Taking a stand is a good risk

The tale of athletic shoe company Nike’s ad campaign supporting American football player Colin Kaepernick and his decision to kneel as the U.S. national anthem played before games to protest the oppression of people of color is one of risk-taking that is paying off.

In the first 24 hours after the spot aired, Nike received more than US$43 million worth of media exposure, the vast majority neutral to positive, according to Apex Marketing Group. Within a week the exposure was worth US$163.5 million. Sales took off, as did Nike’s stock price.

Soon thereafter I wrote a blog post about how the hotel industry could learn from Nike sticking its neck out to take what it believed was the right side in a very public debate. It recognizes its younger, more idealistic core audience would appreciate that it was doing the right thing. The reaction to the blog was mostly positive, but not surprisingly some thought it was not patriotic for Nike to take this stand and would alienate a segment of its audience. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

One commenter was particularly thoughtful. He opined that “guests are now seeking out brands that share their own personal values and will associate with those that strike an emotional chord. Trying to avoid alienating certain segments is misguided. Remaining ‘neutral’ makes a brand complicit in any issue.” 

I don’t know this gentle reader, but I agree that striking an emotional chord today is a great way to build engagement and loyalty.

All that said, I wrote in the same blog that I would be surprised if a hotel company had the guts to take a public stance on a similarly politically charged issue. Then, on September 27 at an industry conference, Hyatt Hotels Corp. CEO Mark Hoplamazian stated in front of a big crowd that the company would no longer allow hate groups, those who primarily seek to disparage or demean a specific group of people, to host meetings or events at Hyatt hotels. 

I don’t know if Hyatt and Hoplamazian were motivated by Nike’s daring move, but I applaud them either way for taking a stand on a complex and emotional issue. They committed to a higher level of vetting, and now we will see if it pays off. I’m convinced it will work, even though Hyatt and Hoplamazian perhaps have different motives than Nike’s.

How many potential hotel guests who have no particular loyalty will take notice and reward Hyatt? Has it also won greater loyalty from existing clientele as well as the rank and file Hyatt teams around the world? I think we know the answers.You proved me wrong, Mr. Hoplamazian, and for that I applaud you. Now, who’s next?