When brands take a stand

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Businesses used to steer clear of politics. In a highly competitive world, the thinking went, why risk alienating prospective customers?

But things have started to change.

A recent survey by Edelman found a majority of consumers – particularly much coveted younger consumers – say they are “belief-driven buyers” and that they will opt to buy from, switch to, or boycott a brand based on its stated position on social issues.

In the past it was considered novel and bold for a brand, such as Benetton, to take a stand on anything remotely political.

These days it can be more risky to remain silent.

Over this past summer many of the world’s biggest brands came out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

They had clearly sensed the mainstream mood had shifted from a sense of dismay at racial injustice to utter outrage, exacerbated by episodes of police brutality, including the brazen killing of George Floyd.

Nike made the athlete and campaigner Colin Kaepernick the centrepiece of a major ad campaign.

Reebok has campaigned against sexual harassment. Ben and Jerrys is a longtime supporter of gay rights. Airbnb is pro-immigration.

Perhaps these are cynical moves by giant corporations using market research to inform positions that will generate the most engagement. Or perhaps it all comes from a place of sincerity.

But there can be no doubt about the heartfelt nature of a stance recently taken by a much smaller business, the Runners Centre in Lancaster, which has attracted national media attention after a simple sign was placed in its window.

Under the heading “Polite Notice” it states: “David Morris MP is barred from entering this store for voting to starve children.

“Along with 322 other Conservative MPs he voted against extending free meals for kids. He has been listed as one of the Top ten MPs claiming expenses.”

When asked for comment about the note, owner Ian Bailey explained most of his customers were supportive of the ban, which he explained would be for life.

“I’m desperate for him to come in,” he explained. “Just so I can ask him to leave.”

A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column by Guy Cookson on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post. See our brand, web design and marketing recent projects.
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