Georgia has once again become the epicenter of controversy given recent voting policy changes passed by the Georgia legislature, and everyone from brands, to coaches to politicians across the country have an opinion and are using the situation to forward their agenda.
Jimmy Kimmel host went off on Trump for leading a “boycott” of baseball, Coca-Cola, and Delta after they pushed back on Georgia’s new voter-suppression law on Monday: “This guy has tried to cancel more culture than anyone ever!” https://t.co/77s5QLRUXL— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) April 8, 2021
Brands Are Being Pressured to Take a Stand on Political Issues
Since April 5, we’ve seen left-leaning factions and activists put pressure on brands to speak out against the legislation as well as amplify news of statements made by companies taking that stand. Meanwhile, the Political Right has been criticizing those same corporations as well as prominent conservatives who have donated to Republican candidates, calling them “hypocrites.”
Two major Georgia brands called upon, and that have made public statements, are Coca-cola and Delta Airlines, both headquartered in Atlanta.
Brands not based in Georgia, but doing business in the state have also taken a stand on the issue. One of the most significant examples is perhaps Major League Baseball announcing its decision to move the 2021 All-Star Game away from Atlanta in response to the legislation. Most recently, Will Smith announced he would be moving production of an upcoming film from Georgia, with Senator Stacey Abrams urging Hollywood to “stay and fight.”
Now, with more than 300 other voting bills being introduced across the nation, big brands like Google, Snap Inc, American Airlines, Reddit, Lyft, Dell, and Patagonia, to name a few, have taken a stance and issued statements addressing the restrictive voting laws. These brands and states will have to navigate the same complicated conversations and decisions brands and industries have in Georgia.
Brands taking hits from both conservative and progressive factions, may be perceived as a “lose-lose” situation by some. But, this view is short-sighted. Despite the hits they’re taking from both sides, they may be winning in terms of brand awareness and values alignment with their core customer base. The sense of backlash will be temporary compared to the impact on brand loyalty in the long run. Customers who feel like their preferred brand shared in their values, will remember that when the next narrative takes hold online.
How the Narrative is Evolving
While left-leaning factions were initially successful in amplifying narratives to the mainstream, receiving amplification from news outlets, the Political Right has started to gain more influence over this narrative.
Also worth calling out that at this point, we are also seeing the QAnon faction engaging with the narrative, speaking out in support of penalties for “woke corporations.”
To Take a Stand is to Meet New Consumer Expectations
Avoiding internet attention is not a strategy aligned with current consumer expectations. Playing it safe and under the radar is not market leadership – nor is succumbing to an internet mob. The reality is that brands have to take a stand on their own terms, own the frame, let people talk about their leadership and dissect their position, and then refine as they learn. If you look at brands who’ve traditionally been using this strategy…Nike, Starbucks, Gillette… you’ll see that their brand loyalty and revenue only rise.
This is just the beginning of this conversation as similar policies are being introduced in 47 other states. Brands are continuously being called to action almost daily…especially in states like Texas, Arizona and Florida.
Values-based brands are setting a great example by moving from being reactive and tactical to proactive and strategic. You can’t control the social internet, and you can’t hide from it. All you can do is influence it. The sooner brands accept that the more resilient they’ll be.
How Yonder Can Help Your Brand Navigate Political Issues Online
The truth is that for brands and consumers alike, there is no “winning” when it comes to narratives where factions are involved. It’s not about getting the other side to agree with you, but about how well you can navigate these kinds of situations while protecting your brand integrity and staying in control of your brand story.
Yonder delivers social intelligence to help brands like Walmart, McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson and AT&T protect their brand values. We arm strategic communications teams with better information on emerging and evolving narratives and give them time and space to prepare to act — or choose not to!