In the world of marketing, there’s a thing called “brand safety.” The idea behind brand safety is avoiding the possibility of creating associations between a brand and any sort of negativity.
As a result, almost every commercial, tweet, and TV appearance has been sterilized by sponsors and looked at from every angle and viewpoint to make sure nobody will be upset. Because, after all, happy consumers spend money.
This strategy – that is, trying to keep everyone happy – has been utilized by most brands for most of history. But every so often, there comes a time when it’s appropriate for brands to draw back the curtains and get a little more real. This is a calculated risk, and in the digital era will always, always come with consequences. But in today’s blog, we’re here to tell you: sometimes those consequences can be worth it. Not only for the integrity of your business but also for the person looking back at you in the mirror.
Let’s get into some real talk.
What Do We Mean By “Real Talk”?
Although this sort of falls into “I know it when I see it” territory, it’s probably safe to assume that any time a brand issues a public, brand-approved message about a topic that feels controversial, honest, and authentic, there’s a good chance the brand is making a statement. Things like statements of support for a given social cause, a remembrance of a public figure, or even an assertive clarification between a brand and its consumers could fall into this category.
When To Post Your Feelings
Again, there’s no true metric here, but chances are: you’ll know. The public sharing of a big statement is almost universally predicated by a representative of the brand (e.g.: the owner(s), spokesperson, etc.) finding that they “can’t hold it in anymore,” so to speak.
Put another way: if your business’ silence about a given topic is making it so you can’t look yourself in the mirror, or if it’s making you lose sleep at night, it’s probably worth saying something.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re primarily an online seller. Like us, you probably use social channels for promoting and selling your products. And if you do that, you, too, have witnessed just how bad some comments sections can get.
Know this: on the internet, no matter what you post, chances are someone will come in hot and try to start some nonsense. You could post that you enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches and someone who doesn’t will immediately jump in and call you every not-so-good name in the book.
People are going to be nasty in the comments section, regardless of what you post.
This will happen. Period.
Reacting To The Consequences
So, how do you avoid this?
Well. You don’t.
This is the price of the free market, for better or worse. You’re allowed to say whatever you want.
So are they.
Likewise, as a consumer, you’re free to patronize any business that you’d like.
Again, so are they.
Depending on your topic, you will lose customers, full stop.
BUT…this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A not-uncommon brand strategy is to make a stand that reflects their principles. The ensuing ruckus will ostracize some, while solidifying and deepening the sentiment of others. All the while, all those comment section debates are just driving up engagement and further entrenching both sides. The basic math, then, is 50% of a passionate fanbase is better than 100% of a disinterested fanbase.
In cases like this (a good example being Nike’s relationship with Colin Kaepernick), Nike almost surely lost regular, even decades-long customers. But the counterpunch is deeper sentiment from those that agreed with their position, nevermind all the free media that came with news coverage, online debates, and more. In this case, then, making a bold statement actually had a strategically positive effect.
So, know that if you express your feelings, there will be fallout. But depending on your strategies, that could work in your favor - from both a business perspective and a personal one.
To summarize: as a business owner, you’re within your rights to make public statements about divisive topics whenever you want. Likewise, your customers are free to do with that information whatever they please. However, if it’s true to your principles, and strengthens the resolve of your advocates, this could actually be a powerful strategic play.
Post carefully. But post authentically.