It's Time for Brands to Step Up, Speak Out, & Take A Stand
Taking a public stance on heated issues can be strategically challenging for companies to rationalize, as they risk alienating a portion of their customers. However, whilst it may have been a faux pas in the past for brands to embrace a political role, with the world as it is today, brands no longer have a choice -- they need to take a stance
Social activism is an increasingly integral part of our daily lives. In today’s world of 24/7 visibility and curated newsfeeds – where the brands you support speak volumes about your identity and values – consumers want to know what brands care about, what they represent. They demand transparency.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has always been straightforward with regards to their political beliefs – craftily renaming pints of ice cream to convey their beliefs, like Hubby Hubby (formerly Chubby Hubby), and EmpowerMINT. These stances have subjected them to numerous boycotts, costing them some customers, but strengthening the loyalty of others. While competitors may have previously seen Ben & Jerry’s divisive statements as unnecessarily controversial, we feel they were simply ahead of the curve.
Fast forward to today, and more and more brands are publicly taking a stand.
AirBnB, a company that celebrates diversity and inclusion, committed to provide free, short-term housing for refugees, disaster survivors, and relief workers in response to ongoing political debates. In a similar move, Budweiser ditched the Clydesdales and puppies in this year’s Superbowl commercial in favor of highlighting immigration and embracing foreign cultures in America. And back in November, Patagonia shut down all of its stores on November 8th, in an attempt to encourage consumers to get out and vote.
These actions may sacrifice some consumer segments, but the current repercussions of not taking a stance are much worse. (See the #DeleteUber trend, which still has decent momentum (ignited after Uber continued to offer services during a Taxi strike in New York). And the #Grabyourwallet initiative, a record of Trump-friendly companies to boycott, including Amazon, Macy’s, and Lord & Taylor. )
So what can brands do to ensure success in such turbulent times? Let go of the desire to be loved by all.
In today’s political and social climate, it’s much smarter to stand for something and act accordingly, than to stay neutral in an attempt to keep everyone happy. By doing so, brands will drive engagement and loyalty with like-minded consumers – building a community of true brand advocates, rather than occasional consumers.
The bottom line: consumers want brands who stand for something. Step up, and you’ll have members for life. Stay silent, and fade into oblivion.