These days there’s no shortage of controversial political issues. Businesses seem to be ever more sensitive to taking a stand for what they feel is right. Similarly, consumers often times take a stand toward their political leanings through the items they choose to purchase. Does taking a controversial political stance help or hurt your brand? Should your political views be a factor in your brand strategy? Unfortunately, there’s not a yes or no answer to this issue. Consider the following factors before launching your brand into a controversial discussion.
What are your company’s ideals?
If you are simply taking a political stand because you see opportunity for exposure, you may not be considering all of the important factors. However, if your stand is executed in a consistent and integrated manner with your overall branding strategy, you may be okay.
Here’s a great example. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has made no secret of their support of same-sex marriage. Their spokesman, Sean Greenwood, recently said, “Sticking up for civil rights by a progressive company…goes together like big chucks and swirls in ice cream.” This was an ingenious response. In one sentence, the company stood their ground and reminded consumers that we’re just talking about ice cream. In fact, Ben & Jerry’s first stated their stand more than three years ago and reported no decrease in sales.
Who is your target audience?
If you are considering taking a controversial stand, it’s best to consider your audience and the role your product plays in their lives. Are you alienating a certain sector of your audience? It’s a gamble. If you provide a product that’s relatively new and that customers could easily get somewhere else, you might just lose your customer base. However, according to market research firm YouGov, most companies recover their customer base after the initial announcement, usually about a month.
So, are your personal ideals worth possibly loosing customers? Will your stand gain you the support of additional customers? Americus Reed, marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says supporting hot-button issues “is not a necessary ingredient for business success.”
The bottom line is that it’s a personal decision for your business. If you do decide to tread into a pool of controversy, carefully position your message. The goal is to be seen as an advocate, not a narrow-minded extremist. Bad messaging could be detrimental, while incorporating an overall branding strategy could position you as an authority and gain the respect of your customers.
Whether you want to take a political stand or not, contact us to develop your marketing strategy.
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