As anyone who reads my posts here at Forbes knows about me, I am wary of brands who take sides on political, social or on otherwise polarizing issues. Not because I am for or against those issues, personally. It’s that I don’t believe it’s responsible marketing to take sides and, in so doing, fuel even more polarization (more on that position, including examples, here). It’s not good business to alienate. Worse, as I often say, “…the day we make brands our collective moral compass will be the last day of our civilization.”
But given the tremendously polarized world we live in right now where it’s almost a contest to see who is more righteous than the next, I have an idea as to how a brand can actually “do good” in the world without taking sides on any one issue. In fact, the idea is about eliminating “sides” altogether. And I am going to communicate this opportunity to you in a language we all understand: a creative brief. At the bottom is an image of the brief if you’d like to print it out and use it.
What is the problem we are trying to solve?
How can our brand, through the power of our brand idea, help to unify the country in some small or big way?
What kind of ideas are we looking for?
We’re looking for advertising ideas, public relations stunts, social media ideas, content ideas, new products, anything really where the message will uniquely unify those who experience it.
Everyone in the country. Yeah, admittedly broad, but consider these truths. For some reason, the country’s people no longer discuss and debate issues. They just think they’re right no matter what. In fact, it’s so bad that people don’t just believe they are right about these things, they identify with these beliefs personally so to debate an issue is to question one’s very essence. That’s scary and it’s why there’s no debate anymore. And we can’t unify if we can’t even talk about our differences.
- Deep down people don’t want to be this polarized. They don’t want to be this afraid to discuss politics or a social issue at a cocktail party.
- The psychological energy that goes into polarizing issues (e.g. gun control, abortion, the economy, Trump, etc.) overwhelms our ability to see all the things we humans have in common.
The brand opportunity.
Remind people through the brand’s behavior how much the people—all the people—have in common. Inspire the acceptance of new perspectives, help them see specific commonalities only your brand could see, tell them new stories that expose the sad dangers of polarization, challenge the truth of the “polarization” itself. Be subtle or overt, make your product a hero or not, up to you. But the goal here is to leave your audience a little more unified than you left it by leveraging the power of your brand.
Closest example: Christmas/holiday ads. When done well, branded holiday ads unify us by appealing to singular emotions like love, or the magic of thinking of others, etc. These ads don’t intend to unify us, but they do anyway. Imagine if unification were the objective.
Hopeful. Empathetic. Reassuring. Open Minded. Not preachy…
Don’t you wonder what your agency or in-house creative teams would do with that brief on behalf of your brand? Think of the good you’d do. Because I really believe the best way to take sides on polarizing issues is to take sides against taking sides.
I await your unifying marketing force in 2020.
This article first appeared in www.forbes.com
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