Brand reflection is upon us with the turn of the New Year and the anniversary of the presidential inauguration. Throughout 2017, companies exposed consumers to various political positions through product campaigns and media releases. New Balance sneakers praised Trump’s opposition on the Trans-Pacific Partnerships, while Cards Against Humanity purchased vacant land along Trump’s border construction. Although marketers were criticized for their political stance, recent reports indicated consumer purchase habits are tied to vocal campaigns.
According to Edelman Earned Brand Study, 65% of consumers refuse to purchase from companies that remain silent on important issues. In October 2017, Uber faced public scrutiny when turning off surge pricing during the New York immigration protest. Lyft took a competitive stance and donated to the American Civil Liberties Union, increasing consumer flips from Uber. So why don’t most brands speak up? Generally, brands forget about the 50% of belief-driven buyers. Belief-Driven buyers hold a strong passion for brand beliefs and use their purchased brands to express themselves. Backlash is inevitable from non-supporters. Yet, marketers cannot forget the 25% of belief leaders that will rally behind the brand. Although a brand could take a stance that is not favorable by opposing customer beliefs, the message may resonate with an agreeing buyer.
Forbes outlined a basic rule for companies navigating the new political space— consider political activism versus exploitation. Pepsi exemplifies a brand that exploited politics to drive sales. Backlash arose when the company trivialized the Black Lives Matter movement through product positioning tactics. The company used the movement to suggest Pepsi as the answer to national peace. Yet, Pepsi overlooked the political activism agenda. Political activism is the act of expressing brand values through contributed efforts. A company must remain empathetic and choose not stray from their vision when choosing to speak out. A brand possess humility and by leveraging that humility a brand can resonate with a larger message, not solely a product campaign.
So, marketers, do not align your political messages with a “New Year / New Me” agenda. Remember your key target and your value set. Do not defer to silence in the wake of political turmoil. Belief-driven customers look to you to express their political views; be there with them.