Should brands take a stand?
On the eve of what feels like the most important election of my lifetime, I’m feeling nervous, excited, and anxious. I feel this deep sense of yearning – hoping beyond hope that maybe this time my voice and my vote will mean something. I’m a control freak, and I can’t control who votes and who doesn’t, so I just feel this sense of heaviness until it’s all over. I’m also curious when it will actually be over and we’ll have an outcome to the election.
I’m also carrying around a sense of fear. This is not normal for me, so I’m very aware of it. I’m fearful that there will be violence after the election – no matter who wins. I feel like the last few months have been chaotic enough and I want resolution.
As a marketer, I find my mind wandering to what this all might mean for brands. If after the election there is unrest and violence in our country, I think brands will be called upon to take a very visible stand. In the absence of national leadership, brands – especially big, beloved, stable brands – will be looked to for that sense of leadership. Will Nike or Dove or Disney become the voice that we all need to hear? A voice of unity and hope and humanity? We have already seen the dawning of the age of social justice – where people and brands are expected to take a stand and where silence = complacency and complicity. I think we will see this continued mandate for brands after the election, as the dust is settling.
This is the time to lead – to lean into your brand’s long-standing values and purpose.
Is now the time when brands should go dark? If things get bad, should they just stay out of the fray? I don’t think so. This is the time to lead – to lean into your brand’s long-standing values and purpose. Your brand truth as we say at Moroch. People are expecting brands to take a stand on cultural issues – and they need to do so in a way that is authentic to who they are as a brand. Brands that do take a strong stand and walk the talk will grow – people are attracted to that sort of thing and want that to be part of their own personal brands. Brands that don’t will be noticed, called out, and in some cases, abandoned altogether. Younger people have always voted with their dollars, but that phenomenon is spreading. Kantar published a report recently that showed that 65% of Gen Xers and 61% of Boomers say that it’s important that the brands they buy from take a stand and act on ending racism. That’s people who are the age of your crazy uncle. Let that sink in. It feels like a little bit of progress to me.
2020 has been a year of unknowns with more to come. From a business standpoint, I’m advising my clients to lean hard into and be vocal about their purpose and values. Literally and figuratively, don’t go dark during times like these. It’s my hope beyond hope that we as the American people will also lean harder into our purpose and values – especially the good ones that make us the remarkable humans we are.