How to Navigate the Murky Waters of Taking a Stand on Social Issues

How to Navigate the Murky Waters of Taking a Stand on Social Issues

Kaepernick’s supporters might have thought the branding was too trite for the issue at hand, and he has plenty of detractors who could (and did) leave Nike behind. But today, more consumers are looking for brands that support their values, and Nike’s risk turned out to be a reward. Government-funded initiatives cannot answer the growing need for physical and social support across the vast array of issues around the world. And according to one study by Sprout Social, two-thirds of consumers prefer brands that take a stand on social and political issues. To be this kind of catalyst for positive change, however, entrepreneurs need to do the following: 1. Social media has empowered the public to call out campaigns that miss the mark, so it’s essential that initiatives aren’t just lip service but are genuinely tackling a need that corresponds with the brand’s true north. This campaign builds neatly on Reebok’s strong background of being a female-focused brand while rejoicing in empowered women. Use your customers as your guide. Because Peloton’s customers were open to sharing stories with the company and the brand was willing to listen, it created a strong campaign about more than just exercise bikes. But with more brands such as Nike, Levi’s and Reebok rooting themselves in purpose to reflect their audience, they’ve only stood to gain more followers and help genuine causes progress in the world.

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Use your clout as an entrepreneur to be the change agent you wish to see in the world.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When Nike decided to feature Colin Kaepernick for its 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” slogan, it challenged itself and its audience.

It was risky. Nike could have lost enough followers to put its company at risk. Kaepernick’s supporters might have thought the branding was too trite for the issue at hand, and he has plenty of detractors who could (and did) leave Nike behind. But today, more consumers are looking for brands that support their values, and Nike’s risk turned out to be a reward.

Government-funded initiatives cannot answer the growing need for physical and social support across the vast array of issues around the world. And according to one study by Sprout Social, two-thirds of consumers prefer brands that take a stand on social and political issues. As a result, supporting a point of view on social issues is becoming more table stakes than nice-to-have philosophies, particularly for entrepreneurs wanting to appeal to millennials.

Stand firm — even amid controversy

More and more companies are participating in social movements. For example, in 2016, Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh wrote an open letter asking gun owners to no longer carry their firearms into the brand’s retail stores and offices after a consumer’s gun accidentally went off in a store as he was trying on a pair of pants. Although some customers were upset about the decision, the brand stood firm. It also established a fund called “The Safer Tomorrow Fund” that’s aiming to help nonprofits and youth activists as they labor to end gun violence in the U.S.

While big brands can be powerful forces, they often find it difficult to take a stand. They might feel like they have too much to lose if things go wrong, or maybe they have to jump through several corporate hoops before they can proceed with a new strategy — which takes time and can involve a lot of red tape. On the other hand, entrepreneurs have an opportunity to drive the market forward and create actual change.

Startups can get behind causes more quickly for a few reasons. They are smaller and…

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