Should Your Brand Take a Stand on Controversial or Political Issues?

The unofficial slogan of most huge companies and high manufacturers ought to be, “Look before you leap.”

So, entrepreneurs and businesses working for a giant firm or model title product ought to in all probability take a a lot, a lot nearer look – at Nike’s determination to make Colin Kaepernick the spokesperson in a marketing campaign that claims, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”


Because taking a stand on a controversial political subject to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the model’s slogan, “Just Do It,” in all probability wasn’t a rash or impulsive determination.

In different phrases, the decision-makers at Nike in all probability seemed earlier than they leaped.

How can we inform?

First, Nike didn’t launch this marketing campaign again within the fall of 2016, when the San Francisco 49ers quarterback first sat and later knelt throughout the nationwide anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality within the United States.

In reality, the model didn’t announce its promoting marketing campaign till two years later – on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. This meant the corporate and its promoting company, Wieden + Kennedy, had loads of time to make a data-driven, thought-about determination earlier than doing something.

Was ready two years earlier than taking a stand on a controversial political subject previous information?

Well, “Nike News” was ranked #2 and “Nike Stock” was ranked #Three within the Daily Search Trends on September 4 – behind “Bob Woodward,” however forward of “Bobby Brown” – all of which bought greater than 1 million searches that day, in keeping with Google Trends.

Nike News

Second, Jeetendr Sehdev, the writer of “The Kim Kardashian Principle, which was published on March 21, 2017, recently told Janet Comenos of Adweek that a guiding principle of his best-selling book is to “sacrifice everything if you believe in something,” which is surprisingly much like the tagline for Nike’s newest marketing campaign.

Sehdev mentioned:

“That was my exact vision for the book: to not only empower leading marketers to think differently about building brands but also to change the culture.”

So, one or extra of the decision-makers at Nike or Wieden + Kennedy had loads of time to have learn Sehdev’s ebook and talk about its guiding rules along with his or her colleagues or shopper earlier than launching their marketing campaign.

Third, again in April 2017, Pepsi pulled a controversial advert that includes Kendall Jenner, “Live for Now,” after in the future of intense criticism from individuals who mentioned it trivialized the widespread protests towards the killings of black folks by the police.

At the time, Pepsi launched a assertion, saying:

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout.”

In distinction, Nike stood agency the day after the model publicly introduced that its new marketing campaign would function Kaepernick, regardless of some protesters chopping Nike logos off their socks and burning their Air Jordans and importing their images and movies to social media.

More considerably, Nike held its floor even after its inventory dipped 3.2 p.c on Tuesday, September 4. This signifies that Nike executives, in addition to the model’s entrepreneurs and company, didn’t assume they’d missed their mark.

Well, we’ve now had about two weeks to judge the preliminary outcomes of Nike’s “Dream Crazy” marketing campaign.

So, have been the model’s executives, entrepreneurs, and company loopy? It should be too quickly to inform, however there are some early indicators that they have been loopy like a fox.

For instance, their Twitter advert, “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough. #justdoit,” now has 35.5 million views, making it the model’s high Twitter video of all time.

Their YouTube advert, “Nike – Dream Crazy,” now has 26 million views, making it one of many model’s high 5 YouTube movies of all time.

And their Instagram advert, “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough. #justdoit,” now has 9 million views, making it the model’s high Instavid of all time.

It’s value noting that Nike has uploaded a whole of 32,900 movies to social video platforms since October 20, 2005, in keeping with Tubular Labs.

So, the “Dream Crazy” marketing campaign’s preliminary video efficiency is unmatched by any of the model’s earlier social video campaigns.

You’ll get one other image of simply how unprecedented this new marketing campaign has been by taking a look at Google Trends.

Even with solely partial knowledge accessible for September 2018, search curiosity on Google for Nike (footwear manufacturing firm) is about 2.5 instances increased than it’s ever been since 2004.

And search curiosity on YouTube for Nike (footwear manufacturing firm) is sort of 1.6 instances increased than it’s ever been since 2008.

