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Should Your Brand Take a Stand?

For generations, advertisers mostly followed the standard social etiquette and didn’t talk about politics or religion.  Is that changing?  In the USA, Ben & Jerry’s has just released a new flavour of ice cream – Empower Mint – in time for the exceptionally dramatic presidential election there.  Stating that “This fudge-filled flavor reflects our belief that voting gives everyone a taste of empowerment” isn’t very controversial, but it is part of a larger campaign.  This brand has long identified with progressive causes, and the new flavour cames with that history.

Sure but that’s America, you might be thinking.  Have a look at Ben & Jerry’s Irish Facebook page.  You’ll see that the overall trend is that their posts on marriage equality and environmentalist generate a lot more love than their posts about ice cream.  Yet ice cream is more universally loved than politics.  What’s going on?  While more people love ice cream, people are more passionate about political issues.

Tapping into your audience’s passion is going to generate a more passionate response – including some negative responses.  (But the negative responses are really an opportunity to showcase your customer service and to gently, respectfully counter criticism of your brand.)  The trick is to know your market very, very well.

Beyond Offering Value to Representing Values

Offering value is critical.  Ben & Jerry’s free cone offer was also extremely popular.  But all of your competition is claiming to offer value.  In a global market with an engagement audience, it isn’t enough to have a quality product at a great price.  You need to connect to your market.  You need to show empathy for them.

That empathy goes beyond how your product or service solves a problem they have.  It goes beyond understanding and mirroring their communication style.  People are identifying with brands the way they identify with their county’s GAA teams.  They share the posts and wear the gear.  They fly the flag literally and figuratively.  If they see your brand taking a stand aligned with their own beliefs, they are going to feel good about spending money on it.  And they are going to tell their friends on social media, which is a whole lot of exposure to exactly who you want your marketing to reach.

Do Your Homework!

This isn’t something to just give a lash and see how it goes.  To succeed, this requires solid research on your audience and real reflection about your company and your values.  It has to be authentic.  If you want to position your company as environmentally friendly, you need to make sure it IS environmentally friendly.  You need to know your weak spots and have a plan to improve them that you can use in replies to those negative comments.  If you want align your brand with young families, for example, you’d want to review how family-friendly your own employment policies really are.  People are quick to sniff out a phony position, and making a claim contrary to how you actually operate will backfire big time.

Start by looking at your company’s strengths, not at what issues are in the spotlight right now.   Maybe you have a great leave policy for new parents.  Perhaps your staff pitches in for fundraisers for an animal welfare charity.  If you keep it authentic and know your audience, taking a stand with your brand can engage your audience on a deeper level and generate a lot of buzz.

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