Sex, Politics, Religion, Oh My: Should Brands Take a Stand on Social Issues?

What do entrepreneurs really think about brands that take a stand? Does your company have everything to lose or even more to gain?

Sex and politics and religion, oh my!

The utterance of razor sharp opinions on these societal matters (in public) were once considered taboo and scandalous. Most wouldn’t dare mention what they really thought about their President, much less rant about “how much we love our guns” unless they were ready to start a fight or worse yet, be de-friended on Facebook.

But the times they are a-changin‘ … From economic challenges and gun laws to inequalities and education, social issues repeatedly take center stage and receive a good deal of media attention and discussion at America’s dinner table.

With all of the opinions freely given from family, friends, co-workers and peers — should brands throw their hat into the ring and take a stand on social ills?

Some business owners assert that taking a stand on social issues is important — as it humanizes your brand — while others believe that brands should keep out of conversations around social issues – period.

“It’s all about the brand’s tolerance for risk and what they stand for overall,” said Mat Rednor, chief strategy and innovation officer of MRY. “Entering a polarizing debate will certainly get a brand talked about but invites both positive and negative conversation. So, if a brand wants that, then they better have their response and crisis management strategy in place.”

Scott Goodson, the founder and chairman of Strawberryfrog, suggests that we are living in “the age of uprisings, brand movements and backlashes.” According to Goodson, “it’s a new era where consumers will punish a company for taking a wrong stand, but also for taking no stands at all. In these volatile times, brands actually should become more willing to take a stand.”

But what do entrepreneurs really think about brands that take a bold and definitive stand? Does your company have everything to lose or even more to gain? We asked business owners to take a stand and here’s what they had to say:

1. Be aware of inversely proportional consequences.

“Before I saw brands taking a stand (i.e. most recently for marriage equality), I would have said leave politics to the politicians. But here’s the bottom line: when you make a very clear statement about a political issue as a brand, you are going to do two things. One, you are alienating your business from customers who don’t agree with you. Two, you are increasing the loyalty of customers that do agree with you. There is no “yes or no” answer that’s right for every business.”

– Liz Theresa, Owner of LizTheresa.com: @LizTheresa

2. Be mindful of alienation.

“I think one needs to be mindful not to alienate their target market with personal views, but taking a stand on issues presents more personality and expresses the people behind a brand, which is very important. [Businesses] offer products and services to people [with an] immediate need, but these people have dynamic views, thoughts, and interactions with the world around them.  So, presenting more personality; making a brand come alive, gives it more depth.”

– James Agate, Owner of Skyrocket: @jamesagate

3. Make sure your stance is relevant to your business.

“Rescue Chocolate takes a stand on animal rescue issues, such as whether breed-specific legislation (e.g. laws aimed at outlawing pit bulls) should be repealed. Our stands are intimately wrapped up in our brand identity. We donate all profits to various animal rescue organizations.”

– Sarah Gross, Founder and Owner of Rescue Chocolate: @RescueChocolate

4. Forget about ulterior motives.

“There are some issues on which brands (in my humble opinion) can take a stand. Poverty, hunger, helping others, etc. are things that are universally good. Nobody will argue that helping the poor, the needy, or a starving child is bad. A brand that wants to take a stand in order to facilitate the end of suffering, in my opinion, is a good thing. Any brand that decides to take a stand on some religious, political, or issue concerning sexuality should take a look in the mirror and at least admit to themselves that they are doing so for some ulterior motive.”

– Joshua Weiss, CEO of TeliApp Corporation: @teliapp


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