As a business, silent marketing in the face of social upheaval actually makes a powerful statement. Neutrality is not an option. Silence, like it or not, is complicity, and that is a stance. The statement “neutral” organizations make is this: No injustice is worth sacrificing potential business.
What Are Your Values?
When I work with a client on their branding, one of the places we start is with the core values of the organization. Many of these organizations are tempted to choose “growth” or “profit” as a value. However, those are not values. Those are outcomes of living your values.
Values are principles that are the guiding star for every decision an organization makes. If a decision aligns with all the values, then it is a good one. If one value is not served in the decision, then it must be reconsidered.
Silent marketing in the face of cultural change is a decision many organizations are making, either consciously or unconsciously. If unconsciously, then perhaps they can wake up before the world passes them by. If consciously, then hopefully they can consider whether those they are afraid of offending, are the clients and customers they truly intend to serve.
Once, early in my career, one of my business partners, who did value income above integrity, by his own admission, asked me if there were organizations I would refuse to do business with, even if they were offering us millions of dollars. I told him absolutely. Any business that is (to my knowledge) actively harming its customers’ health or wellbeing is not business I am willing to serve at any price. He was stunned and disturbed by my answer. This difference in who we were willing to serve and our core values ultimately meant we could not remain business partners.
Who Do You Serve?
There is a myth that successful brands have broader appeal. In actuality, the most successful brands have put a clear stake in the ground about who they are, what they stand for and who – specifically – they serve. Target does not even try to serve the same customers as WalMart, and vice versa. Coke and Pepsi have managed to create entirely different brand personas around an arguably identical product. The same is true for FEDEx and UPS – both giants in their industry – have built reputations for different strengths.
More importantly, when we try to appeal to everyone, we are so vanilla, we appeal to no one. Silent marketing says you are afraid to stand out. You are afraid to make waves. Rarely has a brand skyrocketed to the top of their industry by standing for nothing.
Weathering the Storm
Of course, many organizations are hoping to just hunker down for a period of time, because “this will all blow over eventually.” There is an implied belief that the racism and injustice present in our culture does not impact them directly, which is like saying the air one of us breathes in a closed space is disconnected from all the other air in that space. We live here. We are affected.
The other implication of trying to wait it out is that organizations that do take a stand are somehow going to suffer for their stance. That has yet to be born out. The list of organizations boycotting Facebook for its silence on hate speech is lengthy. The only one suffering for that is … the one that remained silent. Facebook.
What Is Yours To Do?
Knowing you have a voice that needs to be heard, and knowing how to use it effectively, are not the same thing. Assuming you are ready to join the conversation, and take a stand on the events that are transforming your world right now, you – like myself – may start from a place of feeling lost and helpless at first.
That’s why I have partnered with Ty Andrews, one of the rare 5% of marketers who are African American. Together we are hosting a free workshop, “Marketing for the Curious Activist” where we will explore what organizations of all sizes are doing to be an active part of the conversation. We will share some of the basic components that you can do right now – either as a marketer, a business owner, or as an individual within your organization – to help reframe your business’ approach for better alignment with your core values and those whom you actually serve.