Taking a stance: how to tap into the retail activism trend

how to appeal to Millennials

Photo: John Hafner

Remember the good old days, before social media, when you didn’t know exactly what all your friends thought about every single political story (and non-story) and you’d literally never seen a photo of your cousin’s girlfriend’s dinner?

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn, we all know a lot more about each other. And that doesn’t just go for our friends. Now, people follow celebrities, organizations and companies on social media, forming relationships with brands that can go a long way toward establishing brand loyalty.

Just as people like to have friends with similar belief systems to their own, today’s consumers prefer to form relationships with brands that share their values. This is especially true of Millennials and Gen Z, two demographics brands can’t ignore. (As of this year, Millennials will have the most spending power of any generation, spending $200 billion a year in the U.S. Meanwhile Gen Z will become the largest generation of consumers as early as 2020, encompassing 40 percent of all consumers.)

It’s becoming increasingly important for companies to make their values clear for consumers. An article on Retail Dive quoted Shannon Warner, a retail managing consulting partner at Capgemini:

“It is essential for brands to have a personality, to build an identity, to stand for something,” Warner said, “And I think the brands that are just sort of there are going to be the brands that fall by the wayside.”

Are shoppers going to deliberately turn away from companies and brands that don’t make public their value systems? Probably not. What’s more likely is that companies who do a better job of demonstrating that they, as Warner said, “stand for something” will develop deeper brand loyalty with consumers, pulling shoppers from more agnostic brands.

Values, not politics

Obviously, in our divisive political climate, one wrong move can be potentially disastrous. (Remember Pepsi’s misstep last year?) Even if you share the same general political beliefs as your customer base, small differences in opinions on specific policies can turn your marketing into a Retail Activism Don’t.

Because of that, many brands shy away from retail activism. And for small businesses, staying away from overt political advocacy may be best.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t tap into this trend to reach younger consumers. You just need to focus more on values and less on politics.

Values may drive our politics, but they tend to be larger and more encompassing. Think about the values the archery industry tends to believe in: protecting wild spaces, prioritizing quality family time, developing self-sufficiency and independence. It’s hard to find those values offensive (and if someone was able to do so, you probably didn’t want them in your shop in the first place).

As you develop your brand personality, find ways to showcase your brand’s values. This could be as simple as sharing memes on Facebook that speak to your beliefs. Just makes sure you keep it positive — sharing memes or posts that mock people who disagree with you is a great way to limit your customer base.

Think local

Unlike Amazon and other retail Goliaths, small archery retailers play a vital role in their local communities. Not only do these retailers provide jobs and keep local money local, but they also often support important organizations and initiatives in their towns.

You’re probably already doing this to some extent, but focus on ways that you can translate your value system into local action. This may mean helping kids get involved in archery, holding a fundraiser to help out a family after a house fire or sponsoring a float in your town’s annual parade.

Partner with the right brands

Obviously, you’re going to stock the products your customers ask for, but definitely consider what those brands stand for when you promote those products. Are your customers interested in purchasing products made in the U.S.? If so, you might want to create a post highlighting the companies you stock that manufacture in the U.S. Is it important to your shop to support veterans? Then think about what your manufacturers do to “walk the walk,” either by hiring veterans or by supporting veteran-focused organizations.

Every social media post you make feeds your brand identity. Make sure to give your consumers something of substance so they get a feel for who you are.