Amidst an unsettled global political landscape, brands are increasingly expected to both define and defend their values to consumers. “Telling the world what you think is not ok is often the best way to define who and what you are,” says Y&R Europe’s CSO Saul Betmead.
But politics can feel like unchartered territory for brands, fraught with reputational risk. On the one hand, brands like Uber and Under Armour who came out with blatant support of the Trump administration saw mass consumer backlash. On the other, those that seemed to jump on the values brandwagon for the sake of keeping up with liberal Millennial trends like Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad and Starbuck’s refugee hiring scheme – were accused of insincere ‘values-washing’ to sell more products.
Fundamentally, consumers want authenticity and transparency from their brands. An international survey by Cohn & Wolfe found that Millennials thought brands should “act with integrity at all times” and placed authenticity (87%) above both innovation (72%) and product uniqueness (71%). The holy grail of marketing is the ability to align your brand purpose with your consumers’ values – and in essence, redefine the consumer/brand relationship to one of kinship towards a communal cause.
But knowing what to stand for is only half of the battle for brands, knowing how to do it is often the greatest – and most underestimated - of challenges. These dilemmas can often result in brand inaction.
However, keeping silent on core Millennial issues can be equally detrimental. Immigration, Healthcare, Climate Change, Civil Rights – these are real issues that touch consumers’ daily lives, the issues that embody their own personal values. And brands can no longer afford to remain silent.
If done carefully, today’s heightened political landscape provides a prime opportunity for brands to tap into the emotive liberal values of its Millennial audience. After all, companies with a purpose bigger than money have a growth rate triple that of competitors.1 In doing so, brands should consider the following:
1. What does your brand stand for? And how is this reflected in the values of your Millennial consumers?
2. Where in your consumers’ lives are these values being challenged?
3. What role can, and should, your brand play in working with its employees and consumers to leverage these values?
4. How can your brand maintain consistent transparency throughout the journey? Remember, you’re selling values, not products through the value guise (eg McDonald’s dead dad advert).
Here are our favourite top 10 brands that have found purpose in anti-Trump politics
Started a #weaccept campaign to challenge Trump’s travel ban – and offered free housing to people affected by the ban
9. Southwest Airlines
The crew turned on pink lights in the cabin and announced support for those participating in Women’s Rights march over the intercom - Click image below to read
Coca Cola brought back an ad from 2014 with people singing America the beautiful in different languages
Google created a crisis fund to support immigrant-rights organisations in the face of Trump’s travel ban
CEO Jeff Weiner used Trump’s ban as an opportunity to boost and expand the company’s Welcome Talent programme for refugees in the US
5. Ben & Jerry's
The ice cream brand came out with a satirical list that poked fun at Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, and included a few calls to action - Click image below to read
Expedia launched an ad to promotes travel for the sake of peace and cultural understanding
The outdoors brand asked followers to take oaths of environmental action - Click image below to read
2. Merriam Webster
Provided undisputed definitions for Trump’s inaccurate use of the English language - Click image below to read
1. Apple, Facebook, Netflix (+90 others)
These are just 3 of 93 different brands that filed court papers declaring Turmp’s travel ban a ‘violation of immigrant laws and the Constitution’