And, it’s additionally value noting that Google’s Brand Lift resolution makes use of natural searches on each and to measure the influence that a video marketing campaign has on creating curiosity in a model.

Finally, I carried out a seek for Nike utilizing Yahoo final week, and I noticed information on the high of the search engine outcomes web page (SERP).

On September 12, this included a current headline from MarketWatch, “Nike’s online sales jumped 31% after company unveiled Kaepernick campaign, data show.”

And the story’s subhead reads, “Fears of a hit appear overblown as consumers, brand experts and analysts cheer an edgy and risky marketing move.”

You’ll additionally see one other headline from MarketWatch, “Nike upgraded in face of Colin Kaepernick advertising controversy.”

And the story’s subhead reads, “Innovation is paying off and the Jordan brand is gaining momentum, analysts say.”

So, based mostly on the early returns from Nike’s newest marketing campaign, I’d say that it’s in all probability time so that you can ask: “Should we start taking a stand on controversial or political issues?”

But, earlier than you rush out and “Just Do It,” I’d nonetheless suggest that you simply proceed to “Look before you leap” by asking six old style (a.ok.a time-tested) questions – and getting exhausting solutions – forward of time.

1. Who Is Our Target Audience?

Now, market segmentation has been a strategic determination for many huge companies and high manufacturers because the 1920s.

But, in as we speak’s more and more polarized political local weather, it is advisable to be crystal clear about who your audience is earlier than taking stances on hot-button points.

For instance, Patagonia, which was based by environmental activist Yvon Chouinard in 1973, spent $700,000 to run its first TV business in its 44-year historical past final 12 months in response to President Trump’s request to overview 28 of America’s nationwide monuments.

The model additionally uploaded “Why Patagonia is Fighting for Public Lands” to its YouTube channel on August 20, 2017.

After this YouTube video was uploaded, you didn’t see any images or movies of Patagonia’s clients burning their garments for climbing, snowboarding, snowboarding, browsing, fly fishing, paddling, or path operating.


Because Patagonia’s clients love the outside and share the model’s robust standpoint about defending and preserving the atmosphere.

So, who was Nike’s audience for the “Dream Crazy” marketing campaign?

A narrative by Darren Rovell on ESPN, mentioned it was 18- to 29-year-old males. And a Harris ballot of two,026 folks carried out final week for ESPN discovered that 29 p.c of 18- to 29-year-old males mentioned they might buy extra merchandise from the model.

However, ESPN additionally studies that 21 p.c of individuals surveyed mentioned they might cease shopping for Nike merchandise.

John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll, instructed ESPN:

“Nike took a strategic risk to alienate some customers in order to appeal to their core base of 18- to 29-year old males. It was a calculated move to become a more polarizing brand and it seems to have worked.”

Compared to a ballot taken 9 months earlier, Nike’s “Dream Crazy” marketing campaign boosted how positively the 18- to 29-year-old age group considered the model by 6 proportion factors, serving to Nike to catch as much as Under Armour and Adidas.

And in keeping with a story by Sarah Vizard in Marketing Week, new surveys by Toluna of 1,000 shoppers within the U.Okay. and 1,000 shoppers within the U.S. have discovered that youthful shoppers , in addition to those that are Black/African American or Asian, are much more more likely to view the “Dream Crazy” marketing campaign favorably than older, white shoppers, and it’s extra more likely to get them to purchase from Nike sooner or later.

Nike poll

As Mark Ritson, Marketing Week’s columnist, noticed:

“Nike wins big on brand positioning with this campaign. But it loses half on targeting. In that sense it’s one of the boldest branding plays of the year. The big question is whether the massive surge in notoriety, salience, revitalization and meaning across half Nike’s market will offset the negativity among the other half.”

2. What Is Our Campaign’s Message?

Marketers and their businesses additionally have to craft an genuine and highly effective message for his or her model.

This message ought to lie on the intersection of their viewers’s ardour factors and their model’s worth proposition.

