Are You Mixing a “Molotov” With Your Brand and Current Politics?

Monedelez, Unilever, Rockwool, and Ecco got some negative headlines in their PR scrapbook when the war in Ukraine began. They became a political hostage of war overnight and were reluctant to shut down their Russian business.

Having active business operations in Russia is not taken lightly. Should they stay, or should they go? Well, European and US retailers and consumers strongly favour the latter, and the future will show if they are ready to boycott certain brands because of their political convictions or lack of the same.

Swept Up or Diving In?

Whether you like it or not, your brand is part of society, culture, and, inevitably, politics. So you must act accordingly.

Some brands are swept up by the current political tide. Freia, a Norwegian chocolate brand, is such a case. Retailers are boycotting the brand because its owner, Mondelez, still pays taxes in Russia. Freia is taken hostage between an American owner and the Norwegian consumers. The result is rapidly declining trust and affinity that will require hard work to rebuild.

Others go head first into political matters. Recently, Bud Light launched a campaign featuring a transgender actor to cater for another US demographic. However, it really upset its main consumer group, a predominantly conservative audience. And when Bud Light subsequently dropped the campaign, LGBTQI+ activists took to the keyboards. The result was dropping sales figures by 23%.

The intent was probably fine. It was just the wrong brand. AB InBev had positioned its brand, Bud Light, towards a specific audience who didn’t welcome the message.

Don’t Do Politics.

Many have probably peeked at Nike’s campaign with Colin Kaepernick and thought: “We should do the same!” It has been a successful campaign for the American sportswear brand. And it makes sense, considering that 68% of consumers in the US prefer brands to be clear about their values (Kantar Monitor).

But that doesn’t mean Nike builds its brand around “civil rights”. It’s still focused on “high performance”, as it’s clearly linked to its products.

There seems to be a trend among brands to become political. However, tread cautiously as the landscape changes quickly and good intentions can easily backfire. That’s why it’s dangerous to build your brand around a political topic if your product doesn’t have a natural link to the cause.

So don’t ask yourself, “What current political issue should my brand tackle?” Rather ask: “What cultural shift is relevant for our brand over the next decade?”