No. Not every company needs to take a brand political stand.

brand political stand

By Mark Schaefer

One of the most fascinating trends right now is values-based marketing. Research shows that a company that aligns with consumer values can increase loyalty, purchases, new customers, and even premium pricing.

Of course the Nike – Colin Kaepernick move made all the headlines and pushed this topic to the forefront but many companies have been enacting programs based on shared meaning for years:

  • H&M’s “Conscious Collection” of eco-friendly clothing features 100-percent reclaimed nylon fiber from fishnets and other nylon waste. H&M was one of the first fashion retailers to make its supply chain transparent, and it constantly monitors the working conditions of the factories where its products are produced.
  • Airbnb aired an ad during the Super Bowl to protest U.S. immigration policies. The ad, called “We Accept,” showed a montage of people of different nationalities along with the words: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”
  • P&G launched “We See Equal,” a campaign designed to fight gender bias and workplace inequality.
  • Much of American Eagle’s teen marketing is based on anti-gun messages and gay rights.

Meaning is money

Companies have awakened to the fact that “meaning” is marketing. Meaning is money.

In the past year, 33 percent of millennials and 35 percent of Gen Xers boycotted a company or product they had previously spent money on, according to a new report. Overall, 26 percent of Americans are actively boycotting a product today based on some political or philosophical stand.

At Davos last week, P&G chief marketing officer Marc Pritchard talked about the swift and loud reaction to Gillette’s latest ad “The Best Men Can Be,” saying that consumers now expect brands to take stands and have points of view. “Take the Edelman Trust Barometer; eight out of 10 consumers say they prefer brands that take a stand . . . . We expected not everyone to respond positively, but that’s what being a leader is all about. It was time.”

Is it time for you, too?

Let’s put this on pause

Since values-based marketing is one of the hottest topics around, predictably, droves of blog posts are emerging encouraging companies to jump on board. In fact I am seeing posts recommending that every company — big and small — MUST take some political position.

While writing my book Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, I studied this topic carefully for many months. I can tell you bluntly that the notion of every business needing to take a political stand is ridiculous. Please do not buy into this guru advice.

Values-based marketing is not for everyone. It’s probably not even for most companies. This can be a very risky strategy without the proper research, especially if the brand stand is polarizing. Many CMOs have already lost their jobs because of ill-advised attempts to take stands with a brand.

Values-based marketing is a very important strategy in some situations, especially if you’re trying to make an older brand more relevant to younger demographics. It can also be an effective strategy to increase loyalty with some consumer groups.

But please, please, please do not feel pressured to enact this strategy — or any strategy — just because it’s popular or a blogger tells you what to do. Learn as much as you can about it and then make a reasoned and data-based decision.

Sometimes you want a hamburger just because it tastes good or a car wash because it’s nearby. Don’t buy into the hype that every company needs to take a political stand.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of Unsplash.com

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