08 Feb Mixing Business and Politics?
Should Business Owners Enter The Political Minefield?
A lot of us heard the phrase when we were kids, “No politics at the dinner table.” But should that rule extend to “No politics in your marketing?”
As our society becomes increasingly polarized and the fire is fueled by social media and 24 hour news cycles, big brands have weighed in on controversial issues. Clothing retailer Patagonia sold items and ran an ad campaign protesting the reduction of public lands. Burger King served up a lesson on the Net Neutrality debate. And Ben & Jerry’s tops their ice cream with environmental activism.
But is it wise for us as home-based business owners to incorporate our political beliefs into our marketing? The easiest answer is no, as you do not want to risk alienating portions of your customer base. But inevitably we will want our brands to reflect as much of ourselves as possible, and that includes our worldviews. There are some things to be conscious of if you want to have “conscious” branding.
Make sure that you can connect your positions seamlessly into your core brand. If you run a business that prides itself on sustainable products, then it flows naturally to have content that speaks to current environmental issues. But if you’re selling wine and one day you speak to your audience about healthcare or gun control, drawing a correlation will be harder without some context. Burger King used food pricing as a metaphor for Internet service rates in their Net Neutrality ads. Make sure the message is “on brand” while “on the issues.”
Be aware of opposing views and have a plan for engagement. The moment you take a public position, you will immediately invite the comments of those who disagree with you. Some will be interested in expressing their views civilly and having a discussion, and others will just want to start a fight. Prepare for how you will respond to any counterpoints. Engage the respectful views with an explanation of your position and an acknowledgement that they believe differently. Let them know their business is still welcome in whatever way possible regardless. Any person who expresses themselves rudely? Don’t give them much attention.
Be careful of how you state your personal views as a business owner. Occasionally I would post a political question or express my views on my personal social media in a lighthearted, generally respectful way. But some would still take offense and the debate of the century would happen in my comment threads. It did not affect the view of my business or brand, but saying the “wrong” thing could. Remember that even when you share information or speak as you the person and not your business, you are still always the face of your brand and negative impressions of you can put a cloud over your marketing efforts.
Politics and business sometimes collide, so when they do for you a good plan can help you safely navigate the minefield!