There is an opportunity cost to avoiding controversy in marketing.
The fear of repercussions from an off-color social post might cause many brands to retreat from the public eye altogether. And who would blame them? But, this is a mistake equal in gravity to making the stupid post in the first place. That’s because the unforgiving and relentless tide of social media will banish these silent and fearful brands from social relevance. Just remember what happened to the mild-mannered Republican candidates in the 2016 presidential campaign, if you can remember any of them.
The real opportunity of the Participation Age will unfold through meaningful social engagement, but not through communication that is void of any critical content that might offend one group or another. We must not hesitate too long and remember to heed the advice that it is natural to be reluctant. The secret to success is understanding the purpose your brand stands for, so leaders will rise up and act without hesitation.
You can’t win them all, but you can lose them all. In the attempt to avoid controversy, we should not go silent. The opportunity cost is too great. If you don’t like expressing your values, you will like irrelevance even less. We might lose half our customers by taking a stand on the wrong social platform, but we will most assuredly lose all of our consumers by taking no stand at all.
Consumers are demanding emotional connection to brands. They want connection to our values, so don’t hide them. Refine them to withstand the turbulent waters ahead.
When we know who we are, we won’t sway from month to month. Conversely, when our brand shifts with every wind and every wave, we offend one group one month, and we offend our remaining advocates the next. Consistency in brand values is the North Star of brand management in the Participation Age.
You can read more about branding, the Participation Age, North Star values and much more in my new book, Surfing the Black Wave: Leadership in a Digital Age, available now on Amazon.