Is it risky for brands to get involved in politics? The Marketing Society Forum
Ben & Jerry's has renamed one of its ice cream lines in support of marriage equality legislation.
NO - TIM DUFFY CHAIRMAN, M&C (UK) SAATCHI GROUP
Ben & Jerry's has always had a social conscience; it has long campaigned on same-sex marriage (renaming its Chubby Hubby ice cream as Hubby Hubby in the US). So this move has integrity.
When a political issue collides with a brand, there is, arguably, a duty to customers, employees and shareholders to get stuck in - as in the case of Saga attacking Chancellor George Osborne's 'granny tax', for instance.
Brands cannot be passive. While not all wish to engage in Benetton-like controversy (although where's the harm?), many engage in policy issues, such as Fairtrade.
These may not be controversial, but they are taking a stand - and that is politics.
MAYBE - DUNCAN LEWIS, GROUP MARKETING AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR, AGE UK
If a brand has strong values it can apply in a consistent, integrated way, it needn't fear stepping into politically sensitive areas. The Age UK brand is as much about the current 'Care in crisis' campaign as it is about charitable, fundraising or commercial activity. Ensuring that our brand DNA runs though all this activity is challenging, but it demonstrates our commitment to improving later life.
There is, though, the potential to get it wrong. Misjudge the mood of supporters and they could be alienated, especially if they view a stance as opportunistic. Issues are fine if addressed thoughtfully, but leave party politics to the corridors of power.
MAYBE - STEPHEN MAHER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE AND FOUNDER, MBA
Any brand that dabbles in politics or social comment is playing with fire, but it can work if the brand's values reflect the cause or a campaigning ethos. The brand must have strong beliefs and integrity in the first place; otherwise it risks appearing gratuitous and will damage its position.
Ben & Jerry's has a reputation for engaging with its consumers about its values and its approach to social/environmental activism. In fact, it is a brand that drives the bandwagon for social change, rather than jumps on it. This makes its stance on gay marriage more credible and more likely to reinforce engagement and relevance with consumers.
Maybe - Joe Clift, Ex-brand and customer marketing director, Lloyds Banking Group
I can't see loyal, heterosexual Ben & Jerry's customers being disaffected by its stance, and imagine there's gain in terms of the values the brand is seen to stand for. It depends on your brand, its values, the sector you're operating in and, above all, its role in people's lives. I would take that step only if I were sure that my brand had earned the right to align itself with something political; if you're a few degrees off-target, you will end up with egg on your face.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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