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Choosing Your Brand's Battleground

More than 1000 companies have pulled out from Russia after it started a war against Ukraine.

Disney's Bob Chapek finally stood up against Florida governor Ron DeSantis's attack on LGBTQ school bill.

Various companies, including Delta Arlines and United Airlines cut their ties with the National Rifles Association after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

More and more brands and companies are taking a stand to show the values they believe in, whether it's for the environment (like Patagonia) or the people.

So, is this practice sustainable for businesses?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, especially if you're planning on cornering a certain demographic, like millennials and Gen Z.

A term that's often been used to describe this kind of marketing is "purpose." A brand sells goods and or services, but according to Agility PR, there's a way to boost sales, apart from spending money on advertising. That way is building a reputation, and one of the best ways to build it is by having a purposeful marketing plan.

A purposeful marketing plan reaches beyond the brand's target audience's and target market's behavior by connecting to the ideology. This means, the demographic chart is now richer and more complex. It no longer only has the traditional sex, age, education, and income level. It has expanded to all the gender spectrums, sexual orientations, and political affiliations, as well as where they stand on hot-button issues like climate crisis, religious freedom, gun control, abortion, and animal rights.

With that in mind, let's look at the three things we need to remember when trying to craft a marketing plan with a purpose.

For the planet (and the money)

As the centuries turn and people's attitude toward mental health and giant corporations has started to shift (backed by large movements in consumer protection agencies), brands and companies understand they need to adjust their marketing strategy and tactics by showcasing their compassion. Many brands race to not only do good things but also to show they do good things, whether toward people or the planet. By taking a stand, brands align themselves with the values of their target audience.

And the numbers don't lie: 63% of the global consumers will buy from brands with a purpose that shares their personal values and beliefs. But get this, when a consumer finds out that a brand's values don't match theirs, the consumer will make a point of leaving the brand. Remember My Pillow?

A brand can accomplish two things at the same time when it directs its attention to finding the correct purpose. It can further the ideological cause they support while building a reputation that leads to conversion.

When Delta Airlines stopped supporting the NRA after the Parkland shooting, they were told they could lose up to $50 millions in tax break. But the C-suite and the board made this decision anyway because they knew the Delta brand must never be associated with NRA, no matter the cost, and that this would benefit the brand in the long run.

Showing, not telling

Cynics and nay-sayers will call marketing with a purpose pandering. In a way, they could be right, especially when the manifesto is not supported by actual action.

We've seen and heard about the greenwashing and rainbow-washing phenomena. Carbon offset opponents felt a tinge of schadenfreude when the Bootleg fire in Oregon raged and destroyed forests owned by organizations that provide carbon offset schemes to brands.

Take the LA-based fashion label Reformation as an example. The brand has been touting itself as anti-fast fashion while listing a slew of commitments to the environment. But behind all that facade, there were allegations about a toxic and racist work environment coming from the co-founder, Yael Aflalo. Aflalo then issued a public apology on social media and resigned.

The same thing happened to famed luggage company Away, which championed inclusivity but was also hit by damaging reports of predatory work culture. Its CEO, Steph Korey, stepped down a while later.

And who could forget the fall from grace Ellen DeGeneres experienced when allegations about a less-than-kind behavior from the star and producers of the Ellen show?

In the show, DeGeneres always signed off with a reminder to "be kind to one another." She even has a "BE KIND. by Ellen" subscription box with items "all socially conscious and handpicked by Ellen," as the website states.

Allegations against the Ellen show were brought forth through social media in March 2020. These allegations caused the firings of some of the producers and forced DeGeneres to give a public apology. But the damage was done.

Viewers began to understand that DeGeneres doesn't necessarily practice what she preaches ("be kind") and the following season, the show's rating took a nosedive (down 43% from the previous season). In May 2021, DeGeneres announced the show would end and in June 2022, after 19 seasons, the show finally came to a close.

Potentially losing customers

Conducting focused group discussions with actual consumers or discussing ideas among employees, colleagues, friends, and family members may also help shape the brand's purpose.

When that purpose is found and publicized, get ready to face some backlash. In this day and age, we're bound to offend someone. But a brand must be able to distinguish between noise and valid criticism. If the purpose causes damage to the brand, then it's time to reevaluate. Issue a sincere apology and make clear and necessary changes to do and be better.

Taking a stand on hot-button issues is definitely divisive. Megy Karydes, a marketing communications expert, writes in Inc magazine that brands don't have to choose divisive issues as their purpose.

"Are you a food-based company that cares about nutrition? Consider supporting local food initiatives that focus on nutrition." Karydes explains in the article.

Karydes also acknowledges that it's okay to lose customers because they don't share the same values because "Companies need to stand up and tell them what they stand for and let their customers decide whether they want to support them by giving them their business."