Apolitical is not a choice
Nike has been a corporate leader in taking progressive stances, going back to its commitment to backing Colin Kapernick five years ago. Since then, it's become relatively commonplace for companies to voice support for various politicized movements supporting Black Lives Matter, LGBQT rights, gender equality and others. While many companies refrain from taking a direct political stance, it's hardly a choice for a company to remain apolitical as it scales.
This past week, Coinbase made news when its CEO distributed a memo decrying the company free of politics while reinforcing its mission to change the world's financial systems. For a company with a stated goal of changing the world, it's entirely ironic that its CEO somehow thinks it can be apolitical.
Increasingly, brands are defined by the values possessed by its core audience. Generally speaking, the audience is sought out by the company rather than happened upon unwittingly. There's a clear line to be drawn between the target market and company, regardless of whether the stated purpose is to remain apolitical.
As Ranjan wrote in this week's issue of The Margins, staying out of politics is a stance in favor of the status quo.
Political apathy is not a neutral stance, but a strongly conservative one, almost by definition. When there are competing forces, one trying to pull you in direction and another forcing you to stay where you are, saying that you'd rather not move is picking a side, not removing yourself from the equation.
Brands are comprised of more than a collection of products or services. Brands are beacons for attracting like-minded individuals around a united idea or movement. While those ideas may not seem necessarily political, they are a stance in some direction. Given enough growth, it's nearly inevitable that any successful digital brand will be faced with some politicized decision and it's neither realistic not possible to remain apolitical.