Do I Have to Share My Opinion on Every Issue (Or Can I Just Get on With My Work?)
When keeping thoughts to yourself is as unfashionable as a nylon shell suit.
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about 2020 so far (apart from the obvious), it’s that I’m constantly being preached to by an endless parade of brands-on-a-mission.
That mission isn’t simple promotion of their wares, but lofty dreams of a better world. Coke refuses to be “a stranger in (my) own living room”, while McCain extols the virtues of family life. The focus is on harmony and inclusion, rather than fizzy drinks and chips.
It’s not just TV. You can’t move for earnest brand messaging on social media, either. Idly checking your Twitter feed means coming up against the likes of Burger King’s recent handwringing plea for us to buy from McDonalds too, or Nike’s support for Black Lives Matter (“for once, don’t do it”).
“Your Brand Needs to Have an Opinion”, crowed a recent article for Marketing Brew. But personally, I’m weary of their grand opinions and patronising advice. Is it too much to ask that a brand simply explains what it does, then leaves you to decide whether you want it or not? It seems like a hazy vision of utopia.
Especially when the endless need to display support and voice opinions has filtered down to include just about everybody on the planet.
The recent Remembrance Sunday commemorations, and Lockdown 1’s Thursday evening ‘Clap for Carers’ is proof, in that it’s not enough to remember our war heroes and appreciate our NHS workers in private silence, alone and behind closed doors. You have to go out and show your support in public, then post pictures and quotes on social media as evidence, or risk being outed as a heartless cretin.
“There’s a word for people who don’t come out and clap,” went one angry Facebook post back in March (I won’t share what that word was, because it wasn’t very nice.)
As a self-employed writer, I’m frequently advised that I should “build a strong brand” by explaining what I stand for. But I don’t often share my personal opinions on social and political matters; partly because I’m not well enough informed, and partly because I don’t want to get into pointless online arguments with people I’ve never met.
I don’t know if anyone has thought about working with me, then they dismissed the idea because I hadn’t shared any recent thoughts about Brexit or Donald Trump. But if that has ever happened, I’d consider it a vital wheat-from-chaff separator, in that they probably wouldn’t be someone I’d enjoy working with.
“All of us are encouraged to package ourselves for public consumption, cultivating an online persona as carefully maintained as a suburban garden,” went a recent Sunday Times article.
I’m not denying that there’s a need for people to show that they care, or for a brand to build an online persona and hint at their values (as much as I say that I’d prefer my work to speak for itself, rambling pieces like these do sort-of explain what I stand for.)
I just think the world might be a nicer, less agitated place if we could all keep some of our thoughts to ourselves, get on with what we’re good at, and breathe on our own every once in a while.