Politics and Content: Risk or Reward?
Politics is a big word. Not in terms of letter-count, but the wider meaning. Bringing politics into your content doesn’t necessarily mean endorsing a candidate, policy or political stance. However, it can be crucial in terms of developing a relationship with potential clients, and appeasing existing customers.
Politics plays a huge role in modern life. Thanks to freedom of speech, we each have the right to form an opinion, a choice also shared by businesses. However, while we debate and potentially fall out with friends, the risk to companies is far greater—impacting both revenue and reputation, for better or worse. Effective content will always be divisive, especially when it comes to politics, to drive audience engagement. As demonstrated by major brands, such as Nike, firms now face the dilemma of whether or not to bring politics into their content campaigns.
What do we mean by politics?
Let’s forget about governing bodies for now. We’re talking about equality, diversity, inclusivity and sustainability here—social issues that resonate with clients and customers.
For any business, whether a start-up or established brand, managing the relationship between brand image and customer need is crucial. This includes choosing whether or not to incorporate socio-political viewpoints in their model.
Weighing up this decision can prove extremely tricky, with politics and social issues dominating news headlines. While some customers may react positively to a potentially controversial content campaign, others may feel alienated to the identity they previously bought into, as recently experienced by Oatly when they alienated vegan patrons in February 2022.
As such, understanding your customer base is of vital importance.
For their 30th anniversary, Nike announced that American activist and sportsman Colin Kaepernick would front their ‘Dream Crazy’ content campaign. Celebrating diversity and the progressive power of sport, the advert resulted in Nike’s stock market value increasing by $6 billion dollars in the fortnight following first airing.
Not only providing a financial windfall, the campaign also demonstrated a significant victory for social activism. Having aligned with a political agenda that both represented the brand and customer base, Nike was rewarded with business success and an enhanced reputation for its role in highlighting a key societal issue.
However, despite its positive response, the campaign wasn’t universally welcomed. Donald Trump claimed the advert sent out a “terrible message”, while some protestors burned Nike products in response. Although no business can adopt a political stance that appeals to all its customers, Nike delivered an ‘on-brand’ message by using an informed, strategic identity.
The importance of identity
Consistent strategy, as part of building a defined image, can create change. As demonstrated by ‘Dream Crazy’, strategic content campaigns, targeting specific political issues and offering inclusive solutions can drive success.
The art of strategy involves creating a long-term plan to deliver a three-dimensional message. Content in itself can even be political, shaped by ownership and bias. This is especially true when first trying to influence change within a brand. Those unsure of their identity, or struggling to remain consistent, are more likely to confuse their customers with mixed messages, as opposed to a coherent vision—much like Pepsi misjudging their millennial audience in their Kendall Jenner ad in 2017.
Nike’s content campaign demonstrates a key commitment to company values, indicating collaboration and a defined strategy. This is a brand that knows who and what they are. Nike recognises the need for social change, and encourages involvement by communicating a clear message.
A well-thought out strategy also prevents businesses from appealing to the wrong audience. Misaligned content marketing can appear inauthentic and cause damage to a company’s reputation, resulting in the potential loss of both revenue and customers, as demonstrated by a boycott of Dove products following their poorly received 2017 body wash campaign.
For balance, of course, it’s intriguing to wonder how many brands actively seek to make a difference, opposed to saving public face. What’s right and what’s deemed to be socially right can be two different things. Content is manipulating, and no doubt public pressure plays a part in determining how we react to world events.
Uniqlo, for example, having vowed to continue financial activity in Russia, following the invasion of Ukraine, faced immediate social backlash in response to their apparent inaction. Deemed as putting profits first, and facing significant brand damage, the company quickly reversed their decision and suspended all operations in the country.
News of the world
Following the outbreak of the COVID pandemic, coupled with the war in Ukraine, companies face a choice between profit margins and social responsibility.
Since February 2022, over 1,000 businesses have withdrawn or curtailed their presence in Russia, including major brands such as McDonalds, Rolex and BMW, with many adopting blue and yellow colours, like Meta, as part of their social media presence, nailing their stance to the political mast.
The pandemic, meanwhile, defined new content rules and challenged previously accepted truths. With many turning to an online capacity, business focus shifted from great products to great values. Sustainability, responsibility and trust matter more to customers than ever before, prompting firms to again weigh up the risk involved with bringing politics into their wider strategies.
Your content unlocked
The divisive nature of politics means that, ultimately, no content campaign will appeal to everyone—and nor should it. As the world continues to change, in response to recent social events and narratives, companies are increasingly likely to have to define their identities and political values.
At Linguakey, we specialise in creating effective content campaigns to shape your customer base and voice, and provide marketing strategies that speak directly to your audience. Unlock your content with us today.