It is probably unquantifiable, but I have no doubt that much of the polirazation that’s occurring is due to how information is disseminated these days. The algorithmic, hyper-personalized style of news sourcing lessens our exposure to alternative points of view while confirming what we want to know.
Will Millenials and Gen Z be able to influence the same level of change as generations prior to them while the establishment and older generations (and indeed, most of society) chooses to only listen to the thoughts within their own echo chamber?
While there were significant social, political and racial tensions in previous decades, society has come to accept that issues like civil rights and freedom of speech really aren’t partisan issues, they are universal issues of equality. Consequently, brands can be active proponents of equality or they can sit back in silence (and be complicit in its suppression). An example like ANZ turning ATMs into GAYTAMs serves to highlight how brands really can build authentic brand love with consumers. Yet just this week Pepsi products are being boycotted by some Trump supporters who feel marginalised after CEO Indra Nooyi spoke from the heart about the fears of her employees.
“Our employees were all crying. And the question that they’re asking, especially those who are not white, ‘Are we safe?’ Women are asking, ‘Are we safe?’ LGBT people are asking, ‘Are we safe?’ I never thought I would have to answer those questions.”
Her words were then contorted to either represent a badge of honor or a weapon that threatens, depending on your viewpoint and the viewpoints of likeminded others that circulate throughout your newsfeed.
While it’s tempting to conclude that brands must take a stand or risk standing for nothing, I think that simplifies an incredibly complex topic. There will always be mass-market brands that believe they can continue to add utility to the everyday lives of people across the world without needing their toes into divisive cultural issues.
But there will also be those that choose to stand out and make themselves heard. For many this is a risky venture, but the potential rewards (brand love, fame and association) are incalculable.