Marketers should they enter the social justice debate?
Why is so much reported information never corroborated with facts? So many political opinions and analyses are big on rhetoric and puffery, but often lacking factual base. Is this lazy reporting or does it represent the rise of the ‘modern elitists’ who push issues and are not prepared to look at facts to support an argument, or a point of view?
Without wishing to engage too far in this ever-increasing daily debate it is interesting to reflect on how many experts have all the answers to what ails us. With political events around the world we observe the academic elite who believe one thing and then the rest of the population who seem to have a very different point of view. Brexit and Trump mania are two manifestations of that. The polarisation of left and right views has never been more pronounced and the criticism of ‘capitalism’ is gaining momentum amongst academics.
Marketers need to tread carefully and understand these trends and be cautious before adopting a particular stance on an issue as the debate rages on whether companies who represent a ‘broad church’ of people should become involved in such matters. The AFL and the changing of their logo to ‘Yes’ in support of same sex marriage quickly brought a range of different views from AFL club presidents.
The debate on climate change is another where AGL quickly took a position on coal fired power stations, and used advertising to promote their cause, only to have to acknowledge that their investments in coal fire power stations were still important to the national power grid. And the needs of all Australians.
Australia Day and Gender diversity are just some of the social justice issues where companies are being encouraged to take a position. Sadly there is a temptation for companies to take a stance on an issue without looking at the broader cultural context of the actual views of the majority of Australians. Whatever the issue the importance for marketers is to see the facts and to understand the issue. It is too simplistic to adopt the voice of a vocal minority however many social media brownie points might be achieved in the short term.
Social activism is here to stay, but companies need to be careful in adopting a stance as their role is to represent their shareholders and stakeholders, all of them, and aligning with a social issue has many hidden dangers that are not always apparent.