So, what can a model say to shoppers to earn their loyalty?

Depending on your model’s id, there are alternative ways to pique your viewers’s curiosity and make them care about your message.

Guy Kawasaki requested me to contribute a couple of pages on this subject to his ebook, “Enchantment“, and I identified four ways to provide intrinsic value to your viewers. You can:

The key to selecting the best advertising or content marketing strategy is choosing the strongest core message and most appropriate tone for your campaign.

Sometimes, you don’t hit the ball out of the park. For example, watch “Burger King | Whopper Neutrality.”

As the video’s description explains:

“The repeal of Net Neutrality is a hot topic in America, but it can be very difficult to understand. That’s why the BURGER KING brand created WHOPPER Neutrality, a social experiment that explains the effects of the repeal of Net Neutrality by putting it in terms anyone can understand: A WHOPPER sandwich.”

In case the connection wasn’t apparent, Burger King added that the model “believes the Internet should be like the Whopper sandwich: the same for everyone.”

Did this message resonate?

Well, “Burger King | Whopper Neutrality” bought virtually 4.6 million views – which ranks 65 out of 11,900 movies uploaded to social video platforms all time.

The common Burger King video on YouTube will get 286,000 views, so it carried out properly about common, if not properly sufficient to high the charts. And “Whopper Neutrality” bought 127,000 Likes vs. 10,000 Dislikes. So, that’s a constructive ratio.

In different phrases, it in all probability helped the model. But, it may need helped much more if the subject wasn’t so obscure or Burger King’s clients cared extra passionately about Net Neutrality.

3. Where Will We Run Our Campaign?

Marketers and types additionally have to assume lengthy and exhausting about the place they may run a marketing campaign.

As I discussed above, Nike uploaded variations of “Dream Crazy” to Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

The model additionally uploaded their new advert to the Nike Football web page on Facebook on September 5. And it briefly bought 28,600 views earlier than it was eliminated or solely made seen to an viewers that I’m not in.

“Nike – Dream Crazy” was additionally uploaded the next day to the Nike Taiwan and Nike Hong Kong pages on Facebook, the place they bought 248,000 and 149,000 views respectively.

If Nike pulled its advert from Facebook, then you need to in all probability assume twice earlier than importing controversial or political movies to all 4 of the most important social video platforms.

And you also needs to learn the article by Kurt Wagner and Rani Molla in Recode, which studies that Facebook disabled 583 million accounts in Q1 2018, down from 694 million accounts in This autumn 2017, a lower the corporate attributes to its “variability of our detection technology’s ability to find and flag them.”

For instance, Facebook eliminated 2.5 million items of “hate speech” in Q1 2018, 56 p.c extra content material than the 1.6 million items it eliminated in This autumn 2017.

However, this content material was primarily recognized by people; solely 38 p.c of the hate speech Facebook eliminated in Q1 of this 12 months was first recognized by algorithms.

Now, that’s an enchancment over 23.6 p.c in This autumn of final 12 months, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a lot smaller than a few of the different content material classes that Facebook seems to be for (e.g., nudity and terrorism-related content material).

That is sensible, as a result of “hate speech” is way more subjective than nudity. What one particular person would possibly describe as hate speech, one other would possibly describe as free speech.

The indisputable fact that Facebook nonetheless has hassle detecting it with out human assist exhibits that this drawback isn’t more likely to go away anytime quickly.

“Hate speech is really hard,” mentioned Alex Schultz, Facebook’s VP of analytics, in a briefing with reporters. “There’s nuance, there’s context. The technology just isn’t there to really understand all of that, let alone in a long, long list of languages.”

So, perhaps the comparatively restricted presence of “Dream Crazy” on Facebook is the “canary in the coal mine” for different huge companies and high manufacturers.

If you’re planning to take a stand on a controversial or political subject, maybe you shouldn’t use Facebook till it makes considerably extra progress figuring out and eradicating “hate speech.”

4. When Should We Use Pre-Testing?

Now, in case you’ve ever had a powerful time making the enterprise case for pre-testing, then the right time to start out is when you’re about to take a stand on a controversial or political subject.

