I think we can all agree that these are divisive times we’re living in. And when you, as a brand, take a stand on a political or moral issue you run the risk of losing customers. Sharing your views on contentious issues will no doubt turn some people off. But it can actually boost your brand loyalty—if you know what you’re getting into.
When Brands Take a Stand
A friend of mine owns a brick-and-mortar business here in downtown Cincinnati. He’s done an amazing job of building his brand over the years. He has a successful niche with a large following of devoted fans. He doesn’t post on social media about politics or religion, or any other controversial subjects because he knows he is the face and voice of his brand. And his brand isn’t about taking sides.
But when he recently shared his opinion on a hot political topic on Facebook, some of those devoted fans turned angry. One of the comments in particular caught my attention. One of his friends said, “Half the population doesn’t agree with you. You still want those people as customers correct?”
I thought about that for a minute. What happens when you make your deep-seeded values and beliefs public? How does this affect your business? Does it ultimately hurt your brand or help it? What if you don’t want those people as customers?
Taking a Stand Will Cost You Customers
Donald Miller built his reputation as an acclaimed author of books about Christianity. He grew a following of devoted Christian readers who looked at life, and Christianity, the way he did. A few years ago he ventured into the marketing business and started StoryBrand. The StoryBrand Workshops aren’t about religion, they’re about communicating your brand. He wasn’t marketing his brand as “Communication Workshops for Christians.”
But he still has this tribe of devoted Christian fans who tend to look at the world through a more conservative lens.
So when he recently Tweeted his thoughts about the Trump administration he caused a bit of a kerfuffle among his Christian followers.
One of his recent tweets:
The closer Mueller gets to Trump, the more the president will ramp up war with North Korea. He will cause a deadly distraction. Congress should impose temporary boundaries given this presidents temperment and mounting evidence.
— Donald Miller (@donaldmiller) December 4, 2017
Conservative Christians lashed out:
Please no @donaldmiller I know you're about story, but don't stick your nose where it hasn't been asked to go…
— RA Ahnen (@R_Ahnen) December 6, 2017
Why do you alienate your followers?
— Kevin Haun (@TheHaunestTruth) December 5, 2017
Mr. Miller. I think you should stick to helping businesses and stay out of politics. Last time I check the President isn’t launching missiles, NK is. Stick to what you know. Or be ready to lose followers
— Derek Gruell (@derekgg1) December 5, 2017
There was a common theme to the replies—that Donald Miller should keep his opinions to himself or risk losing customers.
Another example is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Jeni Britton Bauer founded Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in 2002. She has grown her Columbus, OH-based business into a national sensation. Jeni doesn’t shy away from sharing her personal values and beliefs. She’s more of a social activist and has built her brand around her principles. After the recent shooting at a high school in Parkland, FL, many companies decided to distance themselves from the NRA. Jeni decided to take a stand on this issue as well.
Here’s a tweet from Jeni asking FedEx to drop their support of the NRA or risk losing their business:
Listen, @FedEx @FedExHelp we ❤️ you but team Jeni’s will begin to explore other options today. We are not your biggest customer, but you KNOW we’re not small either. Remember that semi truck you docked on our bay just for us last holiday? Drop your support of the @NRA please.
— jeni britton bauer (@Jenisplendid) February 26, 2018
Some of the replies were pretty negative:
You’d think an ice cream shop in the heart of conservative country would know better????#icecreamandpoloticsdontmix
— ???????????????????? (@DamronDD) February 27, 2018
SMH…won’t ever buy your ice cream again..ever.
— RichardPool (@RichardPool2) February 28, 2018
On the flip side, there were a lot of very positive comments:
You’ve just gained my business ❤️
— bluelilyleif ???????????? (@bluelilyleif) February 26, 2018
Thank you! We love your ice cream and your heart.
— Mike Sanford (@MikeSanford) February 26, 2018
I came to find this post just to tell you I love your ice cream and admire your attitude. Thank you for raising your voice.
— Anna Maren Noack (@AnnaMarenNoack) February 27, 2018
In each of these instances, Donald Miller and Jeni Britton Bauer stood up for something they believed in. They made a conscious decision to take a side. They want their brands to stand for something bigger than ice cream or marketing. And in each of these instances, it may have cost them some customers. But I don’t see this as a bad thing, I don’t see it damaging to their brands. On the contrary, standing up for their values has strengthened their brands.
How Taking a Stand Boosts Brand Loyalty
In the short term, you may lose customers, most likely those with an opposing viewpoint. In the long term, the customers who share your values will become more unified around your brand and your ideals. The brand loyalty you gain is well worth the risk of losing a few customers.
Your goal as a brand should be to create emotional connections with your ideal customers. What better way to do this than by standing up for your core values and beliefs, however controversial they may be. When you show your audience that you believe what they believe, you strengthen your emotional bond with them. They gain a deeper connection to you and your brand. Those deep, emotional connections lead to unwavering brand loyalty, the Holy Grail that all brands should be searching for.When you show your audience that you believe what they believe, you strengthen your emotional bond with them. Click To Tweet
Doing It the Right Way
Here are a few things to consider if you decide to take a stand on a controversial topic:
Know the risks. Know what you’re getting into and the consequences they may have on your business. You most likely will lose customers so prepare for it. Your customer base will come back. It will continue to grow and strengthen because of (not in spite of) your core values.
Stick to your word. If you stand up for what you believe in be prepared to stand your ground for the long haul. The only thing worse than a brand that stands for nothing is one that flip-flops. Don’t be a flip-flopper. Stick to your word.
Get everyone on board. Make sure everyone in your organization understands your viewpoints. Not everyone will support them, you may even lose some key employees. But this is a great way to strengthen your internal organization. When your coworkers share common values, their work environment becomes less confrontational. Over time your workplace will become more unified and more productive.
Start with a Manifesto
If you’re ready to take a stand and begin sharing your core values and beliefs, a good way to start is by writing a brand manifesto. This is a dynamic document that serves as a declaration of your beliefs. It’s a clear and simple way for people to see what your brand stands for (and maybe what you won’t stand for). Put it on your website, share it on social media, and then prepare to stand your ground, and maybe lose a few customers. It’ll be worth it.
How do you feel about sharing your controversial core values and beliefs? Are you willing to risk losing customers if it will ultimately help build brand loyalty? It’s at least worth thinking about.