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Purpose-Oriented Campaigns See Pushback

We open our textbook with the Nike-Colin Kaepernick case study. The case study shows how Nike’s support of Kaepernick (in spite the quarterback’s controversial position to not stand during the national anthem) improved the brand’s reputation and increased sales. While it alienated some Americans, those most bothered were not in Nike’s target market.

The same might be said about other brands that have taken strong stands. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing brand, has gained a loyal customer base by aligning itself with environmental and social causes. Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability and activism resonates with consumers who prioritize these values, leading to increased brand loyalty and support. The ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s has consistently taken a stand on social and political issues, such as LGBTQ rights and climate change. By aligning their brand with progressive values, Ben & Jerry’s has cultivated a strong customer base that appreciates their commitment to social responsibility.

Now we are seeing more brands making stands for transgender and gay rights that are getting pushback and even facing boycotts. Even the conservative brand Chick-fil-A (not open on Sundays) was criticized for showing support for diversity and inclusiveness. Here are summaries of a few articles that highlight recent controversies (I got a gift link for these New York Times articles — I think that means that even if you are not a subscriber, you can read for 30 days).

  1. Ad Flap Leaves Bitter Aftertaste for Bud Light and Warning for Big Business,” (New York Times April 25, 2023), “Bud Light’s marketing effort with a transgender influencer has put it “in the center of the culture wars in a way that no company could possibly want to be,” one observer said.”
  2. Why Chick-fil-A Is Drawing Fire Over a ‘Culture of Belonging’” (New York Times, May 31, 2023). “The fast-food chain, once a darling of conservatives, has joined other corporations in pursuing diversity, equity and inclusion policies, prompting some on the right to accuse it of going “woke.””
  3. Brands Embracing Pride Month Confront a Volatile Political Climate” (New York Times, May 25, 2023), Target became the latest company to adjust plans for marketing supportive of the L.G.B.T.Q. community after it faced backlash from some customers.

These threats have caused many firms to temper their purpose-oriented claims. That said, a KPMG survey cited in a June 13, 2023 Wall Street Journal article reports “70% of U.S. chief executives said that their company’s ESG programs improve their financial performance, up from 37% a year earlier.”

The following class discussion questions which might be done in assigned for discussion board posts, in-class small groups, paired partners, or simply a full class discussion.

  1. Explore the risks and benefits of purposeful advertising and promotion.

Instruct students to consider examples from the articles and their own knowledge of brands and campaigns.

Risks of purposeful advertising and promotion: Alienation of certain consumer segments with differing values or political beliefs. Potential backlash and boycotts from consumers who disagree with the brand’s stance. Damage to brand reputation and long-term growth if purposeful advertising is not aligned with the brand’s core values or lacks authenticity.

Benefits of purposeful advertising and promotion: Building brand reputation. Differentiation from competitors. Increased customer loyalty – when purpose aligns with target customers’ values. Enhanced customer engagement. Attracting new customer segments. Employee attraction and retention.

  1. Analyze the impact of purposeful advertising on brand perception and consumer loyalty.

Instruct students to analyze the impact of purposeful advertising on brand perception and consumer loyalty using the examples provided. Ask them to discuss how purposeful advertising can attract support and generate controversy simultaneously. Encourage them to consider the importance of understanding target audiences and the potential long-term consequences for brands.

The answers to question 1 might come up here as the questions are similar, but in addition: Positive word of mouth. Brand advocacy and evangelism. Attraction of like-minded customers.

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