Want to attract customers? Experts advise: Check in with your opinions

We live in an emotional time, folks. And that means even the most wallflowery of us must summon a powerful voice and project it far and wide.

What is more emotionally polarizing in the U.S. right now than the Trump administration?

Fake news or no, the popularity of anything relating to the topic—Sean Spicer hiding in the bushes or James Comey being fired (and that’s just today)—offers opportunities for brands to influence and attract a segment of their audience with a super-charged emotional voice.

Adweek reports that, since before the election, many high-profile companies have abandoned the safe shores of apoliticism and instead embraced their innate anti-Trump sentiment:

Many of advertising’s biggest names weighed in, with Wieden+Kennedy creating a Portland, Ore., food truck selling only “Donald Trump’s BS” and Goodby Silverstein & Partners releasing a “personalized anti-Trump ad generator.” Abundant side projects ranged from a well-meaning #UnfollowTrump plea to a series of ominous bus signs regarding his potential presidency.

Wieden+Kennedy is one of the world’s largest independently owned ad agencies. They’ve worked with Nike (the “Just Do It” tagline among other major campaigns), Coca-Cola, ESPN, Honda, Microsoft, and more major brands.

So you might think they have a lot to lose, putting the voice typically hiding behind the curtain out there in front of it.

And yet they’re choosing to vocalize.

It takes two to know one.

Put another way: Like attracts like.

Even before Adweek compiled their info, we had launched our own anti-Trump campaign, focused specifically on his reputation for dishonesty.

At first it was a way to vent my own personal what-the-fuck-is-happening emotion. But it smoothly developed into a way to reach through the veil of salesmanship and emphasize our message. To say: “We don’t have to feel victimized. We feel sick and betrayed as well. We can’t afford to wait to see what’s going to happen. Let’s get empowered instead.”

On Election Night 2016, watching the country blaze red, I experienced a feeling I hadn’t had since September 11. Horror turned to disbelief, then disassociation as I tried to process and imagine how the next four years would be. How this reality show buffoon had bamboozled so many of our countrymen.

That’s a shared experience—not just watching TV and social media for one night but all across the country day after day and night after night.

Shared experiences lead to conversation. From conversation comes connection. And from connection—well, in business, you might win yourself a few customers.

Simply by being brave enough to speak your mind.

Why take a stance at all? You may wonder.

Aren’t you rejecting and possibly upsetting a large segment of your potential clients? Are you that “lucky” as a small business that you can afford to do that?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: We want to attract passionate, independent-minded, motivated clients—many of whom happen to be anti-Trump. It works to our benefit in multiple ways.

It repels leads who most likely wouldn’t be ideal clients; it strengthens our bond with like-minded clients; and it engages those we want. All while giving us an opportunity to distinguish our brand agency from others.

Jeremy Miller, in his terrific book Sticky Branding, discusses just how important deviating from the status quo is:

The fear is always, ‘What if we offend a potential customer?’ Or, ‘What if they disagree with us?’ That fear of resistance destroys effective marketing, and it strips away the potency and interest from a conversation. Balanced is boring, and boring doesn’t travel.

What if you fail to impact anyone at all?

How would we know if we’ve offended people with our anti-Trump campaign?

Well, many will share their irritation on social media. Yeah, are you getting me? They’ll share our content for us. That leads to improved organic reach, more shares / likes / comments, and suddenly those you don’t want as customers anyway are helping to spread your message.

Isn’t that just antagonism? Sure, I’m comfortable with that.

Of course not every business owner will feel comfortable taking a strong political stance, nor will many feel it is appropriate.

So go to the root: Consider the emotions of your customers. You don’t have to be political to get a rise out of your audience—good or bad. Remember Dove’s 2013 video “Real Beauty Sketches”?

The film demonstrates how women perceive themselves versus how others see them. It challenges traditional perceptions while tapping into a shared experience for women: feelings of low self-worth and over-analytical criticism of their appearance.

And it revolutionized the beauty industry.

Think about what you stand for and how you might tie your beliefs into your brand’s message. Perhaps it’s a partnership with an organization in your neighborhood; a new campaign launched to raise awareness of a cause; or some other point of connection no one’s thought of yet in your industry.

Be bold. Differentiate yourself. Don’t be afraid to have an opinion.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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