As Brexit tensions, Trump terrors, and concerns over political correctness rise, your brand might want to prepare to take on the political arena without pulling a Pepsi.
The advert showed Kendall Jenner ending a protest by handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer. This led to extreme uproar from consumers who were enraged at the brand for exploiting the themes of the Black Lives Matter movement to make corporate profit.
With the Repeal the 8th referendum generating significant momentum in Ireland, our almost entirely female team wanted to join the conversation alongside other creative figureheads, such as Vivienne Westwood, and speak our minds, using the White Bear brand as a unifying voice. We realise picking sides as a brand can be sticky, but does it have to be? To help you navigate this difficult topic, we wanted to offer some of our own insights that we have picked up along the way.
Gyro strategist, Kim Lauersdorf, cleverly explains that “it is important to understand that your brand is like a person. It has a persona, attributes, and opinions. It stands against something while fighting for something… And very much like a person, a brand will struggle to be politically agnostic and still be itself.”
91% of Millennials say they would switch brands to one associated with a cause.
In the UK, millennials make up 21% of the population while in the US they make up 25%. They surpass the number of their Baby Boomer parents by about 3 million, so yes, there is a reason why so many of us are targeting them! Notably, 91% of Millennials say they would switch brands to one associated with a cause, according to the 2015 study by Cone Communications.
By aligning your brand with a moral cause or belief, consumers are able to feel good after their purchase. By supporting causes and incorporating them into their company framework, brands are providing consumers with the ability to ‘vote with their wallets’, giving them a voice to advocate for the type of world they really want to live in.
But first things first, before you jump in the diplomatic, or not so diplomatic, deep end…
KNOW YOUR OPPOSITION
When we create memorable brands for our clients, it is important that we identify the competition. Recognising your opposition will help you understand your positioning, unravel what it is that you disagree with and highlight what you believe in. The same goes for getting your brand involved in political conversation.
FIGHT FOR PEOPLE, NOT PARTIES
The divide between red and blue can be overwhelming at times, and is definitely something that your brand won’t change over night. Align your brand with the values of people that you agree with, without making connections to political parties.
BREATHE… YOUR BRAND WASN’T BUILT FOR EVERYONE
Brands aren’t created for everyone, they are built with a target audience in mind. Leading brands know exactly who their listeners are and that’s who they speak to, so give them priority and don’t get too hung up on the other backlash.
IF YOU TALK THE TALK, BE READY TO WALK THE WALK
If you are going to post on social media in support of a cause, you need to be ready to make the effort to get employees involved or even donate. This is already a universal branding truth and with honesty trending, your consumer wants to see that they can trust your claims.
BE READY TO COMMIT!
We all know things can spiral out of control very fast on social media, with internet trolls ready to fight back. Be considered in your words and prepared to stand by your core values whilst being mindful of others.
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF DESIGN
Whether it’s for your recent social media campaign or a company outing, the imaging you promote should leave a lasting impact on your audience.
Co-editor of new book Hope to Nope
POLITICAL ACTIVISM MUST ALIGN WITH YOUR BRAND VALUES
Brands should be politically active to the extent that doing so is consistent with their values and worldview. There are countless opportunities to get involved politically, the key is knowing when to speak up and when to stay quiet. For White Bear, having a largely female office, an Irish born creative director, and bravery, empathy and integrity as our core values, we feel like we have an obligation to speak to the Repeal the 8th movement. Whereas for a brand like Lego, the pieces wouldn’t fit.
Lucienne Roberts, co-editor of new book Hope to Nope, spoke to Design Week in an inspiring interview saying, “Design and politics have always gone together, really. I think it’s just that people are angrier now, they’re more aware.” We see nationalist and rebels design in flags, currency, manifestos, and placards every day. Roberts goes on to discuss design as a form of communication by the people and for the people. Some of the most memorable political designs were produced by amateurs, and they are ‘no less designed’ then those that were created by a professional.
The swastika is still one of the most powerful logos in history and its negative impact on people today remains strong. Then you look at the achievements the Suffragettes made with their exceptional placards and banners. Robert’s argues that, “they were one of the first organised groups to really harness design, and it made a difference – women wouldn’t be able to vote if it hadn’t been for them.”
Bringing us up to the modern day when we look at the 8th referendum posters around our Dublin home, the repeal designs have impact and demonstrate creativity. Street Artist, Maser’s Repeal the 8th mural has become an unofficial logo for the Repeal movement. The controversy over its presence at The Projects Art Centre is creating as much positive press for the repeal campaign whether it is being put up or taken down. In this instance the medium is as much the message as the iconic mark itself, the street art, guerrilla approach is representative of the youthful demographic demanding change in this referendum.
On the other side of the fence, looking at the ‘No’ posters you are immediately reminded of dated campaigns, sensationalist and often incorrect. In our opinion, many of these campaigns in fact repressing others rather than celebrating individual choice. In reflection of this their graphic treatment is reflective of a different target audience.
We believe brands should feel empowered to speak up and in many instances have a responsibility to. “We are trained to communicate messages effectively – thinking about what those messages are and what effect they have is hugely important. Even if you make a difference to one person, that’s still worth doing.”