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Purpose and Politics – one cocktail we shouldn’t be mixing

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For too long now, companies have been afraid of dipping their toes into the murky water that is social commentary, scared of taking a stance on hot button issues. But in the age of social media where tweets can reach millions and respected figures have such a huge influence over their audience, is it time to cannon-ball straight in and cause a wave of conversation?

 

When it comes to controversial topics, it’s been common practice for brands to sit on the fence in order to prevent a PR nightmare. But recent research from YouGov may finally flip this misconception on its head encouraging companies to be brave and have a voice on the issues affecting the masses.

 

With 52% of Britons and 61% of Americans agreeing that brands should speak their minds, studies have shown that it could, in fact, be a riskier strategy to keep quiet. It’s clear that the younger generation wants businesses to be more transparent to echo their own vocal attitudes.

 

And there has never been a more appropriate time than now.

 

It's results day of the midterm elections in America and Trump has lost the house majority to the Democrats. It’s no secret that he has been a divisive character (possibly the understatement of the century) – immigration and gun control are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his contentious policies which continue to polarize the nation. Over the last 12 months though, there have been a number of high profile businesses who have made their opinions on the matters heard.

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Leading gun-seller Dick’s Sporting Goods to stop selling assault rifles or selling any guns to people under the age of 21 has added momentum to the gun control movement and may encourage more brands to take a stand.

 

Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the leading gun seller’s in America, decided to prohibit the sale of any assault rifle or gun to anyone below the age of 21 earlier this year after the fatal school shootings in Parkland, Florida. This was unprecedented at the time, making national headline news and receiving boycott threats on social media.

 

But CEO Edward Stack was looking beyond the inevitable damaging short term effects by anticipating the overwhelmingly positive long term results of speaking out politically. With the NRA firmly in his crosshairs, net income for the first quarter rose to $60.1 million whilst sales were also up, increasing 4.6% to $1.91 billion.

 

“We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation”, he was quoted saying back in February, and boy was he right.

 

Immediate backlash being overshadowed by optimistic sales figures and a progressive brand image was also the fate that befell Nike’s Colin Kaepernick advertising campaign. The sporting giant had done their homework though. Their intention was to target the next generation of sneaker buying consumers by embracing the millennial perspective of racial injustice in the country. The calculated risk payed off quite literally with sales up and shares reaching record heights.

 

In the company's own eyes, it would seem when it comes to speaking up on behalf of athletes, just do it.

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Standing for what you believe in is not always sunshine and rainbows.

 

Political stances usually alienate a significant fraction of the company’s customers, employees and investors as found out by Uber. A #DeleteUber movement went viral after the taxi company increased surge pricing during a taxi protest at a New York airport against Donald Trump’s travel ban. A total of roughly 500,000 users reportedly deleted accounts after it was evident that the company was in favour of Trump’s executive order and aiming to profit off of it.

 

Closer to home, Positive are proud of their own impact on societal issues, especially in the local community. Members of staff regularly participate in voluntary days helping marshal fun runs for schools and keeping older members of the public company and topped up with tea.

 

We have also helped organize and run a hugely rewarding and successful Christmas Day Dinner for 50 young local people who have just left the care system. The event creates a special day for people who may never have had that experience or even more, had very negative experiences at Christmas, to create new memories and bring people together as one ‘family’.