Should brands take a stand? (No)

politicsI realize the new Edelman report is encouraging brands to take a stand. Of course consumers of 2018 want you to take a stance, they want to know who to boycott and trash on Twitter. For most politically minded people, politics in 2018 has become similar to cheering for a sports team.

My advice: be careful.

When the stance you take fits with your brand’s values, it will work. When it seems like a leader of the brand taking a personal stance, it seems shallow and tends to fail.

There is a big difference between a values-driven belief and a personal political stance. 

For instance, Patagonia is pro-environment, so it works for them to take a stance on environmental issues. They have earned the right to speak out on fighting for public lands or the environment. It’s not an ad to them; it’s part of who they are. Their consumers see that stance as a perfect fit. It is natural that most hikers are environmentalists.

Patagonia

Another great example when it works is with Nike, who wanted to show they have their athletes backs, so taking a stance to support Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling works. The younger consumers are fans of the great athletes who are outspoken on politics, such as Kaepernick, Serena Williams or Lebron James. While there was the early talk of a Nike boycott, the actual Nike consumers loved it.

The former CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, is extremely political, likely much more than the Starbucks brand or those who work for him. He has made numerous attempts to take a political stance, such as the #racetogether campaign, but his customers rejected many of those campaigns saying “you just sell coffee.” Given only 55% of people vote, many don’t want to be reminded of politics at a time when they are trying to escape.

#racetogether

The Chick-fil-a CEO has taken many political stances, opposite to those of Shultz. He is against gay marriage and has made a very pro life stance. Again, they sell chicken, and it doesn’t fit with the brand.

Chick-Fil-A

In the Kendel Jenner Pepsi ad, they tried to take a stance or two stances at once, by being for world peace and pro-police and managed to upset everyone. If you are going to play the middle of the road on politics, that might be even worse, so you may as well not say anything.

Pepsi

When there is no natural fit with your brand, stay quiet. Very quiet.

Looking at the Edelman data, while people want to know your stance, the same amount says they want to buy a brand because of their position, and will not buy it. While you can argue that’s an equal win-loss, if you sell ketchup, and lose customers because of your stance, you can’t expect the rest of your consumers to start using twice as much. Again, make sure it fits.

edelman

 

With such a divided electorate, it is too dangerous for brands to take political sides.

As a person, I love that people have political convictions and applaud them for speaking out. I loved that millions marched. It was truly inspirational. facebook politicsNow, if you enjoy speaking out, go for it. Your choice. I know you think I am wrong. I have tried to hint to friends that they should tone down their inflammatory Facebook posts, but to no avail. They seem to need that therapeutic. It is perfectly OK for an individual, buried somewhere on your personal Twitter or Facebook feed with your 334 followers. Have fun.

Higher profits gives you more of an opportunity to make an impact that matches up with your values 

Brand’s only exist because companies figure they can make more money than if they sold the product alone. If having a conviction makes you more profits, I say, “Have more conviction!!!” However, if it costs you money, be smarter. Higher profits will allow you to make a difference quietly. If Nike makes more money supporting Kaepernick, they should do it. If Patagonia can make more money taking an environmental stance, then keep doing it. The math for Nike works because younger consumers are attracted to that message, and they spend significantly more on shoes than older consumers who might boycott Nike.

The only political stance I will ever take in public: go vote.

Make sure your brand’s stance fits with your brand values

 

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

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Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

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Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

 

Should non-political Brands ever get Political during these politically divided times?

“Republicans Buy Shoes Too”

 Michael Jordan

The last few years, we’ve seen a divide in politics–bigger than we’ve seen in generations. In the US, it would be safe to say the country is equally divided between democrats and republicans, with about 10-20% acting as the swing vote. There are so many issues that divide us–our views on marriage, guns, taxes, education, healthcare, race, immigration, religion, the environment, war and the list is growing. There are red states and blue states. The most loyal of the Democrats and Republicans are each digging in deeper.  Around the world, we are seeing the same divide, variations different issues.  

