Should your Brand get behind Marriage Equality?

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time working on brand ‘Values’ but in my experience they are mostly worthless and not something I recommend my personal clients to bother with. [] The main reason is because they usually have little ‘tangible’ value. That is to say brands find it hard to translate them into any kind of, consistent and regular action and activities. They are usually wishy-washy, vague and generic. Saying your brand stands for “honesty” and “integrity”, is garbage because no brand would ever claim not to. Yes they can be made to work if they are unique and they are translated into action and made relevant for all employees and customers but it’s a lot of work and I rarely see the value.

So what about Brand “Virtues”, are they any better?

A recent article in The Conversation discusses the merits of Qantas getting behind marriage equality. [The market for virtue:] What works for me is the fact virtues like this are very real and tangible. People can see very clearly what they are about and the impact they have. They are something that everyone in the company can get behind, if they choose to, from the CEO to the cleaner. Virtues are stories in themselves and they are great for creating conversations and can easily be acted upon. When a brand attaches itself to a bigger, current, dialogue it elevates it and make it feel more relevant. From this perspective brand virtues are a winner.

In the case of Marriage Equality brands do risk isolating a small minority, like Margaret Court, but all her comments have really done is create more conversation and greater advocacy for Qantas. Brands do have to weigh up how many people they will upset against how many people they will be appealing to and what value that has. Not handled properly brands also run the risk of their own message getting lost and/or diluted in the conversation. If a brand appeals to deeply conservative consumers then of course there is an argument for openly supporting a No vote on same sex marriage but the brand really would need to do some research first on this.

Big brands don’t just go out on a limb on stuff like this, they do crunch numbers and do lots of research and they have all come to the same conclusion. Supporting Marriage Equality is good for Business. When 647 of the world biggest brands come out in support of same sex marriage you know it makes business sense.

Many brands sight Marriage Equality as a “progressive” issue and that’s what appeals to them and what they want to be seen to be part of. Whilst there will be many Aussies voting NO it will mostly be a ‘low involvement’ NO. Legalising Same Sex Marriage may not be something they agree with but it will not ultimately affect them, where as for Gay & Lesbian couples it will have a big impact.

Bearing all the above in mind I would also say this…

1: Don’t do it just to follow the crowd. If equality is something you believe in then yes turn your logo rainbow coloured for the next 2 months, it’s OK for business.

2: Respect the NO voters by focusing on positive messages.

3: Be careful not to overdo the Virtues. If you are also championing numerous other causes, then you can overdo Virtues and dilute your brand’s key messages.

4: Keep it simple and stick to the core reason for a Yes vote.

5: Be mindful of the difference between supporting Marriage Equality and trying to change other people’s opinions.


SAN FRANCISCO, CA- JUNE 28: A group of Apple employees march in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, June 28, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The 2015 pride parade comes two days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states. (Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images)