Brand Purpose and Voting with Your Wallet

March 29, 2017

Are you feeling Increasingly isolated and powerless in the face of government change and indifference?  Well you're not alone. While the recent election has emphasized a very divided country and has people feeling reserved about sharing their political opinions, it has also energized the consumer activist. Now more than ever, consumers are turning to corporations to tackle large social issues. In fact, 2017 might be the year that corporate social responsibility (CSR) became unabashedly political with a very active consumer base.


If the showcase ads of this year's Superbowl had any single coherent theme, it was that many, many companies in America right now are not exactly on Team Trump. Even before the kickoff, pre-game show commercials started with a rerun of Coke’s 2014 Super Bowl ad, which showcased America the Beautiful in many languages, followed by "Ok, Google" opening on a house flying a Pride flag. And that was just pre-game. 


We won't soon forget 84 Lumber's pointed ad that appeared to celebrate immigrant workers and open a door on President Trump US border wall. The ad was so controversial to the Fox network they were required to cut the ending and post it online. The political intrigue alone was enough to crash the server. While some called them out on social media questioning the meaning and intention of the ad, 84 Lumber's ad took a risk and freely stepped into the larger debate about immigration -- and then in what to many looked like a move to calm the backlash -- claimed their ad was "patriotic" and about opportunity in this country. 


Establishing a "purpose" brand and taking a position for positive social change is important to making consumer connections and building brand loyalty. To do this well companies must really know their business culture --what their employees care about and will support as a community -- and what their customers care about, their values are, and what they will support and what they will not. Establishing a successful brand purpose means reflecting those values in everything a company does inside and outside its walls. 


The politically and socially "awake" public wants to work where their values align, and they are voting with their wallets.  Just after the 2016 presidential election Patagonia took a stand for the environment and engaged consumers in a social impact campaign supporting exactly what their customers care deeply about -- the environment and climate change -- an issue the president-elect (at the time) stated he did not support or believe was a real concern. So Patagonia embraced its brand purpose and pledged all of its Black Friday retail sales to environmental and climate change cause efforts. It yielded $10 million dollars in sales AND endeared its brand to a generation of consumers concerned about the new administration and its position on caring for the environment.


How are consumers voting with their wallets, and how can companies gracefully respond? Well first, if you can, take a look at (big) data to see how the issue at hand is resonating with your customers. Check your company's position on that issue and pay attention, stay involved and trust your gut on the best way to respond with campaign that touches on your consumer's values. Follow hashtags that matter to your consumer base. Tag your company to let customers know that you are paying attention and working along side them on an issue. Make it possible for them to vote with their wallets in an authentic and meaningful way. 

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