It’s Complicated: Political Stances and Your Business
The more politicized the world becomes, the more difficult it is to build a business on particular ideals. It is even more difficult for long-established businesses to weigh in on political issues – especially those issues impacting their consumer base or day-to-day functions.
For example, a business built up to sell fair-trade chocolate can readily express its political standpoint on that particular issue. The company has invested time and resources into its stance, and that opinion (and applicable keywords) will draw in consumers.
Take a long-established chocolate seller, though, who procures chocolate through alternative means. To move over to fair trade practices or to express a desire for more fair trade practices is to a) admit to a past mistake or business practice that’s no longer beneficial, and b) to risk alienating a portion of the consumer audience with the threat of change.
So then the issue becomes this: How can a business change or express a political stance without compromising consumer interest? Furthermore, where is the line between expressing a message and capitalizing off of a message?
The Reality of Expression
Here’s the thing: whenever your business comes out to express an opinion, you’re going to irritate someone. It can be a little thing, too. Say your business tweets out support of the Purdue basketball team. Indiana University fans may get offended, and some may withhold their business for a short period of time.
Much the same pattern will arise if your business shows support of the #MeToo movement, a political policy, a public firing and so on.
The truth is that there is literally no way to engage with the modern political moment as a business without impacting your sales. You can’t keep your content from offending everyone. If you try, you’ll find yourself working with generic content that disappears from consumer minds as soon as they see it.
Taking a Stand
There are two ways, then, that you can approach this issue: express a business-oriented political stance and stand by that stance, or refuse to engage with the political moment entirely. While many businesses have succeeded, thus far, in separating themselves from modern political discourse, this may not always be possible.
That’s why it’s important to start outlining your business’s political stance early. Interweave these ideas into your online About pages, your daily practices, and your consumer-oriented blogs. While you don’t have to make a fuss about what you’re doing, you’ll still be able to point back to those markers if you ever choose to further elaborate on your stance via social media.
Capitalization Versus Messaging
Finally, what’s the difference between expressing a political idea and capitalizing off of one?
Let’s return to the fair trade example. A fair trade chocolate business both holds to a political message and capitalizes on it. This means the business is built on the ideals of fair commerce, but that it also uses that message to draw in like-minded consumers.
Compare that practice to, say, environmental activism as expressed through a plastic water bottle company’s marketing materials. Unless the company in question is actively trying to reduce its carbon footprint, use of fossil fuels and so on, a plastic water bottle company that uses environmental imagery to sell its product is capitalizing off of a message.
All that to say: don’t use modern political movements just to sell your product. If you do, your audience will notice, and your reputation will change accordingly.
Deciding whether or not to weigh in on a political moment through your business is difficult, and doing so is challenging. That said, take care to embody the messages you put forward through your business. While artificially taking a stand may generate increased conversions for a short while, your business’s reputation may be harmed for your efforts later down the road.
Image attribution: pogonici – stock.adobe.com