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Is it Best to Avoid Controversy in Business?



When I published my blog “3 Surprising Branding Lessons we can Learn from Donald Trump”  this week, I knew I was probably going to piss some people off – and maybe even lose some business.  We all know politics is one of the Big Three topics to stay away from if you don’t want to offend anyone.

But I decided to post it anyway. Why? Because it’s who I am:  I don’t believe in playing it safe.  I take risks. And I have opinions about things that matter.

I’m not the first business owner to take a controversial position on something they believe in:Should You Avoid Controversy in Business Chick-fil-A is thriving despite their executive’s opposition of gay marriage.  Hobby Lobby is still profitable despite their refusal to provide birth control to their employees and taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court.  Companies across the country are always going on record endorsing politicians and supporting social issues without committing financial suicide.

So as a company or business owner, when is voicing a controversial opinion, taking an unpopular stance, or taking a marketing or advertising risk a bad idea?

The answer is simple: It’s up to the individual business owner.

What kind of business do you want to be? What do you want to be known for? Who do you want to work with? Do you want to be the McDonald’s of small businesses, appealing to the masses or do you want to be the Harley Davidson, appealing to a smaller, devoutly loyal niche?

You can choose to play it safe, blend in, be average, and appeal to the masses or you can stick your flag in the sand and say, “this is who we are and what we stand for.  If you like what you see, we’d love to do business with you. If not, well, then maybe we aren’t the company for you.”  Sure Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby lost some transactional business, but what they gained in loyalty from those who align with their beliefs strengthened their core customer base.

There are dozens of ways you can declare your difference and define your brand. It doesn’t have to be political or controversial. How you choose to do it is a personal choice. But finding and appealing to your most loyal customers and building your tribe isn’t about playing it safe – that, I  can guarantee.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

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