There was a lot of hoopla in 2018 due to ads major corporations released, such as Nike’s ad featuring Colin Kaepernick and Pepsi’s ad featuring Kendall Jenner.
Sure, Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad was controversial and appeared as if Nike was taking a side. However, how much of this stance is simply a marketing strategy versus Nike actually taking a side remains to be seen. Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad, on the other hand, came across as disingenuous and an obvious marketing attempt poorly executed.
Does Nike actually care about the social issues Kaepernick was trying to highlight? Or was it simply one of the largest market opportunities out there? Nike surely weighed a lot of variables: many in the millennial generation--the largest group of Americans--consider social responsibility when choosing where they shop and work. Indeed, social responsibility can boost sales and help with employee recruitment.
While large corporations choose their way forward, what are small businesses doing? Some more obvious ways include being a social enterprise or a certified B corp. But there are other ways your business can be socially responsible. For example, you can contribute a portion of revenue to and/or volunteer for causes you support.
The key takeaway is to be genuine. If you try to incorporate social responsibility in your marketing and it is not genuine, can your business weather the fallout? Large corporations like Pepsi can, but can yours? I have used this example in the past. Large businesses like Nike or Pepsi are similar to aircraft carriers whereas small businesses are like speed boats. When you make a decision for your small business and take a turn, it happens quicker and is much more noticeable. With a large aircraft carrier, the turn is gradual and less conspicuous. When adding your social conscience or political belief into your small business, it will be noticeable so it is best to be genuine in what you are putting out there.
Match your values with those of your business
The easiest way to be genuine is to incorporate your values into your business.
- First, what are your values?
- Do they guide what kinds of clients you work with?
- Does it make sense to fit them into your business?
- Should you share them in your marketing?
In some ways, these answers may be cut and dry. For instance, a core value of mine--and Freedom Makers--is freedom. It makes sense to use that value to guide who we work with and include it in our marketing. I mean, it is even in our name!
But should someone consider social causes when determining who to accept as clients or include religion in their marketing? Those decisions may not seem so obvious to some as others. To some, these decisions may seem political and thus crosses a line. To others, they are so integral to who they are, it cannot be ignored. But again like a speedboat that makes a choice in direction, be prepared that it will affect your business and be noticeable to the public.
As long as you are genuine and it is not hurting your business, go for it. Phil Knight may have said it best, “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it. And as long as you have that attitude, you can’t be afraid of offending people. You can’t try and go down the middle of the road.”