How have businesses responded to the gay marriage vote?

In this posting from the LinkedIn Agency Influencer program, Mo Works' Samantha Tran examines the brands that have supported the vote yes campaign

I have absolutely no doubt that as an Australian you will have been swamped with YES and NO vote messages.

Today, I wanted to break down how different brands have responded to the plebiscite vote and contributed to the debate.

The difference between an individual, such as yourself, and a brand voicing their opinion on the vote is pretty obvious. When a brand voices their opinion, it tends to reach a wider audience, and it tends to warrant an immediate reaction. Like individuals, brands have the freedom to outwardly voice their opinions, but it has to be done with a strategic mindset as it may affect their public image and potentially their sales.

Some brands have chosen to keep their views on marriage equality private, which is perfectly acceptable, and refraining from commenting usually goes by unnoticed. Others would point out that as soon as the first few major brands spoke out about the plebiscite, the pressure began to mount for others to do the same.

The majority of consumers don’t need a brand to pick a side. That being said, when a brand does take a side, whether it is the wrong or right side in the eyes of their audience, it can create positive interest in brand, or even a tossing aside of differences.

One brand that aired their views really cleverly was Gorman. In support of the same-sex marriage vote, in late August Gorman announced that if you walked in one of their stores and showed staff your that you had successfully enrolled to vote, you would receive a free ‘Love is Love’ T-shirt, designed by Monika Forsberg, one of their regular illustrators.

The shirt was free with zero catches except that there were only 5,000 available. Not only did this attract an abundance of media attention for Gorman by grabbing the attention of their already die-hard fans and reaching an ever wider audience, it also encouraged people to enrol to vote and to voice their opinion on marriage equality simply by wearing the T-shirt.

The T-shirt recognisably belongs to the Gorman brand, produced in the label’s distinctive style, and the exclusivity and hype that followed its release even pushed Gorman to make another 10,000 available online shortly after.

According to Hotwire PR’s survey, 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.

And 23% of Australians want brands to speak up on their opinion on same-sex marriage!

This is where Gorman wore it better than General Pants Co.

By offering a 20% discount to customers who show proof of their enrollment to vote, General Pants Co. appeared to have good intentions and may have genuinely just wanted to encourage more people to vote.

My question is: would they have received a greater response from their customers if they had, as Gorman did, empowered their customers to express their views publicly?

Enrolment is merely the first step of the voting process and it doesn’t confirm that people will vote, especially considering this plebiscite vote is not mandatory. Similarly, confirmation of enrolment is not confirmation of alignment with the ‘Love is Love’ sentiment.

However, I don’t mean to pick on General Pants Co., and you can view a full list of brands who have offered a similar discount here.

In other industries, the Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has quite openly campaigned for the Yes vote. Against the best advice of immigration minister Peter Dutton who interestingly advised Alan Joyce to refrain from using Qantas’ brand name as an advocate for the campaign.

While we don’t have any insights on their sales performance since we surely know that the Qantas brand has been at the forefront of the news. No publicity is bad publicity, right? Particularly with the unprecedented event where Alan Joyce received a meringue pie to his face for his public advocacy.

What does this mean for the Qantas brand? Qantas and its executives are now on the hot seat as it has opened the brand up for questions and scrutiny, Qantas is truly under pressure to reflect their transparency in the upcoming months.

A creative agency, Agency, has taken the next step forward in creating a game called ‘Going Postal’ in which online players run through the Australian landscape, avoiding obstacles (including politicians!) towards a post box to get their vote in, in time.

The communications director said: “Politicians on both sides have been making a game out of marriage equality for the last few years, so we created an actual game to help get marriage equality through”. While clever, we do wonder what this game actually achieves?

And of course, we couldn’t go without mentioning the world’s biggest beverage company, Coca-Cola.

In Sydney, Coca-Cola holds a billboard at Kings Cross station to advertise their No Sugar Coke. In partnership with their agency, Ogilvy, they stunted an overnight takeover, with the bottle being obscured by the colours of the flags, and the text changed from ‘Say yes to the taste you love’ to ‘we say yes to love’.

A very clever stance, and in my opinion smarter than getting an executive to outwardly campaign, as it lowers risks and instead creates buzz.

Each brand is accepting their own external pressure on whether they feel they need to make a stance. Some have done it well, and in a very classy manner. Others, not so much, but hey marketing is hard!

This article is part of the LinkedIn Agency Influencer program. See more from the program by clicking on the banner below.

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