You’ve probably noticed that I’m quite open about my politics in both my business and my personal life.  I do recognize the privilege of being able to be open- I don’t need thousands of clients to be successful in my business and there are plenty of small business owners living here in the Bay Area (and beyond) who won’t be turned off by my politics.

So, while I don’t think every business owner needs to be as open about their politics as I am, I do think that some moments over the past year have called for folks to take a stand. Many, including many national consumer brands, did that after the murder of George Floyd and more recently after January 6th’s storming of the capitol.  Many brands and national leaders also joined a chorus in celebrating Martin Luther King Jr this past Monday.

The marketing challenge is to be true to yourself/brand and to the cause you are supporting. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it seems many googled, found a comforting quote by the civil rights activist, used a pretty font, and posted the image to their social media. Many of these quotes seemed hollow. And some brands got some pushback in this challenging historical moment, however, as they picked MLK’s ‘feel good’ quotes vs MLK’s ‘speaking truth to power’ quotes.

So what can you do? 
I’ve been reading through some case studies to see what works and what doesn’t. I’ve got a few take-aways.

First, do some research, know your brand and your audience.  Lands End didn’t do this and ended up angering folks across a wide spectrum of the political landscape when they profiled (and then pulled the profile of) Gloria Steinem in their catalog. There are other women who could have been profiled in support of women’s rights who would have been a better match for their brand and their audiences.

Another thread I’m noticing is to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Donate, hire, volunteer, etc in ways that are true to the values that you and your brand support. Actions speak louder than words and you can still leverage this in your marketing by showing and telling what you are doing.  Nike did this successfully by standing with Colin Kaepernick.

Each of us has our own corner of the world to wield our influence- in and beyond our business efforts. I’ll leave you with this inspirational quote from Wednesday’s inauguration of President Biden…

For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it” 
~  Amanda Gorman