Political statements by renowned brands are something that has always existed, but it has always been subtle messages of empowerment or inspiring messages that have caught the attention of the public.
However, in the Trump era, things have changed. Taking a political stance could mean something big for the business. It could be anything for getting more customers in your store to getting boycotted for supporting something some customers don’t believe in.
“As small and medium-size business owners, we can take lessons from one of the world’s largest and most successful brands, (those that are making political statements) but we should proceed with caution when trying to emulate their stunning ad campaigns in a quest to tap social and political zeitgeist for financial gain,” CEO of AOK Marketing, Dave Burnett wrote in a Financial Post article.
Experts say that taking a political stand in your marketing only works well if your target customer is likely to react well to the message you are sending across. If you are a brand that intends to appeal to different age groups and demographics, then this may not be the right strategy for you.
Taking an overtly political or social stand makes a great deal of sense when your target market is comprised of individuals — Millennials, for example — who believe that what they buy is a reflection of who they are, Burnett wrote.
A recent survey by Chicago-based social media software firm Sprout Social Inc. found that 66 per cent of U.S. consumers want their preferred brands to take a firm stand on social and political issues. That finding was largely split along ideological lines. Seventy-eight per cent of self-described liberals prefers their brands to take a position, compared with a slim majority, 52 per cent, of self-described conservatives.
In an increasingly competitive and noisy world, where standing out requires ever-more innovative marketing campaigns, sometimes committing to a cause is essential to win over your target audience. An early leader on this front was clothing retailer Benetton, whose pioneering multicultural ad campaigns affirmed the brand’s commitment to diversity many decades before doing so was de rigueur.
Nike’s advertisement featuring Colin Kaepernick was another example of appealing to the demographic that buys your product even if others are miffed with the brand identity.
Companies have previously linked themselves with causes and used that as a marketing tool. This has now become a common phenomenon in the world of advertising and brands are now trying to think out of the box.
“In many cases, it will make more sense for your organisation to be aligned with a safe cause — raising funds for cancer research, for example, or potentially even lobbying government for change within your industry. An example: cab companies pushing back against Uber in the guise of saving driver jobs and helping them earn a decent living wage,” Burnett said.
In the end, it all depends on your brand and your target demographic. Don’t make a political statement if it is going to alienate half your target customers.