Now, if your entire brand is about healthcare, I get that you should have a position anything to do with healthcare. If your about an environmental brand, of course you should have a position on global warming, energy efficiency and oil drilling. And if your a bank, being outspoken on debt, tax rates and the interest rate is well within your realm.  

But if you are selling organic groceries, fried chicken, washing machines or laptops, you’d be really stupid as a brand to pick a side and speak out. I love politics, but I love making money even more. If there is a chance you could lose 45% of your audience, or even 10% because you think it’s important for you to share your political conscience, then terrific. Give up the reins of being a Brand Leader, grab a sign and find a spot on the grass.  

  • The comments regarding support of traditional marriage by Chick-Fil-A’s president Dan Cathy caused a political uproar that definitely had an impact on brand perception. Marketingland noted that the positive brand image that Chick-Fil-A once took for granted was dealt an almost fatal blow and the BrandIndex score in the northeast US for Chick-Fil-A fell from a 76 down to a 35. Chick-Fil-A responded to this disaster by backing entirely out of media comments and distancing the company’s position from the personal opinions of Dan Cathy. But the damage to the brand was cemented when Sarah Palin lined up to get her chicken wings.

 

  • John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, is dealing with a huge backlash from customers of the upscale supermarket chain who have been angered by his recent comments likening Obamacare to fascism.  Mackey, who made the comments during an interview promoting a book on capitalism, has since tried to walk back his more inflammatory statements, explaining he was talking about fascism in economic terms, not as a system of repression under the Third Reich.  Obama supporters, many of whom love Whole Foods, turned on the brand with comments on Twitter, Facebook and any blog they could find. I’ve seen John Mackey on CNN trying to retract comments. I’d suggest he get himself a Communications VP and never talk into a microphone again.  
  • Donald Trump has been one of the most outspoken celebrities in the political area, many times embarrassing himself rather than offering the voice of the right. The Apprentice, once a top 10 show finished 113th last year, with ratings falling from 20 Million people down to 4.5 Million.

Not only is it dumb to divide your market in half, it’s also arrogant to think we care about your view.  Just because you are running a successful Brand, doesn’t mean your view matters.  

Maybe we could all learn a lesson from Big Bird. Even as he was brought into the political debate by a slip of the tongue by Mitt Romney, what did Big Bird and the rest of Sesame Street decide to do with their new found attention. They stayed quiet. That was the smartest political move they could make.  After all, republican kids watch Big Bird and Elmo. 

In terms of Politics, Brands would be better off just staying silent.

Here’s a summary on Creating a Beloved Brand

Other Stories You Might Like

  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement.  Before you even get into the creative brief, you should be looking at target, benefits and reason to believe.   To read how to write a Brand Positioning Statement, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write an Effective Brand Positioning Statement
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.

Positioning 2016.112

 

How come the “Occupy” brand never reached beloved status?

The Wall Street Occupy movement felt grass roots, authentic and natural. The rest feel contrived and confused.

Forget your political affiliations or how mad you are. I’m actually a liberal minded person. Will we remember the “Occupy” brand five years from now? If it’s the Left’s answer to the Tea Party, has it achieved the same connection and passion with their followers? A clear and confused NO!!!

In NYC, the Occupy Wall Street had some early passion and it started to make the news. People were clearly upset that during the recessions of the last few years, mad that the rich didn’t suffer, and even more mad that the evil bankers didn’t suffer.The stats around 99-1 are very interesting and highlight a problem with Capitalism if not controlled. Capitalism still has a place, but needs checks and balances.

