OPINION6 July 2017

Make a stand

Brexit Opinion UK Youth

In a world of increasingly divisive and polarised political views, brands are increasingly provocative and speak their minds. By Hannah Robbins

Political protest_Crop

Having a view on the world is cool, and being bold in what you believe in is aspirational. Some brands are starting to feel confident enough go public with stronger opinions and begin to understand the power they wield in changing the way people think.

In the recent UK general election, we noticed how many smaller brands and influencers were making their opinion known. Influencers such as Clemmie Hooper of @mother_of_daughters were unafraid to share their personal political views and encourage their followers to vote for particular parties.

Although these micro-influencers could be seen as having a small impact, when they galvanise people they can truly change opinions. We’re used to celebrities and influencers encouraging people to get out there and vote, but we are starting to see political opinion be openly spoken about.

The Grime community’s support for Labour has been hailed as part of what led to such a great campaign for them. The #Grime4Corbyn hashtag gained in popularity throughout the election, with supporters such as Lowkey, Stormzy and Rag’n’Bone Man celebrated for encouraging the disenfranchised and often misrepresented youth to vote for a party they saw as aligning with their beliefs.

We’ve started to see brands be inspired by these efforts to support politicised causes, often tackling specific issues head on. US taxi app Lyft was praised in the wake of the US travel ban for taking a stand against the policy; supporting people stranded at airports and eventually taking legal action against Trump. Lyft showed that brands don’t need to pledge support to a political party to be seen as having a political stance. As its co-founders said in an email to customers: ‘we stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community’.

In a cultural climate where refugees and immigrants are often persecuted and shamed, restaurant Nando’s came out in support of employing immigrants. Through the hashtag #EveryoneIsWelcome, it was able to expand the issue into a supportive stance on equality and fairness, and crucially was able to back up this stance through its hiring practices. Nando’s received widespread support for its stance, and showed that taking a strong political position isn’t always dangerous, and that it can change opinion and effect change.

Micro-influencers have shown that to have a strong opinion might be divisive, but it also shows your personality and strength of convictions. When brands start to play in this space by sharing increasingly political opinions, they build authenticity and credibility with consumers, and increasingly become strong voices in the political cultural world.


Encourage Participation

Part of being involved in the political cultural conversation is asking consumers to get involved too. Encouraging wider voter participation has been done for many years (see every Rock The Vote campaign ever) but we’re starting to see brands leverage this in interesting ways. For the UK general election Brewdog encouraged voter participation by offering a free pint of Punk IPA to those who could prove they had voted.

Inspire a Community

By taking a strong political stance brands can reflect the opinions and beliefs of the people they serve and work to make their lives better. In the last US election, gay dating app Grindr not only encouraged its users to register to vote through in-app notifications, but also presented each candidates LGBT+ policies clearly. It has also encouraged users in specific states to vote against Anti-LGBT issues, inspiring a community of politically engaged users.

Be Authentic

The strongest political stances ring true when they connect to a brand truth and feel organic and authentic. During the EU referendum in the UK we saw Lush come out in favour of the Remain campaign, but rather than just taking a pro-EU stance, it aligned it with its other activist efforts by encouraging people to ‘Vote remain for animals’. By staying true to the history of its brand it garnered more respect from consumers, while also encouraging them to stand for something and champion their political views.

Think Global

In an increasingly globalised world it is important to look at global political issues as well as those on a smaller scale. After President Trump decided to take the US out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, 25 companies bought full page ads in various US media outlets to make public their disagreements with Trump and his policy. Elon Musk of Tesla also publicly said he would leave an advisory council for Mr Trump, while other companies made clear that they would continue their efforts to fight climate change in spite of the new US policy.

Hannah Robbins is project executive at Kantar Added Value