Monday, August 8

Brands That Go "Political"

Manhattan Storage (a storage facility here in Manhattan - duh) is running a campaign in support of New York's recent "approval" of gay marriage.  In one of the executions, any newlywed couple gets 3 months free storage, but there are several versions as part of the campaign.  So smart and so clever ... one of many brands capitalizing on the new market opportunity here in New York.  Also not the only issue that Manhattan Storage has taken on, come to think of it.

When I saw the campaign, though, it got me thinking.  When brands go "political" it's quite a risk.  Sure, those that agree with the political statements are going to love the brand.  But those who don't are likely to turn away.  It's a business risk.

Kenneth Cole knows this only too well.  The brand's political satire has long been the "voice" of the advertising and has hinted at issues such as anti-war, pro-choice, equal rights ... quite a few political issues through the years.  It's kept him and the brand in hot water for quite some time.  Just recently in fact.

And then there's Chick fil-A, the chain of fast food chicken restaurants known best for their cows.  while clearly not "political", the company is decidedly Christian in its orientation and in its mission, thanks to its Founder and CEO.  Even closed on Sundays, nationwide.  Talk about making a decision that can impact sales ... you only get 6 days a week to make money, not 7.

Are moves like these risky?  Is it ok for a brand to have ethical views and make political statements?

Or ... is it just really really good targeting?  Knowing your audience and serving yourself up in a way that they will connect and relate.  Making a choice about the kind of brand you are going to be and the kind of person you are going to attract.  And perhaps have an intensely loyal following as a result.  I actually think it's quite smart.

That should make you think ... what's your experience?  Jim

Jim Joseph
President of Lippe Taylor
Author of The Experience Effect


  1. I think the "political" brush is getting used too broadly here, Jim.

    Chick-fil-A isn't making a political statement by not being open on Sunday. The no-Sundays approach and overt display of Christian values (both within and outside the restaurants) comes from the owner's long-standing religious beliefs.

    True, the end-result may be the same: people who don't believe in the same religious principles may not patronize the restaurant, but there's a big difference between carrying your long-held personal religious values into your business versus running ads and promotions based on current political issues in the news (which seems to be one of the things that has gotten Kenneth Cole some negative social media flack this year).

  2. You're absolutely right, Mike. I used the term "political" way way too broadly. The point I want to make, though, is that when brands take a stand, it can in fact be very good targeting. Always good to hear from you! Jim.

  3. I can think of 2 examples off the top of my head. One is recent and I think very smart. Like Manhattan Storage, Del Posto is capitalizing on the passage of gay marriage by offering packages for receptions. They posted the promotion on Facebook and offered it through Gilt. It makes sense for them - it's targeted to the audience and kept local.

    The other is much different. There is a farm in Chester, NJ where I used to take my niece and nephew to pick pumpkins, hayride, etc. It's a big draw in the Fall. I see license plates from NY, PA in addition to NJ. As you walk around the grounds, there are Bush/Cheney stickers everywhere. While Morris County is a Republican stronghold in NJ, they need to consider the wide range of their customers during this peak season. I am moderate in my political views but thought it was odd to share political leanings in this type of a venue. I am sure people to the left of center may take a offense and leave.

    As with anything else -- choose your message wisely.

  4. There's a couple things to keep in mind about the brands you highlighted.

    Manhattan Mini-Storage is in a city that is open (broadly speaking) to gay marriage... so the ad wasn't that much of a stretch.

    Chick-fil-A was started in the south and they have a huge base down there... and church is important to a vast amount of the southern population - again, not a huge stretch. Although, I'd be more than happy to open the first Chick-fil-A in NYC!

  5. True enough - know your market, right?! Jim.

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