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When Should Your Brand Speak Out?

By Snap Agency July 10, 2019

From tense political climates to environmental concerns, today’s nearly endless list of hot-button issues seems to beg for not just attention, but participation. And, with people of all ages from all parts of the world constantly connected on ever-evolving social media platforms and new digital forums, weighing in on these issues is as easy as a few keyboard strokes and a click of the mouse. 

But just because your brand has a social media account and can easily express opinions, doesn’t mean that it should. If it is appropriate to take a stance in a social conversation, when should you step in, and what is the best way to do that? Here’s a guide to determine whether or not it’s a good idea for your brand to jump into the conversation.  

Look Before You Leap 

Taking advantage of the ease with which media platforms allow for digital voices to be heard, many big brands have taken sides on several social issues, with varied success. 

For example, Pepsi, the soda conglomerate and parent company of countless other major brands, used its 2017 Superbowl ad slot to run a clip that sparked tons of attention—but not in a good way. Featuring a well-known supermodel diffusing a protest by offering a responding officer a can of soda, the ad was meant to encourage viewers to “live bolder,” “live louder,” and to “join the conversation.”

Thanks to social media, the backlash was almost instantaneous. Vocal viewers deemed the ad insensitive and oversimplified, causing Pepsi to pull it from circulation and later to release an apology. In the words of a responding media outlet, “Things were easier for [brand] executives when all a major soda brand wanted to do was buy the world a Coke.” While we understand the desire for your brand to make a statement, if your input comes across more like a thinly-veiled marketing tactic than an authentic contribution, you’ve missed the mark entirely.

3 Factors to Consider

Although some brands have tried (and failed) to speak out on hot-button issues, other big names like Airbnb, Lyft, and Stella Artois have run successful social campaigns that lean into their brand values and endear them to audiences. As your brand considers diving into the social justice conversation, run through this checklist to determine if it’s appropriate for your brand to make a statement.

Your Brand Voice

When it comes to taking a social stand, it’s essential to focus on topics that are aligned with your industry, brand, and consumer base. To be perceived as authentic, you should stick to issues that align with your brand goals and mission. Let’s say your brand markets high-quality, beverage containers, perfect for adventurous and always-on-the-go kind of folks. While you could champion a number of causes, it would make sense for your brand to comment on issues surrounding clean water or ocean conservation, as a natural extension of your existing expertise. 

Your loyal customers know your brand well. They’ll also be able to spot a half-hearted attempt at social advocacy faster than you can mobile order your morning latte. If speaking out on a social issue doesn’t feel appropriate for your industry, brand, or audience, don’t do it. Instead, do some research to discover other ways your brand can make a positive difference in your community and better engage your audience. 

Your Track Record

For some brands, commenting on social issues is a core part of their brand values and an inherent part of their mission. For others, which may be thinking about dipping a toe into controversial conversations for the first time, joining the discussion can be extremely daunting. If your brand has a history of championing causes, looking through successful, past campaigns can highlight responses to topics that were well received. If you’re just beginning to consider becoming more vocal, take a look at what others in your industry are doing. It’s not a bad thing to stick with the crowd on this! 

Be Prepared for Kickback 

If your band has refrained from weighing in on controversial issues in the past, choosing to speak out on these topics will inevitably be met with some customer backlash. Unfortunately, you can’t make everyone happy. Ideally, your efforts will be welcomed by the majority of your followers. But it’s important to understand that not all your customers will agree with your social stance, and you may lose some business over this. The hardest part is deciding if the potential return—namely increased brand loyalty—is worth the risk. 

Your Location

To optimize customer engagement, local businesses can place support behind a cause that has a personal impact on that community, rather than a worldwide issue. Since no one knows your customers or community better than you, identifying relevant causes close to home should be as simple as flicking on the news or checking what’s trending near you, then determining what you can say that makes sense with your business and relates to your audience.

Start the Right Conversation with Snap

Feel like it’s time for your brand to start speaking out, but don’t know the best place to start? Contact Snap today. Our strategists and social experts are eager to support you by ensuring your input makes a lasting difference while staying in line with your brand voice.