Many iconic brands chime in on hot-button issues to stay current on what their consumers care about, which can result in negative public reactions. Displaying political opinions is a risk, but silence from a brand can also speak volumes. This presents a great challenge for today’s brands deciding when and how to stay relevant. When-- and should -- brands take a political stance?
Why did Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad provoked significant backlash while Microsoft, Apple and Facebook earned positive feedback after defending their DACA employees? One could argue that the tech giants approached the issue with sensitivity and thought, while the Pepsi ad lacked these attributes. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for approaching a politically-charged topic. However, brands can only compellingly speak on political issues if it’s relevant to their values and concerns stakeholders. Crises often occur when brands overreach their values. Thus, brands considering going public with their opinions should first reflect upon if the issue is clearly relevant to their values. If the answer is yes, stakeholders and consumers are expecting to hear from them.
Implement a Good Strategy Minimizes Backlash
Brands arriving at the decision to take a political stance also need to know how to do so effectively. There are no “perfect” opinions when it comes to political topics and some issues are more controversial than others. Nevertheless, brands may utilize media monitoring to decide the right time to provide a statement and which social platforms to utilize. If the circumstance forces a brand to express a dissenting opinion, a well-crafted statement that demonstrates respect to stakeholders and consumers on both sides of the issues might help minimize potential backlash.
Build Authenticity and Consistency
Sharing a political opinion, even if it’s the right thing to do, comes with inevitable risk. There will always be stakeholders or consumers who disagree with a viewpoint. However, adopting a values-based position will protect brand identity in the long term, as it shows there is consistency between the values brands set and the actions they carry out.