**DISCLAIMER: This piece is crafted with the intention to inform and educate on emotional marketing techniques. The gathered information in no way reflects the beliefs of Pepper Gang or its employees. Pepper Gang has taken no formal stance on the mentioned situation.
Earlier this week, Nike released a controversial campaign featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick infamously launched the movement of kneeling during the National Anthem. This protest was intended to build awareness about racial injustices and police brutality.
The campaign reads “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” and is causing an international uproar of protest and adoration.
But let’s face it, Nike knew exactly what they were doing. A campaign like this is carefully thought out and strategically utilized for the purpose to start an epidemic of conversation surrounding the matter.
Which raises the question: How valuable is controversial marketing? Is it worth considering for your business?
Controversial marketing and advertising campaigns capitalize on the human emotions’ impact on purchases. Studies show that our emotions impact nearly all of our decisions, so businesses try to consider this when crafting their campaigns. The more emotionally connected a consumer feels to a brand, the more likely they are to spend their dollars with them.
Although Nike’s risky campaign is driving supporters to stock up on their brand, it also is causing some previous consumers of the brand to discontinue purchases.
If an emotionally-driven marketing tactic is on the horizon for your business, you have to ask: do the pros outweigh the cons?
Let’s break it down.
Why It’s Worth It
If you can handle the backlash, tapping into the controversial emotions of your consumer is definitely worth it. A strong emotional pull like this ignites social conversations that can impact your entire brand.
Nike paid for the campaign, but what they didn’t pay for is:
- the thousands of tweets, social conversations, and a spot as a trending topic
- the inevitable influx of traffic to their site and engagement on their social channels
- the influencers and celebrities publicly endorsing the message and the brand
They knew to invest their money into the bigger picture and not open their wallets for supplementary marketing tactics. The effort they would have spent making sure their campaign was seen on social media and gathering influencers was spent elsewhere.
Why It’s Not Worth It
We can all agree this was a risky move. Feeding into your audience’s passions and humanizing your brand with morally driven content is important. But showing support for one side of a two-sided world can temporarily or permanently tarnish your brand.
What this backlash depends on, though, is the type of company you have and your target audiences.
Nike is an international athletic brand, but more than that, a widely recognizable clothing brand. There is not “one type of person” that wears it. Their consumers are wildly diverse and are rarely associated with a specific gender or political affiliation. They have wiggle room. They know enough of their audiences would be in support of the campaign to counteract the protests.
But if you’re a southeast-based high-end clothing chain with an audience primarily consisting of middle to high-class families, a campaign highlighting the same beliefs would not go over so well.
If you’re a small business or a business with a hyper-targeted audience, just keep it neutral.
What To Prepare For
If you do decide to take the leap, just be ready. And this goes for campaigns that aren’t even nearly as politically charged. It could just be something more commonly emotional, like featuring a diverse model or choosing to donate your products to a certain non-profit. There is sensitivity attached to every type of emotion. Here’s what you need to do:
- Have a reputation management plan already in place. Think of every scenario, comment, and conversation that might happen as a result. Prepare your responses, assign responders, and make sure it’s all in writing.
- Have Plan B ready. This may mean removing, shifting, or defending your campaign. But don’t wait until the last minute to make a plan.
- Really think it through. There are plenty of ways to evoke an emotional response in your audience. If you’re worried your campaign might hurt more than it helps, try utilizing other emotional triggers like nostalgia, friendships/family, or music.