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Oct 31, 2023
Esme Smith
The next revolution is… unpolarising purpose
Halloween is scary, but not as much as the wrath of today’s culture war bearing down on your brand’s purpose strategy. What is the way forward for purpose marketing in an increasingly polarised world?
Halloween aside, we live in spine-chilling times. Polarisation has gripped almost all aspects of culture and politics. 

Dogmatic views and the deafening shouts of the extremes creates fractures between and within generations. With the US and UK general elections looming, divided opinions will only entrench as hyperbole and identity politics take hold of mainstream media. 
It leaves marketers in a precarious position when it comes to purpose. Whereas in the past brands’ vocal stand on controversial issues have garnered praise, today they can face backlash.

The ‘S’ of ESG seems to cause particular grievance. US retailer, Target, became embroiled in a boycott battle during Pride Month. As did Disney, Hershey’s Chocolate and Nike

And it’s not just the brand reputation at stake. Senior marketers have lost jobs. Staff face physical and verbal attack. Earlier this year, target employees were confronted by angry shoppers and their LGBTQIA+ displays vandalised. It means managing the reservations of internal stakeholders is becoming a significant job for purpose professionals.

But a retreat from purpose is not the answer. There is a gap between what marketers see and what consumers want. 

Revolt research shows 58% of US consumers state they “prefer it when brands advocate for issues that matter to me and to them”. One in two Republican respondents agree brands should stand for particular issues. Evidently, a brand doing good for the world can garner cross-partisan support.

So with marketer’s stuck between a rock and hard place, what’s next?

Hearing about a polarised world is nothing new. But rarely do we hear how to move forward. All diagnosis, no solution. Report’s latest report changes that. We provide a new playbook for purpose in the age of polarisation. 

In short, words matter. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. 

How you frame a particular issue is critical in deciding whether people are on your side or not. In politics, for example, it is more effective to frame your argument in terms of your opponents values. Research by cognitive scientist George Lakoff shows how our mind thrives on metaphor, narrative and emotion. They create mental shortcuts which speed up our reasoning and decision making, sometimes at the expense of rationality. 

It is why those who heard crime talked about as a “virus infecting” rather than a “beast preying” were more likely to support reformative measures rather than punitive measures, in one recent study. 
Tame the bear with Revolt’s latest report
Crucially, this is not about shying away from purpose. In a world buckling under the weight of rising temperatures and inequality, a purpose strategy is essential in creating meaning with your audiences. 

But effective purpose is about choosing your words carefully. We are all remarkably sensitive to how things are framed.

Click download to learn more about the importance of framing. Uncover the words that resonate with both Republicans and Democrats. Learn how to frame a strategy that unites not only external audiences, but internal stakeholders. 

Phew. One less scary thing to worry about. 

If you’re seeking to navigate purpose in the era of polarization, this is your new playbook. We’d love to support. Give us a call. 
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