When the Supreme Court released its landmark decision, many of America’s leading brands were ready. They instantly posted visual content on social media with the sole intention having people share it—and boost brand awareness.
Ever since Oreo’s pulled off the social media hit of the new millennia with its “dunk in the dark” tweet during the Super Bowl XLVII power blackout, brands have been keen to never again get left in the dark themselves. (Picture 1)
But jumping on the social media bandwagon creates some inherent risks—especially with such a polarizing issue. The Supreme Court may have eliminated the legal roadblocks to same-sex marriage, but social acceptance will still be fought in many corners of the country, even many curb cuts of the neighborhood. Brands face risks on two fronts. First, they don’t want to come off as opportunists simply trying to sell a product. Second, they don’t want to alienate a segmented customer base that may be opposed to same-sex marriage.
Some of the brands that took to Twitter immediately after the SCOTUS decision were very strategic and measured. Among those that got it right was Delta Airlines. Where many brands seemed to make their congratulatory messages about themselves, Delta wanted to say something about their employees. Classy.
The branding archetype that is Coca-Cola spoke volumes without saying anything at all. It didn’t have to. More than any other global brand, Coke has stood for diversity since it taught the world to sing more than 40 years ago. Its minimalist tweet represented everything we’ve come to expect and respect about Coke.
Strong brands have the leverage to make bold statements. General Mills’ Cheerio’s brand made such a statement more than a year ago when it introduced to America “Gracie” and her mixed race family. Diversity has become part of the Cheerio’s brand ethos, which is why it was only fitting for it to have something to say about marriage too.
Maytag may have been the most metaphorically clever. The two Maytag repairmen are not only “perfect together,” they’re also a subtle reminder that their washers and driers also complete each other.
Target is another leading brand that thinks long and hard about messaging. In this case they built an interactive GIF to say something about marriage and Target.
Orbitz took a strategically different approach aimed at community building. Their social media campaign may seem self-serving, but it’s actually an inclusive message promoting interactivity with the brand and offering a valuable reward—a free vacation.
But there were also swings and misses. Among them, Procter & Gamble. Its attempt at supporting the Supreme Court ruling was really all about selling soap and toilet paper.
Likewise with Jet Blue. Its message seemed to be an afterthought complete with a stock picture.
Kellogg’s should get credit for being ready when the Supreme Court decision came down, but their message clearly seemed equally as focused on selling Corn Flakes.
Social media is always risky especially on polarizing issues. But as these brands show, there’s a fine line between striking a chord and being tone deaf.