Real Life: When a Brand Takes a Stand

Timing is everything.

Last week I wrote about the importance of a brand taking a stand in their content. The fear of alienating a potential customer or market segment often outweighs, in many brands’ eyes, the benefit of authentically showing up. I argued that those customers were probably never going to be good customers for you anyway.

Then this happened: Old Navy and the Internet frenzy created by this weekend’s #ThankYouEvent advertisement.

Predictably, the haters hated, and the lovers replied in overwhelming force. The #BoycottOldNavy movement was fueled by people who can’t abide by the brand’s acceptance of racial harmony. These folks are self-selecting out of being Old Navy customers (at least they say they are…time will tell when those hoodies go on sale again.)

Yes, it can and will happen that you may, in the course of being authentic, alienate some potential future customer.

Yet look at what the brand has gained in the bargain: an outpouring of positive messages and congratulations like this one, applauding the brand for what is sure to be an iconic image going forward:


Old Navy highlights diverse races and ethnicity in their advertising and social media on any given day, so this is really nothing new for the brand. And that’s why this whole thing is only a net positive.

To Old Navy, the potential loss of those racist customers is not really a loss at all.

Old Navy had already made the decision that their brand embraces diversity. (For some brands that cater to a more closed mindset, this might not be true. Again, it’s all about authenticity.)

From a personal standpoint, I applaud Old Navy for their stand. From a business standpoint, it’s a stunning example of the power of your authentic message. Now I’m going shopping.

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