July 26, 2021
It’s generally agreed that companies should be in the business of doing good in the communities where they are located and from where they draw their employees. Large companies like Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly have full-bodied foundations to plan and manage their corporate giving. And most mom-and-pop shops I’ve known give back to their communities in at least equal proportion, in ways like sponsoring little league teams and donating to every little local fundraiser that comes a-knockin’.
But lately, we've seen something different. Some Brands are taking stands that many deem "political." Think Nike giving voice to Colin Kaepernick in a series of ads or the Black Rifle Coffee Company selling a coffee roast supporting Blue Lives Matter.
Conventional wisdom in the public relations community has usually been philanthropy good, but keep the politics on the down-low. "Get woke, go broke" is a common refrain bandied about in PR circles.
But is it true?
Nike saw an increase in sales with the Kaepernick campaign. And Ben & Jerry’s has never been shy about wearing their politics on their ice cream scoop, and they continue to grow, come up with new flavors, and shout their opinions into the maw of the current zeitgeist.
So, what's the answer? Well, that depends on the company, the brand, and your risk tolerance. Is the strategy in line with core brand values? And how's your ability to ride the bucking broncos of public outcry, calls for boycotts, and your brand name being dragged through the muck on social media. As with any marketing strategy, you must weigh the upside against the downside.
There is something said for being willing to put yourself out there. Companies distinguish themselves by taking chances and standing by their values. Think long term, not short term. Think chess, not checkers.