I have absolutely no doubt that as an Australian you will have been swamped with YES & 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 plebiscite 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 I believe this refrain 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. I believe 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 I believe 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 to 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 and share their opinion on same sex-marriage!
This is where I believe Gorman wore it better than General Pants Co.
Photo credit: Mumbrella
By offering a 20% discount to customers who show proof of their enrolment 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, CEO of Qantas, Alan Joyce, has quite openly campaigned for the Yes vote. This was against the advice of the minister for immigration and border protection, Peter Dutton, who suggested that Alan Joyce refrain from positioning Qantas as an advocate for marriage equality.
While we don't have any insights on their sales performance, we can still acknowledge that Qantas has remained at the forefront of the news. Particularly after 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? It opens them up to the public eye for scrutiny. Qantas and its executives are now on the hot seat, and under pressure to maintain their transparency in the upcoming months.
Creative agency, Agency, has gone a step beyond by creating a game called Going Postal, in which online players run through the Australian landscape avoiding obstacles (including politicians!) and race towards a post box so they can get their vote in, in time. The communications director said in a release published by Mumbrella, '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 its clever, we do wonder what this game actually achieves.
Naturally, we couldn't go without mentioning the world's biggest beverage company, Coca-Cola. In Sydney, Coca-Cola own a billboard at Kings Cross Station where they were formerly advertising their new Coke No Sugar range. In partnership with Ogilvy, they staged an overnight takeover of the billboard, transforming the coke bottle to reflect the colours of the LGBT Pride Flag, and changing 'Say Yes to the Taste You Love' to 'We Say Yes to Love'. It was a very successful stunt, swiftly executed, and in my opinion much smarter than getting an executive or brand representative to outwardly campaign, as it minimises risk and instantly creates a buzz.
Photo credit: @CocaColaAU
Each brand is accepting their own external pressure on whether they feel they need to share their stance. Some have done it well, and in a very classy manner. Others, not so much, but hey, marketing is hard!