Social issues have become a hot-button issue for brands in recent years, especially as society watches how companies react to social issues. Social issues are about how we perceive the world around us. They are about perception, and perception is vital when you want to put the spotlight on your brand. Perception connects customers with their favorite brands. It triggers feelings of belonging while also creating new ones. But at the core, social issues give people a way to share their perspectives. And it’s this sharing attitude that gives people a voice and allows them to build relationships — an emotional connection with their brands.
Brands have typically taken one of two paths when deciding to become involved: take a stand or remain neutral. We have all heard the stories of some brands getting involved in social issues, only to be battered on all sides for not taking an official stance. Many well-known companies have seen their brand image tarnished after failing to handle such issues sensitively. The challenge is how to engage with various social issues—from natural disasters to gun control—without offending potential customers, creating unnecessary concern from shareholders or running afoul of government regulation.
If an organization stands by what they believe in or are trying to accomplish, they will know that it is important to involve their consumer base of people. And with such great communication online between consumers and companies, social issue marketing has grown tremendously throughout today’s economy. Today, we will go over 10 factors you should consider and/or do before taking a stand on any social issue.
- Make sure that your stance aligns with your values.
If you're a business looking to get more involved in hot button issues like political or social causes, the first thing you should do is take a step back and make sure this aligns with your brand. There's no point in using your company as a megaphone for your beliefs if it does not fit with your brand identity. It can actually end up doing more harm than good for your brand. Proactive companies invest in creating meaningful brands with values that extend beyond the bottom line and make an impact on issues that matter most.
- Do not be afraid to embrace controversial content.
Should controversy be embraced by businesses if it enacts societal change? Absolutely! Despite the backlash it may make a business endure, controversy shouldn't be shunned by brands and businesses. Controversy makes a brand human, relatable, and at times too relatable to the point of ridicule. If done correctly, it can positively affect a brand and business in terms of creating awareness and affecting sales or views of the brand.
- Make sure that you understand consumer perception.
When you own a business, you have a responsibility to understand the political climate. With so much media coverage on racial profiling and other hot button issues occurring, you will want to make sure that the public perceives your business in a positive light. No one wants to be associated with a business that is being portrayed negatively in the media for controversial reasons. It is important to be aware of the perceptions your customers have on social issues before something terrible occurs that damages your brand image.
- Do not try to satisfy everyone.
In this day and age, consumers are more informed than in the past. And our transparency in society is growing by the minute. When a company makes its stance on a controversial issue known, some people will agree with you while others won’t. And sometimes you’ll upset people enough that they’ll turn their backs on you completely. But if a majority of people agree with your position on an issue, then the people who disagree are going to become fewer and fewer — and even those who feel strongly against you may become customers.
- Understand that the positive can outweigh the negative.
It is not a secret that in speaking out about your beliefs, you risk reducing the number of customers who agree with you. However, in order to remain true to yourself and the values you have, speaking up could be vital. Of course, there are many ways you could express your opinion so ensure that you find the best way to do it. Yes, there will be backlash but if your accuracy and strategy are done well, then there is a good chance that the positives will outweigh the negatives.
- Be mindful of how you deliver your response.
There’s no such thing as “an” audience anymore in social issues. Instead, it’s about the individualized takeaways of what something means to different audiences. Whatever you are communicating online, remember that your audience is not just one group. It’s made up of individuals who interpret and process information in different ways depending on their preferences and experiences. If you want to deliver a message that resonates with people, you need to make them feel listened to.
- Join the conversation.
What do you get out of joining these conversations? You get the right kind of attention, and we're not talking about the kind that gets you noticed by people who want to take advantage of you in this new digital media reality. It's a pretty simple formula: in order to create great stuff, especially online, you have to be out there where your audience already is.
- Support causes that resonate with customers.
Studies have shown that 71 percent of people are more likely to buy products from brands that support causes they believe in. Consumers are increasingly drawn to company values, beliefs, and behaviors over simple product benefits, so companies should see social commentary as an avenue for increased sales. Supporting causes can create a community of like-minded individuals who want to support your brand because of its contribution to the world.