Insights

Reactive marketing: 5 questions brands need to ask before taking a stand

Posted by
Wendy Meyer
Insights

Reactive marketing: 5 questions brands need to ask before taking a stand

Écrit par
Wendy Meyer

Take yourself back to March 2020. A time when fear was really starting to grip the world and the first few brands started to share their plans about how they were going to help eradicate COVID-19. The early adopters of transparent communication in a time of such uncertainty were praised for their actions, their people-centric approach, and their authenticity. Others were dragged through the virtual mud for not showing enough action, compassion, or solidarity.

It didn’t stop there. Tensions across the world have continued, pushing important issues like racism to the forefront. Previously, important discussions around these issues would happen among individuals and in communities. Now, however, these discussions are happening in public and the pressure for brands to respond and take a stand is at an all-time high. To understand how to respond to these expectations and navigate the realm of reactive marketing, brands should be asking themselves these five important questions before taking definitive stances on major issues.

Is the issue authentic to your brand?

Although many of the issues being discussed now are necessary and important, not all should be responded to by your brand. Ask yourself if the issue itself is authentic to your brand. Are you used to being bold? Does your brand persona stand for activism and action? What do you represent as a product or service and does this issue align with an existing strategic pillar, like diversity or inclusion? Your brand should do something because it speaks to your values, not because you need to react to a moment in time. Additionally, ask yourself how your employees and other stakeholders would react to your response. Would they feel it holds true for the organization’s culture and way of working? If you’re unsure or think there might be a contradiction, it’s time to reconsider your approach.

Is your position reflective across your communications ecosystem?

Putting out a Facebook statement about a newsworthy topic in isolation is bound to end in disaster. The more important the issue, the more likely it is to spark a passion from leaders and customers alike. Do your words ring true across your website? How about your leadership board? What about your past advertising campaigns? What about employee behaviour? Your brand presence as a whole is how you will be judged, so be certain that you’ve considered all touch points and (back to point one) your authenticity on the matter.

Do you have an action plan to commit to your promises?

In the wake of the George Floyd tragedy, many brands put out statements sharing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as #BlackOutTuesday. Online communities quickly saw through the reactive approach and started interrogating those whose words were not supported by an action plan. Actions do speak louder than words, but many brands had hoped to gain superficial praise for having a black square on their Instagram page. The ones that stepped forward to call it like it is and who talked more honestly about how they were focusing efforts on the actions being taken were truly admired.

Having said that, it is equally important that brands who may not have included these issues in their strategic approach before are not deterred from doing so now. Be sure that your brand is ready to make a long-term commitment that it can speak to authentically (and sustain) moving forward.

 Do you understand the context of your support?

In an even more recent example of reactive marketing, brands are slowly starting to come forward in support of the #StopProfitForHate campaign, which encourages advertisers to boycott Facebook in response to Facebook’s approach to political threats on the platform. However, what exact message does this boycott convey? The context of not advertising on Facebook means as a brand, you are stating your political affiliations. It also means you are taking a side, which is not always the same as making a stand.

Furthermore, what is the longevity of the stand being taken? Will advertisers resume their plans in August? Some have even admitted that while they support the boycott, they are still making use of Instagram advertising, which could be viewed as hypocritical, as Facebook owns Instagram. We’d be ignorant to assume that this is the end of the battle between politics and social networks. However, brands can’t avoid social in their marketing strategy, so ensuring that a diversified platform strategy exists that doesn’t rely too heavily on any one channel will mean that when the next boycott or blackout happens there are options to still support your business.

Can you react intelligently?

Expectations are growing, and we cannot ignore the evolutionary role that brands need to play to help communities and cultures be heard. Reactive marketing is a new reality that won’t be disappearing anytime soon. Be comfortable that the issues you choose to support are aligned to your brand, and more importantly, to your actions. Now is the time for brands to truly embrace meaningful communications.

If you’re looking for strategic support on how to navigate the news agenda, reach out to our team. Our brand and reputation experts can help craft a plan that will better prepare you to manage issues in rapid news cycles as they arise.

Take yourself back to March 2020. A time when fear was really starting to grip the world and the first few brands started to share their plans about how they were going to help eradicate COVID-19. The early adopters of transparent communication in a time of such uncertainty were praised for their actions, their people-centric approach, and their authenticity. Others were dragged through the virtual mud for not showing enough action, compassion, or solidarity.

