In recent years many companies have realized that they need to be more mindful of the values and beliefs of their target audience. Those same values and beliefs strongly influence consumers when it comes to deciding who they’ll do business with. However, some companies have taken the approach of trying to market to everybody. Sometimes this takes the form of a milquetoast one-size-fits-all approach. Even worse, sometimes a brand’s marketing evokes contradictory values from one campaign to the next. At best these companies may end up pleasing nobody. At worst, they might make everybody angry. This is especially true in the current climate of political polarization in the United States.
People have different values and beliefs, and increasingly they want to see those values and beliefs reflected in the companies they do business with. According to research from Consumer Goods Technology, a monumental 82% of shoppers want brands they buy from to match their own values. That’s no small slice of the market! A conservative customer may want to see a company take a strong stance on issues like patriotism and traditional family values, while a progressive customer may want to see a company take a strong stance on issues like diversity and environmentalism.
This leaves brands with a considerable problem: these values can often be at odds with each other. For example, a company that takes a strong stance on traditional family values may be seen as exclusionary by customers who don’t fit the “traditional” family mold. Similarly, a company that takes a strong stance on diversity may be seen as overly politically correct or “woke” by customers who feel that their values are not being represented. This can make it difficult for companies to navigate the choppy waters of marketing, as they may find themselves caught between two polarized groups of customers.
As tempting as it can be, playing both sides of the issue or hastily backpedaling from showing support for one side or the other invites damage to a brand’s reputation. Bud Light, anyone?
The solution, then, is for companies to be more intentional about the values and beliefs they want to promote. Rather than trying to please everybody, companies should focus on the values and beliefs that resonate most strongly with their target audience. This means doing thorough research to understand the values and beliefs of their customers, and then crafting a message that speaks directly to those values and beliefs.
This is easier said than done. Such an approach requires a deep understanding of the target audience. And not your target audience as a single homogenous group either. You should have a thorough understanding of each segment of your target audience, with messaging that’s unique to each group while also falling under a broader brand identity umbrella. And ultimately it may ultimately mean taking a stance on controversial issues. Many companies today justifiably don’t want to wade into the new American cultural war pastime. However, it is ultimately the best way to connect with customers and build a strong, loyal customer base.
Besides, in this era of division in the United States, avoiding taking a stance on an issue is not liable to win you any accolades anyway.
Lynn Freshour is a Research Director and reigning data nerd at GVC, an inclusion business strategy firm, as well as at Insight Squad, a DEI data analytics firm. To learn more, visit diversitystrategy.com.