On the popular ‘Gruen’ the other night, the Australian TV show about advertising and marketing, the topic of brands ‘spruiking’ the ‘yes’ vote for marriage redefinition was on the table. Every person on the panel supported marriage redefinition, at least from a marketing perspective. ‘No’ voters were described as a target market that is predominantly ageing, rural and of low influence and spending capacity compared with younger, city dwelling, socially aware and progressive ‘yes’ voters. It was argued that brands needed to court the ‘yes’ voters as they represent future whereas a brand supporting the ‘no’ position, might harness some short-term reward but ultimately kill the brand as the target market they draw from gradually and literally die off.

How do you feel when you're kid's iPhone starts telling him to vote 'yes'?

Getting on a flight at Sydney airport recently I was confronted with very large advertising from Qantas supporting gay marriage. When I read the newspaper, I see full page ads from Airbnb doing towing the line as well. Go to the footy and you’ve got the rappers opening the grand final with a song to support gay marriage and the AFL logo gets doctored for a photo shoot to read ‘yes’. Apple recently made a big announcement supporting marriage redefinition, altering the colours of the apple logo into a rainbow.

Is it a bad thing that brands are getting behind social concerns? Should they just stick to selling great shoes?

For our kids, we know the power of advertising and the pulling power of brands. They want to be part of the in-crowd, they feel the pressure, more than we do to be seen in the right places, wearing the right gear. So, if their brand is for marriage redefinition…why on earth aren’t they behind it? You have to be, right? Look at the footy, a space that has become very family orientated, now waving the gay rights flag.

Brands are about money.

It’s not like many of them show initiative in social causes that won’t do much to build their brand. Imagine the mileage Qantas would gain if they campaigned as hard as they are on same sex marriage for an issue like Indigenous rights. That would really keep them in the air wouldn’t it. Let’s face it brands can and will continue to have influence in social areas, but they’re really just out there to build their brand, regardless of the true social cost or outcome.

So how do we and our kids respond if we don’t agree with the brand’s bleating about a social issue?

If you choose not to fly the brand and you’re a prominent person, you might lose your title or your name on sporting arena (aka Margaret Court, World Champion Tennis Player). But if you’re a nobody like me and you, then where will it cost us? If the brands are making the wise financial choice, then who will we fly with? Or will we just stop flying? Is that the solution? Are we a nation of wimpy preachers and cowardly pew sitters as one person I read put it? Are we hypocrites for getting up in arms about the gay marriage issue when we drag our heels on asylum seekers or keep indigenous rights at arm’s length?

To be fair, each person can’t all be all over every issue. Nor can a brand. Once you sign up for too many, you can‘t focus your time and as a brand you actually lose credibility. So in one sense, it’s kind of good that brands are developing a social conscience. We hadn’t really seen this in Coke and brands like it as they conquered the world in times gone by. But on the downside, what we are seeing is brands are becoming the new government. Influencing policy, laws and economic playing fields to increase and protect their market and alter the social fabric of our communities.

It seems that same sex marriage in Australia is apparently big money.

Future money.

Indigenous rights? Erhm. Silence.

I wander how comfortably that sits with the die-hard, same sex, yes voting activists? It’s nice to have exposure and support for your cause, who wouldn’t say thanks to that?! But there has to be a cost to gay rights because of this. If a cause loses it’s ‘purity’ to money, then surely there’s a downside?

Furthermore, can the gay, lesbian, transgender etc community live up to the ‘innocent’ image that is being projected on to them by the advertisers of these brands? When do the cracks open and it all starts to unravel and the brands start ducking for cover? Something always crops up to make the brands scatter like cockroaches. It's a bit like the UN. When you're town is surrounded, supposedly for protection by smurfs, run!

Perhaps the marketing weakness of the ‘NO’ campaign is in one sense it’s greatest strength. Perhaps the lack of brands willing to stand alongside a NO vote, the lack of funds, advertisers willing to take the ads…is actually, well, just right:

‘Who has believed our message and listened to our words?

Here I am and the children with me

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news’

 

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