It didn’t stop there. Tensions across the world have continued, pushing important issues like racism to the forefront. Previously, important discussions around these issues would happen among individuals and in communities. Now, however, these discussions are happening in public and the pressure for brands to respond and take a stand is at an all-time high. To understand how to respond to these expectations and navigate the realm of reactive marketing, brands should be asking themselves these five important questions before taking definitive stances on major issues.

Is the issue authentic to your brand?

Although many of the issues being discussed now are necessary and important, not all should be responded to by your brand. Ask yourself if the issue itself is authentic to your brand. Are you used to being bold? Does your brand persona stand for activism and action? What do you represent as a product or service and does this issue align with an existing strategic pillar, like diversity or inclusion? Your brand should do something because it speaks to your values, not because you need to react to a moment in time. Additionally, ask yourself how your employees and other stakeholders would react to your response. Would they feel it holds true for the organization’s culture and way of working? If you’re unsure or think there might be a contradiction, it’s time to reconsider your approach.

Is your position reflective across your communications ecosystem?

Putting out a Facebook statement about a newsworthy topic in isolation is bound to end in disaster. The more important the issue, the more likely it is to spark a passion from leaders and customers alike. Do your words ring true across your website? How about your leadership board? What about your past advertising campaigns? What about employee behaviour? Your brand presence as a whole is how you will be judged, so be certain that you’ve considered all touch points and (back to point one) your authenticity on the matter.

Do you have an action plan to commit to your promises?

In the wake of the George Floyd tragedy, many brands put out statements sharing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as #BlackOutTuesday. Online communities quickly saw through the reactive approach and started interrogating those whose words were not supported by an action plan. Actions do speak louder than words, but many brands had hoped to gain superficial praise for having a black square on their Instagram page. The ones that stepped forward to call it like it is and who talked more honestly about how they were focusing efforts on the actions being taken were truly admired.

Having said that, it is equally important that brands who may not have included these issues in their strategic approach before are not deterred from doing so now. Be sure that your brand is ready to make a long-term commitment that it can speak to authentically (and sustain) moving forward.

 Do you understand the context of your support?

In an even more recent example of reactive marketing, brands are slowly starting to come forward in support of the #StopProfitForHate campaign, which encourages advertisers to boycott Facebook in response to Facebook’s approach to political threats on the platform. However, what exact message does this boycott convey? The context of not advertising on Facebook means as a brand, you are stating your political affiliations. It also means you are taking a side, which is not always the same as making a stand.

Furthermore, what is the longevity of the stand being taken? Will advertisers resume their plans in August? Some have even admitted that while they support the boycott, they are still making use of Instagram advertising, which could be viewed as hypocritical, as Facebook owns Instagram. We’d be ignorant to assume that this is the end of the battle between politics and social networks. However, brands can’t avoid social in their marketing strategy, so ensuring that a diversified platform strategy exists that doesn’t rely too heavily on any one channel will mean that when the next boycott or blackout happens there are options to still support your business.

Can you react intelligently?

Expectations are growing, and we cannot ignore the evolutionary role that brands need to play to help communities and cultures be heard. Reactive marketing is a new reality that won’t be disappearing anytime soon. Be comfortable that the issues you choose to support are aligned to your brand, and more importantly, to your actions. Now is the time for brands to truly embrace meaningful communications.

If you’re looking for strategic support on how to navigate the news agenda, reach out to our team. Our brand and reputation experts can help craft a plan that will better prepare you to manage issues in rapid news cycles as they arise.

Wendy Meyer
Vice President
Having moved from the South African FleishmanHillard office, Wendy has international experience in helping brands leverage social media and digital platforms as business tools. Working on multinational client strategies, she has deep experience in online crisis communications, corporate and consumer brand building, and executive thought leadership. Globally, she is a Social & Innovation Lead for FleishmanHillard.
Wendy Meyer
Vice-présidente
Ayant travaillé au bureau sud-africain de FleishmanHillard, Wendy a acquis une expérience internationale en aidant les marques à mettre à profit les plateformes de médias sociaux et numériques en tant qu’outils d’affaires. Sa contribution aux stratégies de clients multinationaux lui a donné une expérience approfondie en communications de crise en ligne, en développement de marque d’entreprise et de consommateur, ainsi qu’en leadership éclairé pour les cadres. À l’échelle mondiale, elle est une leader en médias sociaux et innovation pour FleishmanHillard.