It's often helpful to think of brands as people. In fact, there are dozens of consultants who do nothing but scrutinize your brand's personality, making recommendations the way a life coach or guidance counselor might suggest a change in attitude. But while brands can -- and should -- ooze personality (think snarky, playful, elegant), the conventional wisdom holds that brands shouldn't share their opinions on anything that might be considered controversial -- which means social, political, and religious topics are usually out of bounds in marketing.
But these days, those old divisions are increasingly hard to live by. For some brands, conversational marketing's two-way street means that controversy will find them whether they like it or not. Meanwhile, other brands purposefully insert themselves into conversations that previous generations of marketers may have considered taboo. But whatever the circumstances, brands are increasingly engaging customers around sensitive topics. Sometimes those attempts fail miserably, and sometimes they work like a charm.
Here are four brands that -- for better or worse -- took a stand. And while the dynamics of each industry and brand will likely vary, it's illuminating to see what the brands did and how consumers reacted.