News and Insights

Brands Taking a Stand

March 10, 2019

What I’ve been observing at SXSW 2019 is a repetition of several major themes and trends. My goal is to turn the trends into practical advice for marketers and brands.

One of the major cross-cutting themes  I’ve identified is the intersection between brands, societal good and politics. With the rise of social media brands have needed to take on more of a human personality and people have become influencers.  There is even an industry helping people develop their “personal brand.”

The introductory narrative in the “brand: the new political reality” session of SXSW 2019 nailed it when they stated “As consumers are asking more and more of brands, brands must have answers to remain relevant.  When a newsworthy event occurs, the news travels fast and is has accelerated from it taking months, to weeks, to days, to minutes before it gets in front of your audience.”

This evolution can help brands move their audiences from “transactional loyalty” defined as the audience remains loyal as long as they receive a tangible benefit ( lowest price, most rewards points etc… ) to “attitudinal loyalty” defined as the audience remains loyal because they share my values and it represents me.  

A notion that really stuck with me is “brands don’t have to take a side, but they do have to take a stand”

If your brand is true to its values, it takes a stand and will unify all of its allies (this includes competitors). This was true for Patagonia when they took a stand to support Bears Ears National Monument. The action had nothing to do with improving brand sentiment, nor was it expected to increase sales.  As a matter of fact, they partnered with their competitors. Because according to their values it was the right thing to do.

Another example is the issue of voter registration.  Brands like Lyft offered half-priced rides during the 2018 midterm elections.  Snapchat partnered with TurboVote to create a new tool is built into the app for all US users allowing them to register to vote within the app.


This supports a larger consumer trend that has emerged.  Tribalism – consumers don’t want to be categorized by age, gender, or other traditional demographics. They prefer “tribes” bonded by common interests or principles.

My advice for brands is to have a clear mission, aligned with defined values and develop products and practices that support your identified tribe. When issues in the real world challenge those values, remember you don’t have to choose a side, but you do need to take a stand.  Don’t be afraid to rally your tribe, even if they are competitors. Don’t expect or try to turn these actions into Marketing. Consumers are smarter than that.

There are tools, insights, and methodologies to help you measure these intangibles. Please feel free to reach out if you’d like to learn more

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