will do.

Preparing To Take A Stand

Before a brand takes a side on an important social or political issue, there are things to consider because doing so carries both risks and rewards

Identify the Why

Today’s consumers are more conscious about what they buy from whom, and they can do their research so if you’re contributing to, objecting to, or supporting a cause that is not in alignment with their own values, you stand the risk of alienating that customer base.

However, any time a brand takes a stand, they are going to alienate someone so the first question to ask is: Why?

If the cause you choose to identify with is not in collaboration with your products, your customer base will most likely see this as an opportunistic move.

Consider the passions, concerns, or outrage(s) of your preferred customers and then examine your own brand’s position on the topic. Once you establish that your brand has consistently held the same position (or, at least, not the opposite position), you can harness that to take a stand on their behalf.

It is imperative that your brand remains consistent because although consumers want to see more CSR, they are also far more sensitive to inauthenticity and one minor slip can have huge repercussions.

Identify Your Brand’s Values

While every organization seeks to increase profits, it has become increasingly less important in today’s global economy than a bigger picture view.  Every organization has a mission statement so what kinds of values are in yours? Identifying the things that your brand stands for is the first step towards identifying the most ideal stands to take.

Research Your Organization’s Philanthropy

When taking a social or political stand, it’s important to be able to highlight corresponding contributions, actions, and attitudes that support your initiative as well as determine any that might undermine it. When you take a stand, your company is sure to be picked apart by consumers, competitors, and the media alike so finding and leveraging the things that reinforce your stance will help you to prepare for this inevitable scrutiny.

Determine What Makes You Qualified

When Pepsi did a commercial depicting a protest with a mostly white crowd during a time when the US’s #BlackLivesMatter movement was at its height, the backlash was an expected one. After all, how many black protests have included smiling white police officers and happy mobs cheering, dancing, and singing together?

While their message may have been well-intended, it came across as ill-informed and inauthentic.

Your stand should naturally align with the products and/or services you are offering or you run the risk of the same avoidable kind of backlash.

Who is The Best Spokesperson For Your Message?

A clear understanding of the people, places, and things that matter most to your customer base can help you identify who you need to have on your side. Just as how Nike’s campaign alienated one segment, it ignited and encouraged a larger one.

Talk About The Move Internally

Consistency is important to establishing and maintaining your brand’s authenticity. That’s why it is crucial to discuss your plans with everyone from C-suite executives to receptionists and janitors.

Questions will be asked and – as a part of being authentic – your entire company needs to know how to not only answer them but how to answer them truthfully.

Of course, there may be employees who disagree with your position but once you have everyone on the same page, it creates a unified campaign that is organized. Your internal dialogue can also help you prepare for many of the questions that may arise from your brand activism.

Weigh The Risks

Being politically, socially, or environmentally proactive can result in great rewards but it does not come without risks. This is why it is critical for companies to evaluate what risks are concerned with taking a stand on any issue before launching their campaigns.

Consider any scenarios that may come up so even in worst-case scenarios, you are already prepared with a response. Knee-jerk reactions to negative media or exposure can be detrimental to your cause. Take time to plan ahead for these possibilities.

Plan The Launch

Effective brand activism is not short-lived. Rather, it’s something that establishes a conversation and keeps it going. Consumers will be watching to see how consistent and committed you are when you tackle an issue, so being prepared to carry on the conversation in a meaningful way will be achieving the goals you have set.

Simply making a statement will come off as a fad that will quickly diminish without fortifying it in different ways. With today’s technological consumers, there are many ways you can reach your intended audience with purpose, authenticity, and spirit.

Ultimately, in an interview with The Marketing Journal, Unilever Europe’s president Hanneke Faber offered three tips for brands to take on social responsibility.

  1. Be really clear on what your purpose is in life.
  2. Link that purpose to a local, timely, relevant issue.
  3. Talk about it.

If you are ready to take a stand with your brand, Atticsalt can help you plan and execute your campaign. Contact us today for more information. 

By Rani Sweis Aug 09, 2019
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