Australian businesses need to think carefully about voting Yes or No

Many businesses are shouting loud and clear about which way they're voting in the upcoming postal plebiscite. Hotwire PR's Mylan Vu explains why it's important to fully realise the ramifications before swinging Yes or No.

With same sex marriage at the top of our political and social agendas in these last few weeks, many brands are tossing up the option of picking a side and speaking up, or playing it safe and staying quiet. Leaders like Qantas’ Alan Joyce are urging other businesses to support the Yes vote, while household names like Margaret Court are championing the No vote.

If you’re a Yes voter, you may be looking at these headlines and assuming Qantas sales just went up. It’s this assumption that I’d like to dig into.

Know your audience and the impact of your words

Almost one in four (23%) Australians want brands to speak up on same sex marriage, according to our Issue with Brands report. Furthermore, 27% of Australians are more likely to buy from a brand or recommend their peers buy from a brand if their views are aligned on a major political or social issue.

What does that mean?

If your target buyer has a particular political view, and your brand publicly supports that view, there will be a direct impact on your sales and brand engagement.

As conversations around this issue continue to heighten in the lead up to the vote, its critical brands think carefully about the opportunity to join the debate.

Taking a side and publicising your stance purely for the sake of increasing sales is obviously unethical, and will only reveal the related brand to be cunning and profit-chasing. In reality, there is also the risk of decreasing sales by publicising a view that your audience disagrees with, meaning this alleged ‘sales strategy’ could also backfire.

General Pants has made its stance clear

However, if there is a genuine view on same sex marriage that a business wants to share publicly, it’s also critical for marketers to recognise this impact this will have on overall business outcomes, and plan accordingly. This impact is only going to grow over time as consumers expect more transparency from brands.

Know the doors you’re opening for more conversations

While same sex marriage is definitely a significant political and social issue right now, there are many others that Australians also want brands to be speaking up on, including fair trade, global warming, animal cruelty, racism, and sexism. It’s unlikely to become the norm for all major brands to develop public-facing stances on each of these issues and more, but trends suggest that more and more will.

It is important for brands to recognise that speaking up on one issue will increase expectations of your audience to speak about this (and possibly other issues) on a more regular basis. You’ll also be opening yourself to scrutiny on whether you have investments, policies or processes in place which back up your argument from a practical perspective.

It may also open the doors to conversations with staff, customers, fans and other stakeholders on issues like hiring policies, work from home policies, parental leave, remuneration, the suppliers you use, your advertising campaigns and much more.


Because gone are the days when business leaders could speak at a press conference and make sweeping statements about a national issues, then step down from their lectern quietly and retreat back to their office with a pat on the back. It’s not that easy anymore and, above all, consumers are looking for business leaders that are putting their money where their mouth is.

On the topic of sexism, for example, if a CEO is speaking up on the importance of gender pay equality, yet it’s recently been uncovered there is significant gender pay inequality within their own organisation locally, consumers are going to be more ruthless than ever in highlighting exactly where they fall short.

To exacerbate the ramifications, they’ll take to social media to ensure their friends, family and colleagues are aware of their opinions, in turn influencing their network’s views of your brand.

So, knowing that promoting the Yes or No vote on same sex marriage could directly impact sales, while potentially putting your brand in the spotlight for commentary on other major issues, what’s your recommendation to your brand manager?

Mylan Vu is Hotwire PR’s country manager.


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