Your Beliefs vs. Branding - Wholesale Supplies Plus
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Your Beliefs vs. Branding

Last week one of my clients attended a conference about brand building. Unfortunately, she left the event feeling more overwhelmed and confused than informed. Throughout the day she experienced growing anxiety about
whether she should focus on her business brand or personal brand? Where, oh where, should she put her
time and attention?

For my client, as well as most small operations in the handmade industry, personal brand development should not be the most immediate goal. However, your business brand may be wellserved by an infusion of your voice, values and beliefs. Be careful though, as this can become a delicate strategy. Business owners and CEOs are wise to consider just how far they are willing to go in expressing their voice, especially in the areas of politics, social causes and religion.

Take the example of Jack Phillips. Six years ago, this Colorado baker refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because it violated his Christian beliefs. The couple took their experience to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which resulted in an order that Phillips serve anyone who walks through his
doors. It wasn’t until June of this year that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had violated Phillips’ First Amendment rights and that Phillips was within his rights when he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Was Phillips ethically right or wrong? That depends entirely on your point of view. What we can definitively say is that the six-year battle had a strong impact on Phillips, as well as his business.

Phillips told the local press that rather than violate the state's order he stopped making wedding cakes altogether, costing him 40 percent of his business. He also lost six of his nine employees, his personal faith
became a public spectacle, and he experienced death threats. Was it worth it? Only Phillips can answer that

The Washington Post reported a similar case one year ago. A nine year-old boy requested a Donald
Trump birthday cake because Trump is his favorite president. His mother ended up making the cake herself
because she couldn’t find a bakery willing to do it. While this incident did not gain the same public momentum,
it is another example of how values and beliefs influence a brand.

Brand expression is limited to neither bakeries nor small business owners. Nike made a bold move this summer when they signed Colin Kaepernick to a lucrative contract as the face of one of their famed “Just Do It” campaigns. Two seasons ago the former NFL player took a knee during the National Anthem in protest to police brutality against minorities and has been an unemployed free agent since. There was significant
public outcry, both in protest and support of Nike’s shocking, yet bold, brand decision.

What values and beliefs create the foundation for your business? Many business owners take these for granted since they are such an engrained part of their lives. What’s important to realize is that not everyone will be in support of those values, no matter how innate they are to you. Even more important to consider is whether or not your primary demographic will support your future choices should they ever be the topic
of discussion in a public forum. Nike’s was brilliantly plotted. Nike’s marketing team was well aware that many would oppose the Kaepernick deal, in fact, they were counting on it. While their stock (NKE) took a small initial hit, as of the second week in September it has reached an all-time high. The iconic brand gained 170,000 Instagram followers, and an Instagram post featuring Kaepernick was the second most liked post in Nike's history.

What made this strategy work so brilliantly? The iconic brand banked on the support of their key demographic,
urban males ages 18-44--and they were right. Nike also predicted the mega-dose of brand awareness that
would follow the announcement, and again, they were right. Was this strategy a value’s-based decision or
simply a brand positioning strategy? My guess is brand positioning, but they relied on the values most prevalent among their primary demographic to make it work.

Jack Phillips had no way of knowing that a gay couple would come upon his bakery wishing to employ his services. In all likelihood, no forethought was given to his decision to decline their business. Knowing what the future would hold for him, would he have done anything differently? Again, only Phillips can answer those questions.

You have no way of knowing what value-based decisions or statements you may be compelled to make on the
spot. Like any part of your growth and marketing strategies, your branding efforts merit foresight and calculation. A wise business owner looks at every scenario possible when it comes to business development. Has the same attention to detail gone into the building of your brand and what you choose to represent? With the increasingly vocal environment of social media at play, a brand developer needs to look at their position from every point of view. It may not change or alter your future decisions, but you will avoid the vulnerable position of being taken by surprise.

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