Once upon a time, we were told the customer is always right. But not everyone on social media is your customer, and sometimes, those people are really, really wrong. Some of the world’s top brands, including General Mills and Nike, have had to deal with hundreds, even thousands, of hateful comments on their social media sites when they have posted content that celebrated different types of people, in a variety of families and relationships. Generally, the hateful comments are deleted or addressed with a polite, corporate-style disagreement, but that paradigm appears to be changing.
On Valentine’s Day, Adidas ran an Instagram post that showed a picture of the feet and legs of lesbian couple wearing matching athletic shoes with the caption “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” Predictably, negative commenters showed up in droves. One, who’d apparently not been keeping up on the latest Manny Pacquiao headlines, said they were now leaving Adidas for Nike.
Adidas replied with a waving hand emoji and a kiss emoji. Unstated, but heavily implied, was the admonition not to let the door hit their behind on the way out.
The culture wars are playing out on the front lines of corporate messaging, and neutrality is no longer an option. Brands large and small, liberal and conservative, have decided that cheerful, firm advocacy of their positions is the best way to address hateful commentary. The use of emojis, which both convey an emotion and leave room for limitless interpretation, introduces an element of ambiguity; is Adidas gleeful to see the haters abandon their brand or a little sad? No one can say for sure.
As a business owner, it’s up to you to determine where your company is going to stand and what viewpoints you’re going to express via your social media and other messaging platforms. Knowing that, it helps to have a strategic plan that addresses how you’ll answer people who don’t agree with you. Adidas is confident in its brand’s strength, and has taken a humorous yet firm approach that advocates for their original position. They do this without trying to argue or prove that they’re right; it’s simply a statement of fact from their point of view. It’s a model worth considering as you craft your own strategic plan, especially when you factor in the increased loyalty of the customers who feel a closer bond with the brand who stood up for them.