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Why Taking a Political Stance Is the Biggest Mistake a Brand Can Make

J. Walker Smith

Though the pressure is high to be a brand with an agenda, taking a political stance doesn’t grow the brand and can negatively impact stock value

Politics is risky business for brands, yet brands are under pressure like never before to take political stances. Activist consumers have carried their politics over to retail products. Despite these pressures, brands should think twice, even thrice, before jumping into politics.

Brands are not politicians. Taking a political stance makes a brand a lobbying or advocacy group. While this may appeal to all or part of a brand’s consumers, taking a political stance means that a brand is pushing a political agenda on behalf of an interested constituency. Unlike political groups, brands can’t win by doing so.

Political operators can win by dividing and conquering, and they do so routinely. Politicians and political causes emerge victorious with the narrowest of margins. It only takes one more vote. That’s not how brands win.

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J. Walker Smith

J. Walker Smith is chief knowledge officer for brand and marketing at Kantar Consulting and co-author of four books, including Rocking the Ages. Follow him on Twitter at @jwalkersmith.​