It’s a fairly protected guess that Nike and Wieden + Kennedy used pre-testing forward of time and had a fairly clear image of how their audience would react to their new “Dream Crazy” marketing campaign.

What would pre-testing have instructed them?

Well, we don’t know for positive, however a current article by Adrianne Pasquarelli in Ad Age reported on the early monitoring evaluation of the “Dream Crazy” advert by Morning Consult.

The agency surveyed roughly 2,000 viewers who “dial-tested” the video by weighing in on their favourite components. And in keeping with Morning Consult:

“The results indicate that black Americans, Democrats and younger generations were much more receptive to Kaepernick’s involvement and message than white Americans and Republicans. Additionally, Nike users had a more favorable view throughout than non-Nike users.”

Nike Ad

There are different pre-testing options that Nike may have used.

Back in June, I wrote about two corporations which might be utilizing synthetic emotional intelligence to allow huge companies and high manufacturers the power to pre-test new video campaigns:

  • Realeyes, an emotion tech firm that spun out of Oxford University in 2007.
  • Affectiva, an emotion measurement know-how firm that spun out of MIT’s Media Lab in 2009.

For instance, Realeyes seemed on the sportswear large’s controversial marketing campaign in additional element to uncover what shoppers actually thought. The outcomes are shocking:

  • Kaepernick wasn’t the sports activities star that generated essentially the most unfavorable facial expressions by folks watching the advert.
  • Negative feelings amongst individuals who disliked the advert really peaked throughout the scenes exhibiting tennis star Serena Williams.
  • Most of the unfavorable emotional reactions got here from Nike’s narrative quite than from Kaepernick.
  • Men had extra unfavorable feelings; girls have been extra constructive towards the advert.
  • There was no previous vs younger cut up; the middle-aged demographic was the least constructive.

Since then, I’ve been working with a Fortune 500 firm with a portfolio of iconic manufacturers. It makes use of 4 different pre-testing options:

  • Google’s Consumer Surveys.
  • Facebook’s Creative Compass.
  • Nielsen’s Branded Content Effectiveness Studies.
  • Kantar Millward Brown’s Branded & Sponsored Content Evaluation.

So, regardless of what Nike’s slogan says, you shouldn’t “Just Do It.”

Before what you are promoting or model takes a stand on a controversial or political subject, you need to use pre-testing to “Look before you leap.”

5. Why Can’t We Avoid Taking a Stand?

Fortunately, there’s a lot of analysis accessible that will help you present a data-driven reply to the query: “Why can’t we avoid taking a stand?”

For instance, a survey by Sprout Social, which was revealed on January 9, 2018, discovered that two-thirds of US Internet customers need manufacturers to take a stand on social and political points.

Sprout Social Survey

The Sprout Social survey additionally discovered that 52 p.c of web customers mentioned they might present higher model loyalty and 44 p.c mentioned they might buy extra from manufacturers once they agreed with their social or political beliefs.

But, 53 p.c mentioned they’d buy much less from manufacturers and 33 p.c mentioned they’d boycott a model that didn’t share their values. So, decide your fights fastidiously.

For instance, a July 2018 ballot by Morning Consult discovered 46 p.c of U.S. adults opposed NFL gamers kneeling throughout the anthem. But there have been stark variations in opinion by political affiliation and age.

Republicans have been 81 p.c in opposition, whereas simply 20 p.c of Democrats opposed the protest. And solely 24 p.c of respondents ages 18 to 29 thought kneeling was unacceptable.

This determine rose with age, climbing to 55 p.c for these ages 45 to 54 and to 69 p.c for these 65 and older.

But as I’ve already identified, Nike’s goal market wasn’t older Republicans, which lessened the potential influence of a boycott. But, it didn’t eradicate the chance altogether.

Nevertheless, the backlash could have been value it.

