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Tim Downs takes a look at brands that got political in 2017 and what they should consider before jumping on the issues bandwagon in 2018.

Posted on Tue 9th Jan, 2018 in: Advice, Culture, Industry Comment, Reputation Management by Chloe Matthbury

2017 was a year when brands got political and issues campaigns came to the fore.

In some cases it was in direct response to government policies and in others it was launching campaigns that tackled societal issues. Both were about challenging the status quo to deliver positive social influence – something at Aberfield we know a little about.

It pretty much started from as far back as January as the likes of Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Nike and Starbucks all took a stance on Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban on certain predominantly Muslim countries.

Here in the UK there were issues campaigns such as Sport England’s This Girl Can and The Great Get Together, organised by Brendan Cox, the husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, which directly sought to tackle the lack of community togetherness.

But there were also some slightly more misguided attempts to present socially cohesive messages that lacked the credibility to be able to deliver them. Kendall Jenner’s ad for Pepsi springs to mind and it suffered the appropriate backlash as consumers rightfully questioned the authenticity of a fizzy drink’s ability to bring about world peace.

As we move into 2018 and the continuing polarisation of views and positions, there will be the temptation for brands and agencies to pitch and adopt campaigns that promote socially positive messages, in the belief that we’ll all just get on board and support it.

But before you reach for the warm and fuzzy button just take a minute to sense check if it’s the appropriate direction for you.  It’s fine to tackle negativity, but consumers are increasingly on the lookout for brands and organisations that jump on bandwagons and lack the depth and authenticity to back it up.

If you want to support a cause or genuinely tackle an issue, you need to make sure that you are prepared to see it through in a meaningful way. While we might desire a bit of positivity in our lives, there is nothing that makes consumers happier than seeing a brand get its comeuppance for false platitudes.

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