Brands Take Stands: How Nike Just Did It Better Than Ever

Nike just did it. Other brands are doing it. And overall, social media just got a bit more political, as brands take stands. The “2018 Edelman Earned Brand” study was just released that shows nearly 65% of consumers around the world now buy on belief, or buy from brands that have similar beliefs as they do, about morals, values, social issues and politics.

brands take stands

Nike just did it. Other brands are doing it. And overall, social media just got a bit more political, as brands take stands.

The “2018 Edelman Earned Brand” study (opens as a PDF) was just released that shows nearly 65% of consumers around the world now buy on belief, or buy from brands that have similar beliefs as they do, about morals, values, social issues and politics. These consumers state that they will choose, switch or boycott a brand accordingly. And important to note, the number of customers saying this is how they choose and align loyalty went up 13% from 2017. While this was a global study, the increase in just the U.S. was 12% points, year-over-year.

Referring to these customers as “Belief-Driven” buyers, Edelman’s research points out that they are the majority of buyers in all marketers and across all age groups surveyed in this recent global survey. And surprisingly, the biggest increase in belief-driven purchasing choices is among the 55 years and older group. Just FYI, the increase in Millennials was 9%, in GenX, 14% and Baby Boomers, 55%.

Yet when Nike took a recent stand by featuring Colin Kaepernick in a new ad, social media lit up with videos and photos of consumers burning their expensive Nike shoes, and posts about how Nike “Just Blew It.” For a minute, Nike’s stock value dropped. Note: for a minute. Days after the fury and flurry died down in the media waves, the stock value soared 4% to an all-time high, and online sales the weekend the ad hit shot up 31%. Hard to believe when following all of the hate posts on Facebook and Twitter.

So what does all of this mean?

Psychologically, here are some insights about human behavior:

  • When someone pushes our buttons and make us angry, we react. Sometimes we erupt and kick the wall and tell the world what just happened to us in impassioned conversations online and offline. And then, in a few hours, we calm down and sometimes we start to see both sides of an issue and relax our position. But most importantly, we forget about it and focus on the next situation that pushes a button deep inside us. Think about it. Are you still boycotting a brand that made you upset 10 years ago? And do you even remember why it did?
  • Popularity and familiarity trump us all. Donald Trump always said any headline is a good headline, as people forget the bad deeds but they don’t forget your name. His name “awareness” certainly seems to have helped build his brand in many ways. And it’s true for how we vote and purchase. We go with what is familiar to us, even if we have some concerns. You hear it all of the time, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”
  • Consumers view brands as not just manufacturers of goods and providers of services, but as “movements.” Tom’s Shoes started this new genre of commerce with his movement to give away a pair of shoes for every shoe purchased. This promise enables him to sell shoes that cost $9 to manufacture for around $70 or more, and built his revenue to more than $20 million in just three years.

Consumers care about products and they care about your movement and they want you to take a stand and tell them about it. According to Edelman’s report, 60% of the 8,000 consumers worldwide responding to this survey believe that brands should make it easier for consumers to see what their values and positions are when they are about to make a position, even at the point of sale. Whole Foods grocers is a good example of this. Throughout their stores, they have information about recycling, how to reduce your carbon imprint; they have environmentally friendly bags, products, and engage customers in educational events that build their whole healthy self and preserve their world at the same time. It’s a movement, not just a store.

The time is coming for brands to take a stand. Social issues and political issues have become mainstream among all generations. Consumers are taking a stand about gun control, government issues and social issues; and so, too, are their kids. Look at the data above from Edelman’s 2018 brand report. You’re damned if you do (for a day or two per Nike’s stock value changes), and you’re damned if you don’t. And you’re likely damned a lot longer if you don’t take a stand, as the data shows us consumers will purchase from those that have their same values. So if you don’t’ have values and communicate those values, you end up on the neutral line and today, that just won’t cut it.

Determine the values that best reflect your brand. Are they socially, environmentally or politically oriented? What are the values your brand aligns with, what is your stand? How will you communicate your stand and, most importantly, how will you engage your customer and partner communities with these values?

In real estate? How are you supporting homeless programs in your community?

Women’s clothing retail shop? How are you empowering underprivileged women to rise above?

You get it. Now go get on it!

Author: Jeanette McMurtry

Jeanette McMurtry is a psychology-based marketing expert providing strategy, campaign development, and sales and marketing training to brands in all industries on how to achieve psychological relevance for all aspects of a customer's experience. She is the author of the recently released edition of “Marketing for Dummies” (Fifth Edition, Wiley) and “Big Business Marketing for Small Business Budgets” (McGraw Hill). She is a popular and engaging keynote speaker and workshop instructor on marketing psychology worldwide. Her blog will share insights and tactics for engaging B2B and B2C purchasers' unconscious minds which drive 90 percent of our thoughts, attitudes and behavior, and provide actionable and affordable tips for upping sales and ROI through emotional selling propositions. Her blog will share insights and tactics for engaging consumers' unconscious minds, which drive 90 percent of our thoughts and purchasing attitudes and behavior. She'll explore how color, images and social influences like scarcity, peer pressure and even religion affect consumers' interest in engaging with your brand, your message and buying from you. Reach her at Jeanette@e4marketingco.com.

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