If the events of the last year tell us anything, it’s that we live in overtly political times. From Trump to Brexit, we as citizens of the world are consistently being asked the question ‘which side are you on?’ and a number of brands have taken the somewhat high-risk move of publicly stating a political opinion on the subjects of the day.
Whether this is due to a sincere set of beliefs (can a brand ‘believe’ anything?) or a tactical alignment to the values of a target demographic is something of a moot point. The actions of Airbnb and Google mentioned in the article below, as well as the ensuing boycotts of Starbucks and Uber, have had a material commercial impact due to the perceived politics of a brand. More important than that still is the impact these stances could have on future talent attraction.
The subject isn’t exactly a new one. Depending on our political or ethical views, we may completely discount a role that would otherwise be perfect for us due to what that company ‘stands for’. In the field of media recruitment the examples are varied, from people with a left-leaning ideology not wanting to work for a Conservative newspaper, or someone concerned with the effects of global warming not wanting to work on an Oil company. But the overt politicising of brands that are otherwise unrelated to politics is something altogether different, and may lead to an interesting division in the labour market.
It’s obviously not a pre-requisite to agree with the politics of a company that you work for, but in an age of extreme candidate choice and a genuine desire from millennial employees to buy into a company’s culture, you may see more and more great talent getting turned off of a role due to a company’s stance on current affairs. In the coming years, interviewers may have to get used to getting asked the question “which side are you on?”
Brian Chesky the chief executive of Airbnb, said the brand would be providing free housing for refugees and anyone not allowed in the US. Meanwhile Google co-founder Sergey Brin joined protesters at San Francisco International Airport and said: "I’m here because I’m a refugee". This personal and authentic response to the immigration ban underlines the fact that brands and business leaders increasingly have to stand for something bigger than simply selling a product. Younger consumers believe brands should not simply "do less bad" but actively "do more good" a trend evident in the ever-increasing tranche of brands pledging significant sums of money to organisations including the American Civil Liberties Union.