How Should Brands Adapt to a Post-Truth World?

How Should Brands Adapt to a Post-Truth World?. The video comes from Stop Funding Hate (SFH), a group that launched in August to pressure companies to stop advertising in three UK newspapers—the Daily Mail, Daily Express, and The Sun—which have been publishing “divisive hate campaigns” against minorities. A statement issued by the company said: “We fully appreciate the strength of feeling on this issue; but withdrawing advertising on the basis of editorial coverage would be inconsistent with our democratic principles which include freedom of speech and remaining apolitical.” Similarly, Walkers, a snack food manufacturer, has reportedly refused to stop advertising in The Sun, even though brand endorser Gary Lineker, a sports broadcaster and retired English footballer, has publicly supported the SFH movement. “It’s as though consumers are recognising that it’s brands, and not politicians, that can make change,” Campana said. “Brands are the ones with the resources and they are the ones that can make a change, for example, by not funding particular newspapers. But brands also have real relationships with consumers. If they are perceived to be doing the wrong thing, people can feel personally let down.” While a large corporation like LEGO, which isn’t based out of the UK, might be able to afford to take a stand by ending relationships with a relatively niche section of the European press, a treasured British brand like John Lewis is more restricted. In the case of LEGO, a very personal video message posted by a dad ultimately persuaded the company to listen. “The imagery of the brand is very powerful. Political marketing is a huge industry and politicians like Trump are evoking masculine, nationalistic imagery to resonate with voters.” The SFH Christmas video, which went live in November, now has over 8 million views on Facebook.

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There’s a viral video making the rounds on Facebook with all the standard trappings of a Christmas advert: emotive music, idyllic festive images, and a soothing typeface. But even though we’ve reached the point in the year when people start talking about which Christmas ad has successfully pulled at their heartstrings, this clip isn’t from a retailer looking to attract shoppers; it’s for a grassroots campaign aimed at influencing brands.

The video comes from Stop Funding Hate (SFH), a group that launched in August to pressure companies to stop advertising in three UK newspapers—the Daily Mail, Daily Express, and The Sun—which have been publishing “divisive hate campaigns” against minorities.

In four months, SFH has attracted over 210,000 likes on Facebook, which serves as its main platform. (There’s no website.) Thus far, the group has already helped influence LEGO, which recently announced it stopped advertising in the Daily Mail. The Co-operative Group, a British collection of wholesale and retail businesses, hasn’t officially pulled its business, but its ad plan for next year is “under consideration.”

(Full disclosure: LEGO is a Contently client.)

By contrast, John Lewis, another big brand targeted by the campaign, remains unmoved, despite the apparent support for SFH from some of its workforce. A statement issued by the company said: “We fully appreciate the strength of feeling on this issue; but withdrawing advertising on the basis of editorial coverage would be inconsistent with our democratic principles which include freedom of speech and remaining apolitical.”

Similarly, Walkers, a snack food manufacturer, has reportedly refused to stop advertising in The Sun, even though brand endorser Gary Lineker, a sports broadcaster and retired English footballer, has publicly supported the SFH movement. “Our advertising approach is not determined by the editorial stances of individual newspapers,” a Walkers spokesperson told Marketing Week.

Where do brands stand if they’re unsure how to proceed? The Oxford English Dictionary classified “post-truth” as the 2016 word of the year, but do brands have a responsibility to engage in an increasingly polarised political debate?

Dr. Mario Campana, lecturer in marketing and consumer behaviour at Goldsmiths University, London, pointed out that companies walk a tightrope in these situations. They can respond to pressure groups like SFH and risk alienating some customers, or abstain from action and look like they’re alienating other customers.

“It’s as though consumers are recognising that it’s brands, and not politicians, that can make…

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