Many brands have recently found themselves in the middle of political debates, and even if a brand isn’t taking a side, their consumers still are. Most brands claim to have a social mission, but few act on it.
Today’s top brands are not only starting socially-relevant conversations about issues that matter, but they’re also getting off their a**** and actually doing something about them. Smart brands see tough times as an opportunity to step up; however, not all brands react to controversy with intelligence.
Here are four companies that have taken a stand against a controversial issue, and how their consumers are reacting to it.
Carolina Hurricanes #HockeyIsForEveryone
The Carolina Hurricanes are a professional ice hockey team based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Being in Raleigh since 1997, the Hurricanes haven’t been ones for taking a stance on social issues. Sure, they’ve shown their support for the military and have contributed to their community through a number of charities and foundations; however, they have never taken a stand on a social issue – until early February.
#HockeyIsForEveryone is a campaign created by the NHL that uses the game of hockey, and the League’s global influence, to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities, “We believe all hockey programs – from professionals to youth organizations – should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.”
Since posting a photo on February 20th announcing their #YouCanPlay night, there has been a strong response from fans. While many support the initiative, others have harshly criticized the Hurricanes taking a social stance at all. Despite the negativity, the organization has responded to many of the comments on their social media sites and plan to continue to promote the idea of inclusivity and that #HockeyIsForEveryone.
Ben & Jerry’s “If It’s Melted, It’s Ruined!”
Even though we live in Wilmington, I think we can all agree that February is not supposed to be this warm. The leadership at Ben & Jerry’s would agree! Ben & Jerry’s wants to remind their consumers that even ice cream is not immune to environmental change by having an “Endangered Pints” list. To combat the potential loss of everyone’s favorite flavors, Ben & Jerry’s is urging concerned consumers to sign a petition to support the Paris Agreement.
Ben & Jerry’s is not new to the idea of brand activism; they have been active in supporting causes like sustainable food systems, social justice, and a fair and global economy for years. Their consumers don’t seem to mind either, as long as the ice cream is cold and in stock, I think everyone stays happy.
Lyft Donating to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
In response to the recent political atmosphere, Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green announced in late January that they would donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years.
“Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft and our nation’s core values,” the co-founders wrote in an email to Lyft customers. “We stand firmly against the actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the value of our community.”
Since Lyft’s announcement, not only have their downloads increased but their rival, Uber, has received backlash from consumers. According to the New York Times, as of February 2nd, 2017 more than 200,000 customers had deleted their Uber accounts.
Starbucks “Refugee Hiring Plan”
In January, Howard Schultz said his Washington state-based eatery will hire 10,000 refugees in what was seen by many as a response to President Trump’s executive ban on travel from several nations. Since the January 29th hiring announcement, Starbucks’ consumer perception levels fell by two-thirds, as measured by YouGov Brand Index’s Buzz score.
The Bottom Line
In today’s political climate, consumers are communicating that they want their brands to do more and be more. However, just how taking a stand can increase sales, as we saw with Lyft, it can also cause an uproar from fans, like with the Carolina Hurricanes. What do you think about brands being advocates for policy change and social justice?