With a world of people watching, knowing when or when not to have an opinion on political, cultural, or social discussion on social media is an important brand decision. Traditionally, brands would usually stay out of such matters, but in today’s world consumers want to know where a brand stands on certain issues.
When a brand mishandles such a situation, it is NOT taken lightly. Take for example, Pepsi’s most recent commercial. The company attempted to make a strong statement in an ad featuring Kendall Jenner. The model acts as the leader of a group of protesters, who oddly mirror the Black Lives Matter movement. Although they meant well, their message was just completely tone deaf. The brand faced an insane amount of backlash as a result and was forced to issue an apology. This is a clear example of not doing your market research.
However, when a brand takes an appropriate stance it can be quite impactful. Recently, it became public that Harvey Weinstein was abusing his position in the filmmaking industry to take advantage of rising actresses. This incited a social media campaign surrounding the hashtag #MeToo which demonstrated how major of an issue sexual harassment is worldwide — in every industry. The company Talkwalker, took to social media about this sensitive issue in a way that was both caring and impactful. By supplying a map using the data the company compiled about the campaign, they were able to reveal how widespread and effective the hashtag #MeToo was and, as a result, furthered the discussion and awareness around this issue.
Following this successful tweet, Talkwalker CEO Todd Grossman gives the following advice for when it is appropriate to take a political stance on social media. He says not to just say something to say something. It should be productive in nature and perhaps echo the companies own internal policies. Watch for trending topics, especially from influencers. “When you have celebrities and high profile people contributing to the conversation, this creates a broad societal issue and tends to spread like wildfire,” he states. Additionally, brands should listen first and only contribute where it makes sense. The general public is too smart for the brand not to be transparent. Learn from the past. No one needs another Pepsi incident. And finally, show your personality. “Brands can really be that personality that can be humanistic and have feelings. If brands can do more from the heart and do the right thing, they’ll be accepted more by the general public in contributing to movements like this.”