Shockwaves erupted last fall when Nike made Colin Kaepernick the face of a new campaign. The polarizing ad featured a photo of the controversial athlete with an overlay of the phrase “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Today, a business owner in Colorado Springs, Colo. Experiences what Nike has encouraged others to do. The irony is that his business is shutting down because of his sacrifice for his beliefs, which led him to stop selling Nike products in his store.
The sports store had been in business for 20 years. Owner Stephen Martin decided to pull all of his Nike merchandise to take a stand against giant brand Colin Kaepernick and others he said had disrespected the flag during their peaceful protests for racial injustice during NFL games.
More and more brands are taking a stand for issues that matter to them. Last month, Procter & Gamble brand Gillette took a stand against toxic masculinity in what has now become a controversial advertisement.
As a business leader, taking a stand for what you believe in is the right thing to do. In many cases, this will draw your ideal customers closer to you because they will see that you share values. But reaping the benefits of taking a stand is not automatic. There are risks associated with it.
Here are three things you should consider when considering taking a position on issues important to your business. They will help you minimize the risk of losing everything you have worked so hard to create in the process.
1. Your business strategy.
If you decide to take a position that could negatively impact your sales, put a plan in place to minimize that impact. A major change in the way you operate requires a corresponding change in strategy.
Martin does not appear to have taken this approach. He explained the impact of not having Nike products to a local news station:
“Being a sports store without Nike is kind of like being a milk store without milk or a gas station without gasoline. How do you do it? They have a monopoly on jerseys,” Martin said.
Once the decision was made to remove the products that were a major source of income for the store, a new strategy should have been put in place to help the store stay and even become even more relevant.
Don’t be afraid to pivot your trading strategy, especially if market conditions or other factors justify it.
2. Your degree of customer intimacy.
Nike’s ad featuring Kaepernick was deeply polarized across the United States. Many fans have posted pictures and videos of themselves burning their Nike clothes. Despite fierce outrage, sales rose 31% in the days immediately following the announcement, according to Edison Trends.
Even though Nike lost a few customers, its customer base invested more in the brand. Nike knew that in advance. The company knew who their audience was and that they would appreciate and applaud the campaign.
Stephen Martin realized too late that his beliefs did not match those of many of his clients.
“As much as I hate to admit it, there are maybe more Brandon Marshall and Colin Kaepernick supporters than I think,” said Martin.
Customer intimacy means knowing your customers well, including their core values. When your values are aligned with those of your customers, it’s easier to take bold action.
3. Your options for making an impact.
There are many ways to take a stand. Peaceful protests are one way. Boycotting those whose values and actions you disagree with is another. And being part of the solution by helping to bring about positive change is another.
When Gillette decided to take a stand against toxic masculinity, she also pledged to donate $ 1 million per year over the next three years to nonprofits “designed to inspire, educate and help. men of all ages to achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation. “
Military respect is the reason Martin says he took a stand against Nike and Kaepernick. But removing Nike’s products isn’t the only way he could have shown the respect he so cherished.
When considering taking a stand for what you believe in, think about all of the options available to you. Think about your goal and how your brand can support the overall goal to make meaningful progress.
There are risks involved in taking a stand. But like with most of the decisions you make in your business, there are strategic levers you can use to minimize these risks.
Take a stand, yes. But don’t confuse taking a stand for being a martyr.