iBrand Blog

For brands, images take the stand on marriage equality

Brands remixed their logos and products in the recognizable red equal symbol.

Brands remixed their logos and products in the recognizable red equal symbol.

As the Supreme Court hears arguments in key same-sex marriage cases, brands are taking a stand -- not by issuing statements of support -- but creating images that showcase their products or logos in the red Human Rights Campaign symbol.

The advocacy group made the gay marriage equality symbol available in red, which represents the color of love. HRC then took the fight to Facebook, asking users to update their status, showing support for marriage equality.

The HRC campaign was showing that demonstrating support can be as simple as using an image. Not long after, brands got involved with their own remixes.

Companies have long turned to cause marketing as a way to connect with customers, and apparently that's what we expect. A Cone Cause-Evolution study reports that 83 percent of Americans say they wish brands would support causes and 41 percent have bought a product because it was associated with a cause. 

Even more astounding, Cone found that 94 percent of consumers would switch brands if one carried a cause and another did not. When factors like cost and product type were made equal, 94 out of 100 people would choose to buy a product that supported a good cause.

It should be no surprise that with support for marriage equality on the rise, brands hitched their marketing to the issue.

"Support for marriage equality is growing every day, but this one simple image gave countless millions a straightforward way to show their support for this civil rights cause -- many for the very first time," said Chad Griffin, HRC president.

It gave brands the same opportunity.

Why is the image campaign effective?

Bud Light's remix was one of the most often cited examples.

Bud Light's remix was one of the most often cited examples.

  • It takes a stand at a glance. Consumers might not read position papers or news releases as easily as they will notice your image supporting their favorite cause. At a glance, I know that we believe in the same thing and have the same values. 
  • It can create an instant emotional connection. A photo or visual, done right, can create an emotional connection or bond with the viewer. Sure words can create the same effect, but it usually takes a longer time to read and digest.  
  • It is easy to share. So many social media sites make it easy to create awareness, show support, and organize around a visual. We can't repin a thousand words, but a photo can create its own following.
  • It is an easy way to contribute to a conversation. Think of it as a knowing nod to a stranger. If I am walking down the street and see someone wearing the t-shirt of my favorite team, I know we have something in common. If I'm wearing the same shirt, we pass with a knowing nod. 
  • It provides the opportunity to build community. As others like and display your brand images, they can create community with others who feel the same. Your brand might give others in community permission to contribute to the conversation.
  • You might become the conversation. Bud Light's remix using beer cans was often cited as a creative example in news stories. Bud Light's support is earning them a prominent role in the ongoing conversation.
  • Your product or logo connects something familiar. Customers who know and love your product, connect with it visually. When I look for a coke, I look for a red can. If I drive a Mustang, I know the shape and logo. My emotional connection is tied to the visual representation of your product. Use that visual to signal your support of my cause, and it can help strengthen those feelings of loyalty.
JCP chose this image as their "statement" of support.

JCP chose this image as their "statement" of support.

Sometimes an image is all you need. Business Insider noted that "although JCP isn't scared to show ads featuring same-sex couples, it hasn't made an official statement regarding gay marriage."

Maybe images showing that there is nothing remarkable about a loving couple is the ultimate statement.

Is this a trend or a fad? You can expect brands to continue using images to signal their support if it meets their business goals:

  • Does it help create greater awareness for the company, its products and services?
  • Does it help more people engage with the brand?
  • Does it help introduce them to new audiences?
  • Does it help with employee retention? Recruiting?
  • Does it help increase the opportunity for more strategic partnerships?
  • Does it help increase overall loyalty?
  • Do more people buy?

I'm willing to bet many of the brands showing their HRC support are polling these very questions and issues. The answers will signal where business goes next.

In the mean time, what about your business? Are you supporting a cause or nonprofit? A creative image might be just what you need to make the case.