The old adage of a neutral, politically unbiased business, simply trying to sell a product — is gone.

I grew up the child of a mid-western, baby boomer couple where you did not dare ask who someone voted for. It was beyond rude. We were taught from a young age what was appropriate and inappropriate in conversation and social settings. A lot of those lessons had to do with being polite. While I don’t totally disagree with this approach (I still believe in the whole holding tongues if there’s nothing nice to say), times have certainly changed and it’s simply not realistic to take a back seat to controversy anymore.

With the rise of sensationalist news, marketing tactics, politicians, reality stars, etc., it seems you must be controversial in order to gain any attention. I don’t believe this to be true, but I can understand how others feel this way. How do I help my business stand out in a sea of noise? Well, it’s not easy. How many years have we all been talking about the Kardashians, after all?

So, if you’re a business hoping to sell a product or service, it’s time to understand that controversy, and simply taking a stance, is something you cannot avoid. The advent of social media requires your opinions to be known and understood. Consumers essentially have limitless options and they’re going to align their investment with people,companies, and products that are consistent with their values.

Whether a political party, environmental stance, encouragement of female leadership , equal pay — the ideas that used to be avoided in marketing plans, now must be embraced. Being silent won’t work. Younger generations require transparency and, really, that should be a good thing.

While it may feel foreign or dubious if you’re not used to the openness, it is important to understand that it is an aspect of the evolution of marketing. These are just a few examples to showcase the change:

Patagonia created a dramatic website blackout protesting new measures around land use.
Adidas is a known gay-friendly company that incorporates subtle, inclusive imagery.
DICK’s Sporting Goods created internal policy changes to reflect new stance around gun control.

The ability to avoid controversy is no longer an option. If you’re worried about alienating a client market, it’s time to do some soul-searching and some market research. Evaluate your ideal client and whether that person coincides with your company values. As a female owned firm, we only work with others who value women in leadership roles. It simply wouldn’t work if that mutual respect weren’t there.

Leaning into controversy can be uncomfortable. But it is the new normal.

And honestly, once you’re on the other side of a values-oriented business, you’ll never look back. Scarcity is a dangerous motivator and once you conquer it, you’ll experience true business freedom. Welcome to the club!

If you liked this article, show some love and follow along for more like it.

Follow Soul Graphics on Twitter.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here