Brands take a stand

This year’s Brexit and Trump election victory were just two examples that it’s no longer business as usual. The divisiveness that has gripped the country (and globe) is not an easy topic to tackle. But more than ever, today’s consumers are immersed in politics, so it’s becoming harder for brands to avoid taking a stand. Companies that remain on the sidelines risk missing out on important conversations, or even alienating consumers who seek better alignment with their values.

Consumers are watching carefully. The annual study by the Global Strategy Group found that public awareness of corporate stances on political events hit an all-time high in 2016, having nearly doubled since 2014. And according to SONAR, Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of brands that take stances on issues: 78% agree companies should take action to address the important issues facing society, while 88% agree that corporations have the power to influence social change.

Brands that are perceived as insensitive or inauthentic run the risk of getting called out by consumers. On the other hand, there is an opportunity to engage consumers on a more meaningful level, striking the “authentic” tone that many seek.

Consider taking a cue from purposeful brands who are finding renewed opportunities in helping people understand their changing relationship to home – be that their nation, city or neighborhood. Two flavors seem to be emerging: on one hand are global citizens who remain committed to the idea of an open and interconnected world. On the other, a group who favor a turn inwards, seeking comfort in the familiar.

Taking action to try to build bridges between cultures, travel website Momondo caused a social media stir with a video that highlighted the hidden racial diversity that exists in all individuals. In “The DNA Journey,” volunteers talk about pride in their national heritage and even issues with those from other countries, before being shown the results of DNA tests that proved they were a melting pot of genes from many different parts of the world. Momondo’s ad ends with the message, ‘You have more in common with the world than you think.’ The video ad has been viewed over 175 million times, according to Momondo.

In an effort to show commitment to a local point of view, Starbucks launched Upstanders: an original series of podcasts, short stories and videos that highlights individuals across the US that work to make a difference in their communities. The series has covered a wide range of topics like homelessness, autism, food waste, and the role of police, all aimed at uniting Americans. Upstanders has been written and produced by Howard Schultz (Starbucks’ CEO and Chairman), but is absent of Starbucks branding.

Several brands have turned to general messages of unity and acceptance: Amazon ran an ad showing an Anglican vicar and a Muslim imam building friendship amid growing xenophobia. Ben & Jerry’s “One Sweet World” ad is the story of a cherry standing up to a group of lemons. In the end, the two fruits develop a friendship that sparks new life into the town’s community. “We don’t live in a one flavor world,” reads the final tagline.

While putting a stake in the ground on a political or social issue may still be a step too far for many mainstream brands, for others it’s simply the logical extension of targeting psychographics over demographics—aligning a shared belief between the brand and customers.

If you'd like to see examples of how Traction aligns brands with customers’ shared belief systems, contact us here.

December 14, 2016
Lauren McGehee Senior Strategist

As one of the bigger brains at Traction, Lauren makes sure that everything we do has a damn good reason to exist. As the champion for the consumer, she steers our discovery and research to insure that we have relevant insights into our audiences’ behavior and desires. When she’s not making our team better, she is learning about the world through travel, food, books, art, and chasing her very fast dog, Greg.