13 Aug Does your brand stand for something? Posted at 04:54h in Blog, Brands & Logos by Danielle Spinks-Earl Share 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 fulfils 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 American 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. 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. How to do this if you are small Am I suggesting you should run a campaign or some ads with a social message? No. This would be a waste of money. If you’re small, the most important thing is to get sales. This is done by having a clear benefit that is easy to understand. But if there is an issue, like the environment, or self-esteem for teenage girls — as long as it is relevant to your company — this provides the opportunity to rise to a higher level than your competition. You could make a philanthropic donation and simply have a page on your website about the issue and why it is important. Important to you — here’s where you can tell your story — and important to the world. Corporate Decency Prevails After shock-jock Alan Jones suggested on 2GB Radio that some choice acts of violence be performed against New Zealand’s Prime Minister, several expressed “dismay” at the comments. But companies were able to express their dismay were it hurts — the hip pocket. As reported by The Australian, (23 August 2019) IGA, Hyundai, Chemist Warehouse, Koala, Anytime Fitness, and Nick Scali Furniture pulled their advertising as a result of the disgraceful comments. Kudos to you. Danielle Spinks-Earl firstname.lastname@example.org BA Comm. M Mktg. Freelance writer, designer, marketing communications manager.