Traditionally, businesses have operated as standalone entities—that aren’t expected to have a point of view on any kind of social or political issues—more akin to machines. For the most part, they’ve largely remained neutral with global issues.
Organisations can no longer sit back and remain neutral about social or political issues — they must stand for something and be prepared for what that stance entails.
The best example of this can be seen in the form of Nike’s 2018 featuring former NFL star, Colin Kaepernick, with the caption, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Kaepernick had previously made headlines for repeatedly kneeling when the US national anthem was played to draw attention to police killings of African Americans and other injustices. As a result of his protests, he became one of the most divisive figures in the US, which ultimately led to his demise in the NFL.
Despite Kaepernick being such a divisive figure, Nike stuck firm with the NFL star and the multi-billion-dollar company continued to support Kaepernick and what he “kneeled” for.
Unlike much of what Nike had previously done, it wasn’t met with total pleasure and admiration for its latest campaign. Many conveyed their opposition by burning Nike products and exclaiming their disgust on social media, which also led to a drop in Nike’s share price.
But Nike was prepared to stand for something, just as Kaepernick was.
So why is it important for organisations to stand for something today?
To start with, brands are no longer just transactional entities—that is to say, there are more factors at play now than just searching for the cheapest price. People want to invest with brands they have a relationship with and feel they align with.
People are passionate about what they believe in and want to know they’re contributing to change for good in the world. If a brand does not align with someone’s morals and beliefs, it’s likely they’ll look elsewhere. TEAM LEWIS’ research in collaboration with GWI reveals consumers want brands to be reliable, authentic and innovative, while traits that were once prioritised—such as being “trendy” or “bold”—are less desired today.
In recent years, we have seen sustainability become a big priority for a number of people and organisations. Consumers are holding businesses accountable and demand they are action-oriented when it comes to sustainability. In fact, 60 per cent of Australians state they believe it is more important now than ever for brands to be doing their part to help the environment.
And it’s not just how brands connect with their customers that this has an impact on. What brands stand for is increasingly becoming a consideration for candidates when choosing their next role. Similar to the way consumers want to personally align with the values of a brand, so do its employees.
We know how important employee engagement is, particularly after what we’ve all gone through during the pandemic. Standing for something—and taking action—engages your employees as it shows them you stand together.
Being neutral was once the norm for organisations, but today it’s vital they stand for something and imperative they backup their words with actions. For Nike, the Kaepernick campaign brought about short-term “pain”, but proved to be one of the most successful campaigns it had ever run. As a result, the company claimed USD163 million in earned media, a USD6 billion brand value increase and a 31 per cent boost in sales.
I’m by no means suggesting every campaign or public stance must be as controversial and bold as Nike’s, but organisations must stand up for what they believe in and play their part in bringing justice to the world.
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