Seth Matlins, executive vice president of branded impact at WME/IMG, says “it’s time for every brand to pick a side” or face irrelevancy in today’s politically tumultuous climate.
Published in TIME, Matlins’ op-ed states, “You wouldn’t expect that standing up for humanity, dignity and equity — or against hate, racism, xenophobia and sexism — would stir controversy for a cereal or a car or a cup of coffee. But in today’s America, it does.”
He’s referencing the #DumpKelloggs campaign launched by Breitbart readers when the company pulled its ads from the “alt-right site.” Or when consumers decided Target went too far in kowtowing to the transgender agenda or removing gender-based signage from the toy aisle and decided to shop somewhere else. But pick any politically charged ad from this year’s Super Bowl and see how brands are alienating millions of potential buyers by making bold, political stances. And this marketing VP wants more — as long as it lines up with progressivism, of course.
Instead of selling America a great product at a reasonable price, Matlins encourages brands to sell their politics instead:
What’s clear is that the people buying from you and working for you want to know if you’re on their side. Or not. They want to know if you’re doing something to make the world better. Or not. And they will reward — or ignore or perhaps even boycott — you accordingly…
This is our new marketing reality, and cultural values are marketing’s new table stakes. Few are the brands who court controversy as a matter of strategy. But in today’s landscape, avoiding taking sides and bringing your cultural values to life to avoid controversy is a fast track to irrelevance.
Matlins says there this is called “world-positive marketing” which brings “an alignment between brand and product truths, cultural purpose and, yes, profit.” In his mind, at least, Starbucks does better when it markets its worldview on refugees, as does Kellogs or other brands when they make a declaration in support of same-sex marriage, or stand up on some other social justice platform.
“Yes, ’doing well by doing good’ is a decades-old truism,” Matlins concludes. “But showing the world what you stand for (and occasionally against) is now as important, efficient and effective an eyeball-grabbing platform as exists. To win today’s battles for attention — as in, relevance, engagement, resource allocation and return — you’d better let people know whose side you’re on.”
Or how about just make a great product, tell us we have to have it, and let us decide what to do with our money. Then, the company can decide what to do with theirs. Really, we don’t have to know anything else about each other. Transaction complete.