PR & thought leadership

Want to your brand to stand out? Take a stand

Sandra Stewart | September 11, 2014

Businesses often shy away from taking stand on public issues, choosing to leave advocacy to advocacy organizations. That’s too bad, because a strong, clear position sets you apart from the waffling crowd and make your brand stand out.

Taking a stand on a social or environmental question or a budding concern in your field can help you create a devoted core of brand advocates as well as gain media attention. It’s true that you risk alienating some people, but values are part of what attract people to sustainable businesses, so as long as the positions you take are consistent with your brand values, the upside of speaking out is likely to be larger than the downside.

Advocacy is one way to make your brand stand out

The mechanics of taking a stand can range from executive advocacy to marketing campaigns. A few examples: Sungevity’s co-founder participated in a protest at the White House last year against the Keystone XL pipeline (and got arrested for his trouble), underscoring the company’s environmental values. Costco CEO and President Craig Jelinek came out in support of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, burnishing the company’s reputation as desirable employer. Patagonia has run “Don’t Buy This Jacket” ads during the post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy, supporting its efforts to discourage thoughtless consumption as a way of reducing environmental impact. And then there’s the classic case of The Body Shop, whose stand against animal testing became a key part of its brand identity and helped drive growth as well as create real pressure for change in the its industry.

One caveat: while you don’t have to get arrested, if you adopt this strategy you do have to put a stake in the ground to stand out. “We love kittens” won’t earn you any points. Taking public positions or making core values part of your marketing may feel risky, but it can be liberating.

And keep in mind a bigger-picture benefit: business voices can be extremely influential, so you have a real opportunity to move the needle on public debate.

Find more ways to energize your brand communications in Thinkshift’s Strategy>Shift guide: 9 Ways to Make a Powerful Impression.

  1. Another example is Southwest Airlines trying to make themselves the most LGBT-friendly airline. That won my loyalty!

  2. […] rather than the predictions that caught my eye—a nice illustration of one of our favorite tips (Want to stand out? Take a stand). These two, in particular, are worthy rallying cries for sustainable […]


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