Without fail, there is at least one daily news broadcast that leads to a finger-pointing outrage every day. And, it doesn’t matter where you live, which political party you endorse, or what you had for breakfast. Across the board, emotions are stuck in overdrive. Or, at least they are if you let them be there, eh?
Whether it’s organizations, families, or individuals, political trends can impact every level of society. But, it isn’t just the human condition or the behavioral responses that are affected. Trends set forth by government agencies also influence the market conditions that ultimately affect that same consumer behavior.
It is almost like you get it coming or going. And, like Dr. Phil might say, it comes down to how you manage yourself. Regardless of what you do, there are still going to be the political opinions and essays. Some are definitely worth reading, for the education that they provide for us. Others may be worth holding off until your business is done for the day, or you have a moment to relax.
What Does the Topic of Politics Have to Do With Marketing?
Staying on top of the political trends at both the national and the local levels is essential when planning your advertising strategy. When a company decides to embrace a specific cause or take a political stance, it can significantly impact both market perception and the brand’s performance.
This is true of areas related to politics, as well. For example, Howard Stern has made his living (or at least part of it, it seems) as a “shock jock.” Knowing this about Howard Stern allows us to prepare and understand what to expect since he is known for his antics and shocking entertainment style.
There are times when society (or government agencies) may think that someone, in spite of how they may define themselves, has gone too far. Such is the case with a more recent incident involving Kathy Griffin. In that case, without casting judgment or opinion, the question could be asked whether it was intentional and part of her branding.
That is why it is so essential that each of us understands our own branding and marketing and defines it according to that derived definition. So, we start with these three steps…
Step #1: Know Your Audience
There is no denying that many times, in many countries, groups can be split on where their loyalties are, especially when it comes to politics. So, unless you truly understand your audience, taking any sort of political stance is a risky endeavor. And even if you think you do understand your audience, there is still a threat of someone thinking that your marketing strategy (involving politics) is unwarranted.
For some lifestyle brands, it’s normal to take a stance on the political front that specifically relates to that brand’s value proposition. Even if you think your audience expects this, you need to factor in a potential backlash from a broader audience who are exposed to the ads.
Before a consumer emotionally connects to a brand, he or she wants to know that they are in sync on important issues. Oh sure, there are likely those who don’t care, but you don’t want to lose the ones who do care just because you may be thinking of those who do not. Make sense?
The explosion of social media has given both consumers and brands the tools they need to connect on different levels. But, before that connection can happen, the brand needs to define their target audience. Fortunately, some of the same tools that are used for the engagement and building of that brand awareness may also be used for the research that helps to sculpt the definition of that target audience.
Step #2: Assess Your Corporate Responsibility
If a company wants to partake in a sort of political dialogue, or something similar, what is their obligation? Remember, corporate responsibility can differ, again, related to the brand definition of the company (your company).
There are so many issues to consider as the link between business and politics continues to become more customer-centric. Brand messaging is played and replayed in both conventional and social media outlets by consumers themselves.
Messages shared by consumers are either condemned or approved and then further exaggerated in self-righteous bubbles. And, it is not always predictable. It may be that something that you fear will be rejected is the very thing that makes you popular and causes your blog articles and social posts to go viral.
This is why it is so important to define your corporate responsibility, which is closely related to the definition of your brand.
For example, is your company known for its integrity and known for its honesty? If that is the case, then maybe you do not want to be offering to pay your vendors 10% of the contract price after they have already done the work. In this day and age, it is likely to get out, over the social media waves, that you do not honor your contractual obligations with other companies.
However, if your brand identity is to be known as a business shark, it may be that that behavior helps to encourage your brand identity and the awareness of your existence, as it polarizes those who hear about the behavior.
So, how would you define your corporate responsibility and how does that relate to your brand identity?
Step #3: Weigh the Pros and Cons
Before taking a political stance, brands and marketers alike need to accept the possible risks of their actions. Weigh the pros and cons before thrusting your brand into a world where you don’t have complete control. This is especially true of the controversial view, but it can also apply to what would seem to be the safe route.
Using the example, above, about a company view of integrity, it is possible that some people will choose not to use your company because you are “too good.” In other words, there is not enough nasty in your brand identity.
That does not mean I am endorsing that view, but there are as many views and perspectives as there are stars in the sky. The main thing here is to understand that not everyone is going to see it the way you do and that is ok. Simply weigh those possibilities, as far as pros and cons, so you are not caught off-guard.
If brands are willing to venture into uncharted political waters, they need to protect their core values. Unfortunately, many brands start playing politics for the wrong reason. They aren’t taking a stance to uphold their core beliefs. Instead, they are simply looking to boost sales and gain exposure. Sadly, this is nothing to salute.
The key thing to remember is to be true to yourself, whether you are the company that should be known for its integrity or the company that wants to go down in history as the most offensive shock jock ever.
It is also helpful (and almost essential) to ensure that you have defined these areas, including your brand, your brand messaging, and the three tips above, as soon as possible. If you need to post a sticky note on your monitor to remind yourself who you are and what your brand represents, then go for it!