Last week, I hosted a virtual roundtable of marketing executives, featuring Rich Weinstein, the Senior Director of Marketing and Partnerships at Brady: United Against Gun Violence. Rich is a longtime friend and former ad agency executive who, in this new chapter of his professional life, is hoping to help end the gun violence epidemic in our country.

To be clear, Rich and his organization don’t want to repeal the Second Amendment. Rather, they seek to change the culture in our country around guns and gun violence through programs like End Family Fire that educates gun owners on life-saving strategies, including safe storage, and they’re working with the entertainment industry to change habits and perceptions.

A quick example from that last program; convince action movie directors to have their heroes lock up their guns in a proper safe rather than throwing them on the kitchen counter. Brief, subtle, effective. 

Rich and the Brady Organization have a tough but important job –– but fighting gun violence and a public health crisis is not what I want to write about in this post. Rather, I’d like to share and explore a theme brought about by our conversation; something Rich said as he was explaining what it takes for any brand to stand apart. He summed it up in three powerful words: brave brands win. 

What does that mean? Paraphrasing Rich and others in the conversation, brave brands are the ones led by brave leaders who have the smarts to do three very important things:

One, know exactly who they are and what they stand for. Two, have the courage to share their mission and values publicly. Three, take specific, brave actions to illustrate the point. Rinse and repeat. 

Which are the brave brands you support and follow? There are some obvious ones, like Nike and Apple, and perhaps Disney and Southwest. even Chick-Fil-A. NIke’s decision to stand by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick after his controversial decision to take a knee during the national anthem stands out as brave. Nike wants to inspire consumers; but make no mistake, it also wants to sell a lot of shoes.  

Some brave brands might not be everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, but undoubtedly stand for something.

Say what you will about the need for a delicious chicken sandwich on a road trip or after a kids’ soccer game, but Chik-Fil-A will never be open on Sundays because its founders and leaders want to send a message that Sunday is a day for rest and family and worship. It’s their thing and they’re not changing it; even though they did change some of their corporate giving practices after backlash from the LGBTQ community.  

On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve seen more and more brands stand up for LGBTQ+ equality, implementing policies and speaking out publicly about the issues facing the queer community. 

Another example. In late 2022, Patagonia, the outdoor gear and apparel brand, announced that all of its profits –– after appropriate reinvestment –– would go to a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature.

During our call, as we talked about this headline-grabbing move, Rich made an important point. He called this decision by Patagonia and others that might be celebrated by some and considered “not for me” by others as not just charitable but good for business

That’s right, you can be both charitable, community-minded, and brave while making money in the process and that’s not just OK, it’s necessary. Another way to think about it is if you don’t occasionally take a stand, then you might not stand for anything. And who wants to align with a brand with no meaning? 

In today’s world of divisive politics and language, taking a stand might feel scary, even unnecessary. “Let’s just do business,” might be a call from the C-suite; “let’s let other people worry about saving the world.”

But now more than ever, it seems clear to me that brands have important voices to share in the dialogue around social causes in our country. Strange as this is to say, a trusted brand might have more credibility with some than the media. And what those brands do with that voice is important.

So as you think about your brand, community and employee engagement, I hope to inspire you to take a stand for what you believe in and do so not with the feeling that this is some distraction, but as an exercise in bravery. Brave brands win.