This year there has been a marked shift in the way that brands react to political events and the social backdrop. Stemming from the tide of change across the Atlantic, consumers that might never have previously protested or spoken out against change have come together in a wave of collective activism – and brands are following suit.
The worldwide women’s marches demonstrated a focus that brought politics from the White House in to your office, your home, and everywhere in between. Brands and companies have been expected to show where they stand, and reactions have been fierce when support hasn’t aligned with their customer base, as Uber recently found out.
Brands, mainly led by Silicon Valley, have quickly sought to address this political and social tide by clearly stating where they stand; open letters from the likes of Apple’s Tim Cook reconnect companies with their own employees and align brands with the values of their consumers.
Ads aired during the Super Bowl provided a showcase for those that position ‘unity’ and ‘inclusion’ messaging as part of their brand purpose, with Airbnb leading the charge. Nike’s message of equality and that “worth should outshine colour” also hit hard at Trump’s anti-immigration order, with a host of Nike’s biggest brand ambassadors leading the strike.
This month the fashion crowd drummed for “Make love not walls” (Diesel), and Fashion Week catwalks in New York and London have been awash with political messaging, from statement t-shirts to the use of hijabs in the latest season styles.
L’Oreal’s latest campaign may have made more headlines because of Cheryl’s bump but its message celebrating diversity couldn’t be more relevant. It also aligns well with the brand; the beauty giant updated its famous “because you’re worth it” slogan with “what makes us different is what makes us beautiful”.
Brands should understand their audiences before going headlong in to a political campaign. If the business has always had a clear purpose and a stance on social issues, then it’s likely its consumers know this and will expect it to stand up for these beliefs when the time is right.
Flirting with a more serious message can be perceived as jumping on the bandwagon if done unsympathetically. But if the tone of the brand remains true, then even light hearted approaches will resonate – as long as they feel genuine, use channels that can carry the message, and are reflected throughout the workings of the business.