Staying politically correct & keeping your customers happy

Stockholm prepares for ban on sexist adverts’ – this article started a discussion here in the office. Is this a step forward? Or is it actually backwards? Where most would agree that banning sexist ads from public spaces is a good idea, it becomes complicated when we want to agree on what actually makes a sexist ad. When people are offended by it? This seems to be an ever shifting norm, changing over time and between people.

And when does political correctness become censorship? What about freedom of expression? Of course this has been a debate as old as advertising itself. Advertisers have always been pushing boundaries and creating discussion – it’s just a smart way to generate publicity.

However, nowadays we live in a time where the voice of the consumer is becoming much more magnified. A personal frustration can lead to an immense amount of sharing and commenting on social media, creating an outrage and negative publicity for the brand. This creates more pressure for brands to be inclusive and appeal to all (apparently H&M appointed a ‘diversity leader’ after the monkey hoodie scandal). But do we want a vanilla society? Is it even possible to be completely inclusive and not offend anyone?

In a time where consumers are becoming ever more critical of the values a brand represents this question becomes more relevant. It might feel like being as neutral and inclusive as possible is the only way to go. But this safe tactic is actually a risky one – if you are constantly adjusting your brand values to the public opinion, customers get confused and you will lose their trust. So do you choose to be politically correct or do you take a stance, express an opinion that might be unpopular by some while highly valued by others? The most important to know your own core values so you can stay true to them. In spite of the social media outrage, Suit Supply still stands for their campaigns. Whatever you do, show your true colours. You might not make everyone happy – but you will appeal to YOUR customers.

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