13 Aug Does your brand stand for something?
In Hong Kong, a controversial extradition bill has garnered opposition from unlikely quarters. Pocari Sweat (the Japanese soft drink owned by Ostuka Pharmaceuticals) recently withdrew its ads from a Hong Kong TV network because it depicted pro-democracy activists unfairly.
Pocari has become a “symbol of political resistance”, according to a report in The Economist. A slew of other consumer-facing companies has made the same boycott decision.
Risks and Rewards for Brands Playing Politics
Are there risks in getting political with your brand? Absolutely, especially in China.
Are there also opportunities? Indubitably.
One of the major reasons for brand choice is because it fulfills the need for self-expression. Purchasing a bottle or can of Pocari Sweat right now demonstrates your political leaning.
This is a brave move for a brand that crosses into different geopolitical territories around Asia.
Yet do we see much of this in Australia where things are far less complex?
In the same issue of the Economist (July 20th 2019), there is also a mention of an Americal Ph.D. candidate whose research found that the biggest determining factor for choosing a flatmate was their political affiliation. (This scored more highly than whether or not the person was at all clean and tidy).
This goes against the grain of what a lot of people say. The general feeling is that brands should be apolitical, emotionally neutral and avoid controversy.
My advice is this. Your brand has the authority to stand for something. To put a stake in the ground. Will you appeal to everyone? No. But that's what targeting is. The people you do appeal to will connect more strongly.
The reward is that if enough people share the sensibilities of your brand, you too could become a symbol. That’s a very powerful position to own. You’re no longer a rational choice, but an emotionally persuasive one.
What are the risks?
Well, if you change your mind later, you may need to apologise. If you get the facts wrong or only partly right, things may need clarification.
At worst you will look like a back flipper. But if the apology is delivered with the right reasons, it could humanise your brand.
The riskiest thing is to stand for nothing.