Companies Taking Sides on Political Issues: Is It Good or Bad Marketing?

Sometimes companies and brands take sides on hot button political issues. Sometimes executives may genuinely feel it’s in their best interests. And sometimes they know it’ll attract PR and attention. Whether it’s good or bad marketing is a debate in itself.

It’s delicate because playing politics will annoy somewhere around half your customer base.

We’ve seen many examples from Nike (Colin Kaepernick), Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, MyPillow, Coca-Cola (Georgia voting law), and, of course, many mainstream media platforms take outright stances on political issues.

Following Texas’s decision to effectively ban most abortions, many companies made announcements of support, either symbolically or financially, toward abortion rights.

A key part of the bill? Allowing private citizens to sue and report anyone who is aiding someone seeking an abortion.

Here’s how some brands are responding:

  • Shar Dubey, CEO of Match Group, which owns Tinder and Hinge, put together a fund for employees based in Texas who might seek healthcare outside of the state.
  • Bumble created a fund that will go toward organizations advocating for abortion rights.
  • GoDaddy shut down an anti-abortion group’s website and gave them 24 hours to find a new host after it asked for tips about violations of the new law.

Plus, Lyft and Uber have each vowed to cover all legal fees for drivers subject to the law. Lyft also announced it will donate $1 million to Planned Parenthood.

Lyft’s co-founders and general counsel said in an email to riders and drivers.

“Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why… This law is incompatible with people’s basic rights to privacy, our community guidelines, the spirit of rideshare, and our values as a company.”

Also: Some have already called on agencies and marketers to pull out of SXSW, a popular music festival in Austin.

+2: Many of the largest companies in Texas (and in the US), including Dell, American Airlines, and AT&T, have remained silent on the issue, despite making statements on topics like climate change and voting laws in the past.

Bottom line

Companies are more inclined to say what they think and it’s not just because they simply think “it’s the right thing to do.”

There’s a PR and marketing element to it.

All of these companies get talked about more for “taking a stand” one way or another. In a polarized world, taking political stances is one of the easiest ways to create viral, word-of-mouth marketing.

P.T. Barnum is credited with famously asserting, “Any kind of publicity is good publicity… as long as they spell your name right.”

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