In terms of looking at Occupy as a brand, let’s keep in mind that Brands move from Indifferent to Like It to Love and then a Brand for Life. It seems that Occupy, quickly connected with a nerve among the people and moved quickly to the Like It stage, gaining very quick awareness. Polls in early October showed strong support for the movement—much stronger than the Tea Party. But then what? Occupy as a brand is really just an idea at this point, but has yet to really turn into a movement. It’s something that people want to latch onto. It’s a promise, a concept, the hope of a movement. All Brands are really just a promise—but it’s the best of brands can take that promise and clearly articulate their difference and then deliver that promise in a consistent manner. Occupy can’t right now, and is at risk of diminishing to the point where people once connected at the early days are just falling back into the Indifferent camp. The Occupy brand appears to be losing steam. More recent polls have shown a steady decline and people are ready to move on.

So where did things go so wrong, in such a short period?

  1. No consistent message: The early Occupiers refused to lay down the core message. Because it was a grass roots movement, they didn’t want to dictate to others how they should feel. They welcomed all, with all types of bitter messages. So what happens to a brand that has a vague message or too many messages? Nothing gets through to the consumer. That’s advertising 101. Even those who moved to the Like It stage were looking for direction that would take them to the Love it Stage. But there was nothing. Even the Wikipedia page on the Occupy movement can’t really articulate it in one sentence.On the other hand, The Tea Party has one defining message: Taxes are Too High and our Government is wasting our money. They’ve stuck to it, refusing to get into political debates connecting to social policies, abortion, capital punishment etc. That gives the people who are mad about taxes something to stay connected to.The Tea Party movement now looks like it has a lasting power as a brand.
  2. The Occupy brand spread too fast, too soon to where it didn’t make sense anymore. The Occupying Wall Street which is the symbolic place of evil bankers and CEO’s walking off with the money makes sense. But that message resonates less when it spreads to Occupy Toronto where that same thing didn’t happen, or Occupy Portland or Occupy Vancouver or even Occupy Kingston Ontario. While I’m sure the Occupy movement was excited to see it spread to so many places, it does feel like a retailer spreading their franchises too fast too soon.
  3. Those occupying changed dramatically and it impacts the emotional connection:   The original Occupy Wall Street projected a groundswell of “Average Americans” upset with the system. People who had been burned and were “mad as hell and not going to take it”. More recently, we’ve started to see Unions get involved—I get that they aren’t in the 1%, but they’ve shared and benefited in the same way as the bankers and CEOs.  Bail outs to Auto Giants kept Union jobs alive at $38 an hour to watch a machine put molding on the side of Buick. The entry of Unions looks bad on the original groundswell idea. And recently, there’s been a drug overdose in Vancouver and looting reported in many cities near the occupations. It now looks like a bunch of Teenagers or Hippies, not your “Average Americans”. This change makes it harder for the average person to stay emotionally connected and while people were at the Like It Stage looking to move to the Love It stage, many are now falling back to the Indifferent. Polls now show most people support “clearing out the occupiers” in their cities.
  4. The Occupy brand never got to the action stage: Classic marketing plans have a vision and mission, which is half articulated. But what about the strategies, tactics and executional plan? People are protesting that change is needed, but then no action plan is developed to make change happen?People are screaming that the gap between rich and poor in the US is real and something needs to be done. If Occupy wants to be a brand that continues, it needs an action plan. Looking at the traditional brand funnel, they’ve generated the awareness and consideration but that’s purely a rational connection for consumers.There is nothing to enable consumers to really take action. Are they using social media? Have they connected into a political movement with a leader, policies, candidates and even a few wins? Is there a bill being sent forth in the name of the Occupy movement? The Tea Party has all that and it’s what is keeping their consumers connected to their brand. The Tea Party scored points among their followers this summer by forcing Obama into a corner of cutting spending.

Unfortunately, the Occupy Brand looks like it’s a leaderless, rudderless brand in free fall. There’s nothing for consumers to hang on to. People are back to Indifferent. And sadly, it could be gone by Christmas when we begin to drive that wheel of capitalism again–one more attempt to spend our way out of the recession. 

In 9 more years, on one of those “Decade In Review” shows,  someone will mention “Occupy” as the big thing of 2011 and we’ll all smile and say “oh yeah, I remember that”. 

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