When Brands Should Take Stands
Weighing the pros and cons of political and social advocacy
By Alex Altman
If you support Millennial causes, Millennials will support you.
At least, that’s what the numbers say.
According to a study by Cone Communications, 87% of consumers will patronize a company because it advocated for an issue they care about. Another study revealed that around two-thirds of all consumers want brands to take a stand on issues.
So, it’s simple then: supporting issues that your customers care about is good for business. Right?
While the numbers suggest that social and political advocacy is good, it’s far from a risk-free proposition. After all, basic logic tells us that when you stand up for people on one side of an issue, you effectively alienate the people on the other.
And don’t discount the spite-fueled enthusiasm of the vocal minority.
According to the Cone Communications study, 76% of consumers would boycott a company that supports an issue contrary to their beliefs. Countless others will air their grievances on social media.
Clearly, there’s a lot to contemplate. Here are some factors to consider before your brand takes a stand.
1) Stay in Your Lane: Advocating for issues that have a real effect on your business will make it easier for naysayers to empathize with your cause, even if they don’t agree with it. For instance, people would be more inclined to rally behind (or get over) a winter sports shop that fights climate change than a restaurant that denounces the second amendment.
2) Have Courage of Conviction: Taking a side in courageous. Pulling back when the waters get choppy is cowardice. If you’re going to stand up for something controversial, be ready to go all-in. This is why you should only stand up for causes that you truly believe in. It also emphasizes the need to have an army of advocates ready to go to bat for you in case the opposition turns up the heat.
3) Parse Every Word: When President Donald Trump announced his so-called “Immigration Ban” in January 2017, Uber issued a statement in tacit support of the decision, even though then-CEO Travis Kalanick was actually against it. The ensuing firestorm could have been avoided if the company’s position was clearly articulated. Lyft capitalized on Uber’s misstep with a buttoned-up statement in opposition of the travel ban and a promise to donate $1 million to the ACLU.
4) PR Muscle: Just like you wouldn’t venture into the wild without bear spray, you shouldn’t take on a hot-button issue without PR professionals who can clearly articulate your company’s position to the media and work damage control if needed. Without this team of professionals in place, you could find yourself behind the eight-ball.