Having a voice...

The broadcaster, Sky recently revealed that it pays its male employees an average of 11.5% more than their female counterparts with a bonus gap of 40%.  The news is shocking, yet not surprising.

The last 18 months alone has seen “progressive” countries elect a President who is set on eroding women’s rights and the #MeToo movement opening an unprecedented dialogue of gender inequality not just in the world of entertainment but in offices worldwide.

Many social anthropologists claim this return to the patriarchy was a given following on from September 11th 2001.  The attack on the US had repercussions beyond the physical, mental and psychological devastation causing a significant shift in the societal plates.  As the dust settled over Ground Zero those peacock feathers of the alpha men wanting to protect their country, their women and their fellowmen started to ruffle.  

Antelope is not a political organisation.  We are not commentators on society. However, what we know through our work with organisations big and small is that societal changes and the needs and desires of those who live in it change the way companies need to communicate.  So how do brands remain relevant and deal with changes that are happening in their marketplaces, with their customers, with changes in cultures and ethos? And more importantly, should brands have a political voice?

Brands build their credence and reputation on their values and their personality. Who they are, what they say, how they say it and what they do shapes whether a customer feels engaged with their product or service and wants to be part of their brand experience. Making strong political statements will surely unite some but alienate others and although many brands have the platform, how many have the substance to really be political?

Some brands in the past have nailed their colours to the political flag. Take The Body Shop whose social activism extended to Save the Whales campaigning, community trade and testing against animals and Patagonia, whose mission statement is “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis”. They have a social conscience.

However, what about brands whose social purpose is secondary?  How do they mix politics with purchasing and should they?

Consumers need to know that companies care. There is no doubt that in today’s world consumers want knowledge of ethics and values and companies need to be transparent.

However, they need to be authentic and have depth.  To make claims the politics need to lie in their DNA rather than sit on the surface as an add on value to their marketing strategy.   We feel they need to:

1. Be authentic
Does it fit with the brand values and ethos?  Does the team share the passion for it? Will the brand’s customers?

2. Not be another Metoo
Choose a cause because you care (and your customers might care about it) not because everyone is talking about it.

3.Check the supply chain
Have codes of conduct and ensure all the way down your supply chain adhere to these values.

4. Do something about your stake
Put their money where their mouth is – just saying you back a cause isn’t good enough.  Give a percentage of profits, give opportunities within your workforce, raise awareness through your networks – there are many ways to make a difference.

5. Be in it for the long term
Continuity is key to building brand awareness. Companies should commit and continue a cause.

Having a voice is a great thing for a brand. Having a platform is even better to shout with the voice. However, remember your social footprint is with your brand for a long time so use it wisely.