Should Brands Have a Voice When it Comes to Politics?

Have you gone onto your Facebook page lately and seen endless amounts of statuses, memes, comments, and videos of people incessantly sharing their political views? If you haven’t, then you’ve been spared the headache. But, it seems as though your aunt Linda isn’t the only one voicing her opinion. Brands have taken it upon themselves to make it known where they stand; either on the right, left, middle, wherever. If a brand’s views aligns with yours, it gives you all the more reason to follow and support this brand, right? But if you happen to disagree, like really disagree, to the point where you’re getting into Twitter battles with opposers, or even unfollow said brand, things can get ugly for them real quick. Companies could and actually have been losing loyal customers because of this, and are missing out on opportunities to gain new ones because of their newfound political voice. So, should brands be voicing their opinions or just stick to what they know and sell product?

This country’s current political climate is very heated right now. Weeks leading up to the 2016 Election were tense but now that we have a new President, forget about it. Conversations between friends and coworkers can’t be had without making a jab at politics. Young children are even expressing opinions because what’s happening right now is affecting everyone, no matter how old. Social media only adds to this by giving people a platform to articulate their thoughts, vent their issues, and communicate with others who share (or don’t share) their views. Individuals aren’t the only ones doing this. Some brands feel the need to voice their opinion, while others choose to stay neutral in order to avoid any conflict whatsoever.

If you watched this year’s Super Bowl, you definitely saw the mysterious ad from 84 Lumber called “The Journey Begins” featuring a Mexican woman and her daughter traveling to the U.S.; when they arrive at the U.S. they are faced with a border wall. The Fox network actually rejected the original ad to avoid controversy. The ad was then cut short and the end of the ad would have to be seen on the company’s website. Millions were curious as to what happened to the mother and daughter, so curious that 84 Lumber’s website crashed that night.

Brands like this one feel compelled to speak up about controversial topics, due to the fact that everyone purposely avoids them or sweeps them under the rug every time they are brought up. They feel that much more obligated to bring light to them and in doing so, they firmly mark their line in the sand of where they stand. However, the risks here are tremendous. Back in January when Starbucks announced that they plan to hire 10,000 refugees in response to President Trump’s travel ban, the internet went crazy, threatening to boycott the coffee chain because they would rather assist foreign refugees than Americans. Another instance happened in January as well with the ride-hail company, Uber, when the company switched off its surge pricing during the time of a union taxi strike at John F. Kennedy Airport. Many took it as them protesting the support of the travel ban and as a result, #DeleteUber took the internet by storm. This goes to show that with whatever intentions you may think you have, nothing can stop the power of the Internet.

While some companies intentionally take a political stand, others choose to stay neutral in order to avoid any conflicts with current or potential business. They do not want to insult or alienate anybody. But whether you choose to make your views known or keep them on the back burner, this political climate is just getting warmed up, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see what unfolds over the next four years.