Is There Power in Brand Activism?

by Erin Clark & Gabriela Gonzalez

Given that we specialize in Hispanic and multicultural advertising, it is inspiring to see how brands are tapping into the power of inclusion in the midst of this heated political climate by engaging in activism. From the Super Bowl to the Grammys and the many executive orders in between, brands are making bold statements.

 

Developing Strategies To Target Values, Not Demographics

We learned in November – and continue to learn – just how divided our country still is when it comes to race, religion, gender equality and immigration. For some of us, it may even feel like we are moving backward. But, as advertisers (and strategists in particular), we have to push ourselves to fully understand the values that drive our audiences in order to connect with them in a meaningful way.

 

We are often asked by clients to look for insights that highlight the “differences” among our targets; to identify how Hispanics or LGBT or African-Americans are different from General Market. And, while there are plenty of nuances, this approach sometimes leads us to disregard the fact that we are all human and our diversity can actually foster shared values, beliefs and attitudes.

 

Stronger Together?

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a number of brands’ strategies tapping into the insight of “together we are stronger.” During the Super Bowl, brands like Coca Cola, Airbnb, Expedia, and even the NFL aired ads that communicated their belief that diversity is what binds us together, both as a nation and globally. During the Grammys, Nike aired a new ad, “Equality,” and Johnnie Walker continued their campaign presenting a remake of “This Land is Your Land” sung by Chicano Batman. Although these two events provided a large stage for some, brands like Starbucks, Netflix, Apple and many more have voiced their stance on diversity in other ways: through hiring commitments, fundraising campaigns, or by simply just speaking up.

 

#Boycott(INSERT BRAND HERE)

What we appreciate, as a diverse advertising agency, is that these brands are taking a stand. Of course, with that stand comes a great amount of risk. Last week, our Chief Idea Officer, Wegs, wrote about polarizing perspectives. It’s clear that although these brands speak beautifully to a diverse America, touting values that connect with some groups, they do quite the opposite for others. #Boycott(INSERT BRAND HERE) has become the new norm, and brands must weigh the risk vs. reward before diving headfirst, or even wading, into this politically-charged, activist environment.

 

Challenge Accepted

If you do decide to accept the “diversity challenge,” it’s critical to have a deep understanding of your company’s values and brand goals, and ensure they align with your target audience. Secondly, you must ‘walk the walk’. Audi was called out for their ad “Daughter” in support of equal pay for women, when it began to spread that only 2 of their 14 executive leaders are female. They have since made it clear that the company has an aggressive hiring plan and development strategies in place to increase the number of women across all levels within the organization, but in the meantime they lost precious credibility.

 

Let’s Push for Relevancy and Open Conversations

In order to be relevant and for the reward to outweigh the risk you have to understand who you’re targeting and what matters to them. You want your audience to feel that you know the issues that are important to them and that the brand supports them.

 

As challenging as it may be, embracing diversity includes even being open to those who do not share your same views. As our political divide has grown deeper, it seems we have lost the ability to have (civil) conversations. Perhaps the biggest opportunity for all of us in the “people business” is to spark more open and accepting conversations.

Gaby Sosa
Gsosa@dieste.com