Should Your Food Brand Get Political?

brand politics

It’s an undeniably charged time in American politics, and strong opinions have emerged on either side of the aisle. Food brands have the ability to have a voice, and we can increasingly see brands taking a public stance on a particular viewpoint. For instance, who can forget Chick Fil-A‘s unabashed pride over their conservative Christian beliefs, or the time when Ben and Jerry’s jumped into campaign mode during the 2016 election by creating the ‘Bernie’s Yearning’ flavor? Some food companies have decided to make politics a cornerstone of their business and brand. But is the right decision for your business? Let’s dive into the implications of brand politics.

Choosing to take a stand

“In a society in which everything from watching football to buying organic vegetables is seen as a political act, it’s tempting to want to declare your tribalist identity. If that’s who you are as a CEO and you have the support to do it, then that’s a smart thing to do. If you’d rather not alienate 30-50% of your market though, that’s also understandable.”
Scott Maxwell, Founder, OpenView Venture Partners

The Forbes Agency Counsel goes over nine points to think about before taking your political stance public. In general, there are two common themes that you should focus on:

  • Your political stance needs to be authentic to your business. Avoid hopping on a political movement because it’s trendy – it’s hard to change your brand’s opinion in the future. Make sure what you decide is in line with the core values and vision of your business.
  • Make sure you fully understand the implications of taking a stance. Sure, we all hear about the burning of Nike shoes or restaurant boycotts from customers, but the ramifications go beyond your audience. There is a potential that you are also alienating current employees or future investors. Whatever you choose will be thoroughly ingrained in every aspect of your culture going forward.

Staying Swiss

While there are obvious risks in taking a stance, remaining neutral can also come with consequences. It’s more and more common for millennial shoppers to expect brands to pick sides, and many will only show patronage to the brands that fit their values. This can also be true when building a team, and in today’s tight job market, job seekers are choosier when making sure a potential company is in line with their beliefs. This article from Inc looks at each side of the coin.

No matter your position, don’t enter in your brand politics lightly. Competition is tight, and every decision matters. If you can, seek guidance from your investors, stakeholders, and consumers who represent your target audience. It’s certainly becoming more common for brands to take a stance on the issues, but it doesn’t make sense for every company.

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