Last month marks a year since Nike launched its landmark ‘Dream Crazy’ ad featuring Colin Kaepernick. “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” became the campaign’s central message. By sponsoring Kaepernick, Nike was unequivocally taking a side. It was a brave move which immediately seised the attention of the world.
It was also a profitable move. Despite a boycott, and some outraged conservatives setting fire to their Nike trainers, the company claimed a 31% boost in sales following the campaign. Nike’s target market, a young value-driven consumer, had come out in droves to support them.
According to a Sprout Social report, 66% of US consumers say ‘it’s important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues.” 2018 research by Accenture found that 59% of Irish consumers also want companies to take a stand on social, cultural, environmental and political issues. Still, brands must be deliberate to ensure a campaign lands more like a Nike and less like a Pepsi.
Here are two crucial factors for brands to consider
- Align with a cause that is a logical brand fit
Take a page out of Simon Sinek’s book and ‘start with the why.’ Identify the greater purpose of your business, why you exist beyond turning a profit, and take a position that reflects that. Airbnb’s powerful ‘We Accept’ ad came with a pledge to provide housing relief for refugees—a fitting move from a homestay platform. Makeup legend, Charlotte Tilbury has always seen lipstick as a symbol of feminine confidence and power. Hence the brand’s Hot Lips Collection features shades inspired by women such as Amal Clooney and JK Rowling and raises money for Women for Women International.
- Demonstrate an authentic commitment
No one passionate about a cause wants to see it touted as a soulless marketing ploy. This is rife during Pride Month, where many a brand’s concern for LQBTQIA+ issues evaporate quickly after June. However, Dublin Bus, alongside their heart-warming ads, worked with Transgender Equality Network Ireland to develop guidelines that made it possible for Dublin Bus employees to comfortably gender transition while still employed. Volvo won a Cannes Lion award this year for their E.V.A initiative. The effort stood to raise awareness about equal road safety for women but also made all their crash test and safety data on the issue public. And they boldly encouraged competitor car manufactures to make use of it.
People today understand the power of voting with their wallets. Looking to the future, we can expect that more and more brands will come under pressure to reveal their official views on the issues that are important to their consumers. While brands are being lobbied to improve the world, they stand to benefit from these endeavours. Yet, if profit and popularity are the only rationale for taking a stand, it calls in to question how effective the brand will be at executing it. Brand bravery, as the name suggests, is not for the faint of heart.