Preserve Your Brand Image: When Shopping Gets Political

Welcome to the family table where political fights are fierce and uncomfortable. Your brand and your politics, normally you could just say no’ and move on. But in today’s increasingly divisive political world, it is more difficult to side-step.

We are not saying pick a side and start yelling, but you should prepare and be ready to handle issues that may or may not be your doing. This all begins with social media. The speed in which a good’ or bad’ reactions can spread is fast and unpredictable. Being prepared with a message, guidelines or pre-emptive actions can help reduce the damage or stop it in its tracks.

Social media and divisive politics

#DeleteUber became a trend that came from the public perceived consent to a federal political decision in the U.S. that angered many. The spread of this was fast, and there were enough app deletions that Uber’s biggest competitor, Lyft, was lifted (terrible pun intended), to the top spot in downloads and continues to grow. The general consensus for what went wrong was the company’s delayed response and inability to clearly state their position. That is a tough situation as a brand or company, stating a position can anger people from both sides of an issue. What was their best option here? From a brand viewpoint, you lose either way. A clear message and position may have reduced the damage.

I understand not all brands or companies will be put into a position like this, so it may not relate to everyone. But it’s always better to be safe, than sorry. When it comes to being ready, there are a lot of things you need to know, but here are some things your team can start thinking about and building towards.

Know your brand identity and core message

It is very important to understand your brand or company’s core message. Once you internally nail down what you are and what you stand for, that message will be easier to share out in public, in messaging, and stand up to scrutiny. This is not an easy task to complete, but will be key to withstanding any situations that attack your brand’s identity.

Know your consumer

Consumer loyalty can shrivel up very quickly if they feel slighted or misguided by a brand. Though we can’t be everything for everyone, knowing your base and understanding their loyalty to your product/​service can help guide your next PR move or pre-emptively plan a marketing campaign. This helps lessen the blow or stop an issue before it gets worse. Lyft was able to craft a message quickly that resonated with their target market (Uber’s consumer) and helped drive that exodus to them.

Train and prepare front line staff 

This seems like a no-brainer but watching many large companies stumble or fall lately has shown it is harder than it looks. Having a very clear guide, or ability to get answers quickly can help brands react to potentially damaging social media trends or political issues. Front line staff should know what to do, and how to alert decision makers quickly to craft a message. This may not stop the damage, but it can lessen it significantly. Remember, this last step needs number 1 and 2 to be effective.

Ultimately, the act of boycotting of brands for political reasons is on the rise and when and if one hits your brand, you’ll want to ensure your response is strong and swift to preserve your public brand image.

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