For some time now we have been wondering whether it is a good or bad thing for a brand to take a public stand on moral, social or cultural issues. Nike took a stand on backing Colin Kaepernick (you know, the football star who knelt during the USA national anthem in protest of Trump). Nike alienated a lot of people by supporting Kaepernick, but at the same time they won the admiration of many others. Did they do the right thing for the brand – was there a net gain in sales and brand reputation? Apparently, there was.

Is it good brand strategy to run the risk of alienating even a single consumer by your word or actions or is now the time for brands to have the courage to stand up, be counted even if they get up some people’s noses along the way?

Most recently there has been a big hoo-ha in Pakistan about an Ariel ad where the brands stands up for women’s rights. (Search for “2019 Ariel ad Pakistan” on Google.) The ad has created a vociferous Twitter backlash from many Pakistanis calling for a boycott of Ariel. The ad has also prompted allegations from other parts of the world that Ariel is sticking its nose into other people’s cultures and beliefs and stirring up controversy for the sake of some cheap publicity.

This ad may well hurt both the sales and reputation of the brand in Pakistan, but maybe it will enhance them on a global basis. Ariel is, after all a global brand, and women are still its primary target market.

The soap powder market will always be fought on product benefits, but such advantages are short lived as competitors come up with their own new-fangled BS product benefit stories.

Sustainable differentiation and competitive advantage can only come from brand differentiation based on brand character – how the brand comports itself. Stupidly (in our opinion), most brand managers don’t even think about (let alone measure) the character of their brands beyond style, tone and graphic design.

To help better understand the role of brand character in driving brand love, we have recently completed a large sample survey across 10 different markets to find out. The results are quite startling and brand character plays a much bigger role than we expected. Most brands in many markets are characterless and survive by merely doing what consumers expect of them. Some brands have character. These ones tend to be the market leaders and they are able to command price premiums over their competitors, so they make more profit.

How is your brand character looking? Does it have a nice firm handshake?

To find out more, contact Megan ( or 072 060 5241)