Ensuring Your Marketing Campaign is Politically Correct

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 11.10.51 AMMarketing is all about ensuring your target audiences successfully receive your brand’s message. So how do you ensure your message isn’t misinterpreted? How do you protect your brand from backlash in today’s highly attentive market?

Here are some of my suggestions to preserve your brand’s intended messaging:

Pay Attention to Common Sensitivities

Some examples of societal sensitivities are gender, sexual orientation, and race. Take a look at last year’s Dove ad, for instance, which many people interpreted as racist.

Before launching a marketing campaign, discuss sensitivity precautions with your marketing department or agency. Together, you may determine that setting up a focus group is in your business’s best interest. Sharing your marketing material with a controlled group of consumers is a precious form of market research. With it, you can test whether or not your messaging resonates with your target audiences. If multiple people come back with the same sensitivity concerns, you can make any necessary changes to the campaign before you go live.

Be Wary of Pop Culture References

While you may want to use current pop culture references or trends in your marketing, it’s important to know their historical background and what they really mean. Because of the rise of social media, marketing messages are more public and accessible than ever, allowing the general public and consumers to be more critical of businesses in an open forum. Not even art is exempt from political correctness, as the Art Gallery of Ontario recently acknowledged by issuing an apology for “racist costumes” at a fundraiser.

Avoid Getting Political

The reason many businesses succeed where others fail is because they learn from other businesses’ mistakes. For instance, you can learn from Pepsi’s marketing mishap last year. Marketing campaigns that choose to touch on political issues must address them with empathy and sincerity. Otherwise, your business may come across as selfish for taking advantage of a serious matter for personal gain.

Research Target Market Influencers

Where multi-billion-dollar companies use celebrity endorsements, you can use influencer marketing to maximize your audience reach. However, you must be extremely careful that the public figures that represent your brand have not been involved in past controversies. Before selecting influencers, thoroughly research what they stand for to ensure their values align with yours.

As a business owner, it is essential that you consider how every detail of your campaign could affect consumers. Even after reviewing your marketing campaign from every angle, there could be unexpected backlash. For this reason, you may want to have an action plan in place. Last month, a Starbucks PR nightmare was prevented because of the company’s swift response to rectify a racial controversy by implementing racial bias training. You could also consider hiring a community manager to advocate for your brand on social media.

For a second pair of eyes on an upcoming campaign or for further advice on how to recover from a recent backlash, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today.


#WeAreOne: Overcoming Brand Fails


A company’s brand is built up over years and even decades, where carefully crafted marketing, long-standing traditions and thorough PR tactics ensure that an audience receives the messaging a brand wants them to. Unfortunately, it can take only one misstep by a brand – an off-hand comment or the release of a tasteless ad – to undo years of brand loyalty. And it is not easy to get back.

We’ve seen the stock for Canadian clothing company Lululemon continue to suffer since November 2014, after founder and chairman, Chip Wilson, made excuses for the deteriorating quality of the Lululemon exercise pants by saying that “some women’s bodies just don’t work for the pants”. Only after a very public outcry and rapidly growing distaste for the brand, did Wilson step down from his position at the helm of the company. His eventual apology, however, was directed more to Lululemon staff who had to “manage the brunt of his actions” as he indicated he was “very sad about the repercussions of his actions” although, at no point did he retract his statement or apologize to his customer base.

The most recent brand fail in the media in recent weeks has repercussions that affect more than just the immediate company. Released audio clips of racist comments made by the LA Clippers franchise owner, Donald Sterling, shook the faith of thousands of fans of not only the Clippers, but of the NBA as a whole.

It could have been an extremely dire situation for the entire league, if very important decisions were not made quickly with upfront and sincere honesty. Fortunately, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the league, the owners and the public very quickly with a decision to issue a lifetime ban on Sterling, a $2.5 million dollar fine, as well as urging the Board of Governors to force the sale of the team. Meanwhile, marketing for the Clippers took quick action in releasing a simple message, #WeAreOne on their website, a message that was picked up by other teams and truly resonated with fans across the country.

While the personal brand of Donald Sterling may never recover, fans of the LA Clippers and the NBA as a whole seem to be re-establishing trust with both brands as they separate Sterling’s comments with the values of the organizations. This brand fail was remedied by swift action, accepting responsibility and engaging the fan base.

What are some of the brand fails you remember most? How did they attempt to make things right with the public? I look forward to your thoughts below.