ATYPICAL

Ready to Take a Brandstand? What to Know About The Next Big Thing in Brand Trends

Amanda Bowen
Thinking about using your brand to make a point about an important cultural issue? Brandstanding done right can boost your brand’s reputation and expand your audience. But without real thought and understanding of what brandstanding is, it can easily backfire. Before you take a stand, let’s drive into this movement.

Thinking about using your brand to make a point about an important cultural issue? Brandstanding done right can boost your brand’s reputation and expand your audience. But without real thought and understanding of what brandstanding is, it can easily backfire. Before you take a stand, let’s drive into this movement.

What is brandstanding?

Essentially, this trend is when a brand takes a strong position on social issues regardless of the possible backlash. It’s not intended to be a gimmick but something that relates directly to the brand’s values. 

The benefits of brandstanding

Consumers have a real belief that companies can enact change. When they are aware a company shares their position, they’re more likely to do business with that brand as a measure of support.

The real risk of brandstanding

Just as it draws consumers to do business with your brand, the opposite can happen. The backlash from a strong position on highly controversial issues can lead to boycotts, a loss of business, and a mixture of press. Fortune wrote about the controversy around companies openly supporting abortion rights, and how it impacted businesses for better and worse. In another example, Gillette dealt with negative attention when it's well-intentioned “The Best Men Can Be” campaign was not interpreted the same way by its audience. 

How to tackle brandstanding

More brands are flirting with backlash by taking strong social positions. Nike’s endorsement of Colin Kaepernick. Levi’s time off to vote on Election Day. Airbnb’s #WeAccept campaign. 

A successful brandstanding campaign starts with coming from an authentic place. Your position must align with company values and be a genuine statement. It should also be something that has meaning with your customer base. Nike’s makes sense because they are an athletic company supporting a professional athlete. 

The second side of the coin is understanding that it’s likely to divide your audience. The more controversial the topic–politics, gun rights, abortion, #metoo, et al.– the greater the division and discussion in the target audience. You have to be prepared for criticism. 

Before taking the stand, check your company is living the commitment to the issue. After taking a stand, prepare for scrutiny. People will be checking that you are authentically representing those brand values. That was one problem with Gillette’s campaign: detractors called out the company’s lack of female representation at the top level.

And then there’s how you will handle the backlash. Will you double down and hold your position? Will you acknowledge the detractors and modify your position?

Based on what we see in the industry, brandstanding can do some real good and possibly lead to real change. But it’s got to be real and approached with thought and strategy.

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