Before most businesses begin their marketing initiatives, there is reasonably a sense of caution. Multiple questions are fielded and answered by marketing and business executives that concern the reach and efficiency of certain marketing campaigns. Generally speaking, it takes thousands and even millions of dollars to successfully advertise a business, so the masterminds behind these strategies are cognizant of achieving optimal results that correlate with the amount of money spent.
Since marketing is significant and vital business investment, should you risk tarnishing your reputation by standing up for political or controversial issues? This is certainly a controversial issue in itself, and most businesses are hesitant to dive into the political spectrum.
In actuality, there are some benefits to taking a stand on popular political issues, as evidenced by the rising trend of global companies successfully taking advantage of this opportunity to bring exposure to their brand, net rewarding financial returns, and speak out on ideals they believe in. If you are contemplating taking a leap into the political playing game, here are a few reasons why this opportunity possesses a wide array of lucrative benefits.
Speaking on Political Issues Yield Massive Exposure
On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, Nike unveiled its 30th-anniversary sales campaign. The company used this event to capitalize on a hot-button issue in the United States, which was the topic of respecting the country’s flag during sporting events. The campaign sponsored former NFL star Colin Kaepernick to present a central message, which read “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Kaepernick received major controversy for kneeling during the National Anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality in the United States. The controversy eventually led to Kaepernick’s departure from the San Francisco 49ers, where he is still unemployed by the NFL to this day.
Nike took the risk of adding Kaepernick to their campaign to present a controversial message, but the results of doing so led to enormous exposure for the company. According to Google Trends, Nike was ranked both #2 and #3 in the daily search trends, receiving more than 1 million searches for that day.
The massive exposure Nike wasn’t all positive. Thousands of Nike customers were incensed by Nike’s pledge to stand firmly by Kaepernick, resulting in the decrease of Nike’s shares for a short period of time. However, despite the backlash, Nike continued to move forward with their campaign and received the support of athletes and other people proud of the company for taking a stand.
This wouldn’t be the first time public discord has influenced a brand to rethink their marketing strategy. Back in April 2017, Pepsi released a controversial ad featuring Kendall Jenner, called “Live for Now”. After one single day of receiving widespread criticism for supposedly trivializing the protests against the killings of African American by the police, the multi-national company took the ad down and apologized.
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout.”
Conversely, Nike stood firm on its message and hasn’t wavered since. What exactly has this led to in 21 days after their ad’s release? According to Time, Nike has netted a 31% increase in sales since the campaign’s inception. Logically, there isn’t any coincidence to this eruption in corporate sales. If you are planning on taking a stand on a major controversial or political issue, you shouldn’t do it for the exposure. Nike obviously didn’t resort to this method, especially since the criticism and falling share prices would have likely convinced the company to backtrack weeks ago. Plus, using politics as a selling point is harmful to any business.
However, it’s important to stand up for an issue that represents the values of your business in order for your brand to organically receive exposure by likeminded people who resonate with your political ideals.
Consumers Want Businesses to Speak Up
There is a wide range of reasons of why you are probably discouraging the action of speaking out on central political issues. However, there is a lot of market research that indicates that consumers want businesses to speak up about core political issues.
Nike received harsh criticism for their role in adding Kaepernick to their marketing campaign. Though, the company still managed to build a house of positives out of a forest of negatives. Why was this case? This may have been due to the existence of the age-old maxim, “you simply can’t please everyone”.
Adweek’s Diana Pearl touched on this saying by maintaining that a brand must always take a stand, even if it means losing customers. She claims that this action will help brands stay relevant and capture the attention of prospective consumers.
Brands that try to please everybody become invisible in today’s marketplace. No matter what you stand for, you’re going to ruffle feathers and upset users. Some consumers will disappear, but others will become even more passionate. It’s better to have people passionate one way or the other than people ignoring you.
Although consistent research proves that consumers favor brands that stand up on political and social issues, businesses should readily do so because it forces consumers to be passionate about their brand. Nevertheless, how can businesses make sure that they are speaking out to the correct audience? Let’s elaborate more on this topic in the next section.
Speaking Out Influences Your Audience
Patagonia, the popular outdoor clothing designer established by environmental activist Yvon Chouinard in 1973, recently spent over $700,000 to air its first TV commercial in response to President Trump’s request to impose a review on 28 U.S. national monuments.
The brand also uploaded a YouTube video to discuss “Why Patagonia is Fighting for Public Lands”. After the upload, there wasn’t any social media uproar, or anyone burning their clothes they received from the company. Do you want to know why? That’s because a majority of Patagonia’s customers love the outdoors and believe in the company’s message to preserve the environment. Hence, this campaign worked because Patagonia spoke out on an issue that resonated with their audience.
In the same sense, you can achieve similar results by addressing political and social issues that represent the views of your audience. By doing so, you can influence your audience to stand with you on important issues that are also similar to the ideals of your business.
In other words, speaking out on the correct issue is paramount to receive the largest gain from your marketing strategy and cement your brand as an authority in your niche. Judging by Nike’s own success in their controversial ad, it stands to reason that your business should start speaking out on political issues as well.