As Allen Adamson, the co-founder of selling consulting agency Metaforce, instructed Diana Pearl from Adweek, a model should take a stand in as we speak’s world — even when it means alienating a few of its clients — with the intention to stay related in addition to to seize shoppers’ consideration:

“Brands that try to please everybody become invisible in today’s marketplace. No matter what you stand for, you’re going to ruffle feathers and upset users. Some consumers will disappear, but others will become even more passionate. It’s better to have people passionate one way or the other than people ignoring you.”

6. How Will We Measure Our Results?

This brings us the ultimate and most essential query it is advisable to ask earlier than taking a stand on controversial or political points:

How will we measure our outcomes?

As we’ve seen from the information cited above, you need to use “views” as a metric. But, I wouldn’t use it as a key efficiency indicator (KPI).


Well, ask your advertising or company folks, “How many views do we need to sell a sneaker?” And don’t be shocked if they’ll’t provide you with a solution.

So, some journalists and bloggers should assume that thousands and thousands of views as a sign of success, however all of us know higher. (You can use promoting to spice up the variety of views that your video will get. So, in case your video will get extra views, then perhaps your model had a greater funds.)

You can – and will – pre-test your advert marketing campaign. But the samples for pre-tests are comparatively small. So, they aren’t one of the best ways to measure outcomes.

YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter supply advertisers Brand Lift research, which allow you to ask your audience questions like:

  • Do you recall seeing an advert for [brand] on-line or on a cellular gadget within the final 2 days?
  • Which of the next involves thoughts first if you consider [brand]?
  • Will you suggest [brand] to a pal?
  • Have you heard of [brand]?
  • Will you purchase/contemplate [brand] the subsequent time you store for Digital Experience?

For instance, Google’s Brand Lift resolution measures model consciousness, advert recall, consideration, favorability, and buy intent by isolating a randomized management group (a.ok.a. holdout group) that isn’t proven your video advert and an uncovered group that does see your advert on YouTube.

About a day after seeing (or not seeing) your video advert on YouTube, Google delivers a one-question survey to each teams.

Since the one efficient distinction between the 2 teams is whether or not they noticed your video advert on YouTube, Google can precisely decide the carry attributed to your marketing campaign.

Google Brand lift

Google’s Brand Lift resolution additionally measures the influence your marketing campaign has on creating curiosity in your model by utilizing natural searches on each Google and YouTube.

Similar to surveys, Google randomly picks a group that noticed your advert and a management group that didn’t see your advert.

They then examine the natural search conduct of each teams, taking a look at how typically your audience searches for key phrases associated to your model or marketing campaign. The distinction in searches can then be attributed to your marketing campaign.

But, for Nike’s “Dream Crazy” marketing campaign, the metric that mattered essentially the most was gross sales.

The key knowledge was supplied by Edison Trends, which disclosed that on-line gross sales of Nike merchandise dropped the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and rebounded on Monday and Tuesday in each 2017 and 2018. However, this 12 months on-line gross sales of Nikes rebounded a lot increased.

Edison Trends mentioned:

“This past Labor Day there was speculation that Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad campaign could lead to a drop in sales. Edison Trends investigated the sales over the holiday and its research, at this point, does not seem to support that theory. In fact, Nike sales grew 31 percent from Sunday through Tuesday over Labor Day this year, besting 2017’s comparative 17 percent increase.”

Online Sales of Nike Products - Edison Trends

Yes, the surveys by Morning Consult, the Harris Poll, and Toluna supplied context, however the arguments ended when everybody came upon that the “Dream Crazy” marketing campaign had offered extra sneakers.

So, to the extent that it’s potential for what you are promoting or model, measure the influence of taking a stand on a controversial political subject in chilly, exhausting money.

Or, as David Ogilvy wrote again in 1983 in his traditional ebook, Ogilvy on Advertising:

“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

In different phrases, proceed to “Look before you leap.” But, based mostly on the early returns from Nike’s newest marketing campaign, it’s in all probability time for what you are promoting or model to take a stand on controversial or political points.

More Resources:

Image Credits

Screenshots taken by writer, September 2018

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