A brand voice is the way in which a brand communicates with its customers: the things it talks about, and the way it says those things. The marketing campaigns around a brand, and the topics it engages with on social media, tell you a great deal about the organisation behind it.

Whether you have a branded product to sell, or whether you see yourself as having a personal brand, it’s likely you’ve thought about the political content of your social media updates.

Right wing commentators love to repeat the phrase “get woke go broke” – a quote attributed to author John Ringo after he was removed from the programme at a sci-fi event. But truth of this observation really depends on who your target market is.

Speaking out against social injustice might negatively affect your business if you’re – say – a 4chan convention or a gun shop. But it can just as easily impact sales the other way. Many brands called out for running “woke” marketing campaigns are actually doing just fine.

In a world where politicians are brands, I like to see brands get political. It’s no longer good enough to appeal to everyone. Niche audiences matter, especially on social media. Increasingly, people like to see what values a brand is prepared to stand up for.

Here are four brands I follow who’ve been talking about politics effectively:

1. Ryanair

Irish budget airline Ryanair caused a stir this month by diving into the antivax debate after The BBC aired an interview with Novak Djokovic. GB News host Calvin Robinson told Ryanair it should stick to low quality budget travel and stay out of politics. Ryanair immediately had an answer.

The conversation sparked a lot of support for Ryanair with many saying they were more likely to fly with the airline in future.

Ryanair’s Head of Social Michael Corcoran believes the brand’s success is down to its willingness to experiment and “self-deprecating” brand voice. He said in an interview with PR Week that:

“As we are a strong brand, we are expected to be confident and have an opinion on certain topical news. We keep it brutally simple and honest – they are the parameters which we operate in. And as a result, our cheeky charm prevails in the social space.”

Despite the pandemic, Brexit and rising fuel prices, the airline is currently tipped as a good investment. Ryanair’s consistency and high investment in social seem to indicate that it’s doing a good job.

2. Outsider Tart

Outsider Tart's brand voice is irreverent, cheeky and often political
Outsider Tart’s brand voice – irreverent, cheeky and often political

David and David have run this independent bakery in Chiswick since 2016. It’s local to me. The first time I visited, we had a good chat about politics. They turned out to be anti-Brexit and anti-Trump. And very pro dog. Since then, I’ve been back many times. And my mum loves it. Equally, we have neighbours who’ll never set foot in there again.

The reviews on Tripadvisor show how Outsider Tart divides opinions. Reviews are binary. Outsider Tart are like Marmite – you either love them or hate them. But the Chiswick locals that like them are loyal and supportive. And that’s probably good enough for Outsider Tart. Since opening in Chiswick six years ago, they have a shop in Hammersmith and market stalls in Kings Cross station and South Bank.

3. National Trust

The National Trust addresses direct links to slavery as part of its brand voice
The National Trust addresses direct links to slavery as part of its brand voice

In September 2020, the National Trust published a report on properties’ connections with colonialism and slavery.  A number of members were concerned about the tone of the report, and their comments were swiftly picked up by the Common Sense Group of conservative MPS. The National Trust soon found themselves on the frontline of a new culture war.

These articles neatly sum up the two opposing sides:

Despite making national newspaper headlines last year with an unruly AGM, the National Trust has been quietly getting on with its plans to continue to open up the dialogue around slavery and colonialism.

The Charities Commission concluded there were no grounds for regulatory action. It seems that the anxiety about “wokeness” is down to a handful of very vocal members. Despite a challenging year last year, with the ongoing pandemic and a raft of redundancies, the Trust’s latest accounts show the charity retained 84.2 per cent of its membership – only about one percentage point down on the equivalent rate in the previous year.

Most of its members, it seems, care more about car-park prices, good gift shops and a decent scone.

4. Lush

Lush has taken the unusual step of silencing its brand voice on some platforms
Lush has taken the unusual step of silencing its brand voice on some platforms

UK cosmetics brand Lush has taken politics on social media to an extreme (if arguably logical) conclusion – it has decided to remove itself from some platforms altogether, until concerns about damage to mental health are taken seriously.

As a brand that’s highly popular with young women aged 20-35, Lush has long had an uncomfortable relationship with social media. The brand first quit social back in April 2019 but was forced to go back online as during the pandemic.

This time, it’s different, according to Chief Digital Officer, Jack Constantine.

““The Facebook Files gave us a kind of forcing point […] We were able to be much more unified with our decision-making and say, ‘no, we can’t condone that. We need to be able to make a stand.’”

While quitting Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, Lush has decided to keep up a presence on Twitter. Tweets to its timeline continue to champion human rights and encourage followers to engage in politics (while also promoting products). The brand voice is loud and clear – social inequalities matter to us as much as they do to you, our customers.


In these times when everything feels political, it doesn’t pay to sit on the sidelines. It’s interesting that LinkedIn is testing a politics free timeline. Apart from making moderation less expensive, I can’t see any benefits in doing this. It’s like airbrushing reality (as if corporate bubbles need to be any more shut off).

I was raised in the ’70s and ’80s after Carol Hanisch and other second wave feminists popularised the phrase, “the personal is political’. I have that mantra in my head so I see the world firmly through that prism: I want to know what a company’s political values are, as that will most likely affect any purchasing decision.

But I’d love to hear what you think. Should a brand voice be political?

Let me know in the comments.

Main photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash