The Risk Reward Paradigm of Brands with Hotbed Issues and the Probable Risk of Not Being Aware of the Risk

The last thing any brand wants to do is annoy, anger or alienate its customer or potential customer base.

"What you post online speaks VOLUME about who you really are. POST with intention. REPOST with caution."

Germany Kent

Nowadays the quickest way to do that is to take a side within today’s divisive political climate, particularly on social media.

Nike knew, for example, it’d be doing just that when they featured Colin Kaepernick in a recent Nike campaign, but they were also betting those who supported his inclusion would outweigh the backlash.

Pew Research Center recently revealed that 14% of U.S. adults have changed their views on a political or social issues because of something they saw on social media. And getting Americans to admit they’ve been influenced by anything is like pulling teeth, so we suspect the actual percentage is even higher.

A brand manager has the luxury, if he or she so chooses, to acknowledge the influence social media can have on political or social issues and then simply remain idle. Brands making seemingly benign allusions to politics have the potential to incite. In qualitative research, Marketing Workshop observed firsthand how divided respondents were about featuring an American flag on a juice bottle because the flag represents different things to different people.

So, this should be a short blog—when it comes to politics and all things related, keep away. Well, not so fast. For one thing, most brands have at least some connection with hotbed issues, be it a C-suite executive who donated money to a political candidate or the brand advertising on a TV program with alleged ideology. The internet is a big place: Either consumers will find out about it or it will find them.

What we’ve learned is Millennials and Gen Z—soon to be the two biggest U.S. generations—care about where brands stand on ethical and political matters, and will boycott brands that don’t align with their beliefs. In fact, 29% of Millennials say they will not buy goods for services from companies if they are aware the company has political positions different from their own, according the digital and politics outlet The Morning Consult. Further, about one in 10 Millennials and Gen Zers share their political opinions on social media—a number expected to rise as we inch closer to November.

To get to the bottom of this, Marketing Workshop performs full additional diagnostic on a brand’s customers to determine where they align socially and politically, if consumers know where the brand stands, if it even matters. And we can checkpoint how consumers’ opinions on sharing political or social-issue position differ depending on whether or not it something they agreed or disagreed with. Further, Marketing Workshop can help brands assess the risk reward factors of stance taking.

We imagine ride-share service Lyft did their due diligence before they rolled the dice and announced it will offer free rides to underserved communities and discount promo codes on Election Day (November 6) to make sure everyone who wants to vote can.

When Lyft tweeted about this promotion, it received 48,000 likes and was retweeted 29,000 times. Some comments leaned toward both sides of the aisle (“Cool I’ll use this to Vote MAGA” versus “Thank you, @lyft! #VoteBlue2018), but most of them were politics-neutral and brand positive (“You just gained a loyal customer”), because Lyft isn’t taking sides, it’s merely encouraging a civic duty and positioning itself as bipartisan.

In the end, it may not be worth your brand’s while to get politically active, or anything resembling it, at all, but only good will come out of the knowing your customers’ thoughts on the subject should they decide they will.

~ Marketing Workshop

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