- Fifty-eight percent of surveyed consumers dislike when brands get political in their marketing, according to results from a study conducted by 4A's in conjunction with research group SSRS. Consumers are more likely to avoid brands that take on a "negative" stance — such as being perceived as racist, anti-LGBTQ or sexist — than to support brands taking a positive position, the industry group found.
- A complementary study from 4A's found 67% of surveyed agency professionals believe changing values are causing brands to become more interested in corporate responsibility and values-based marketing.
- That same agency study found 33% of brands are more afraid to take a political stance than a social stance (14%); conversely, brands are more compelled to take a social stance (26%) than a political stance (7%).
The latest studies from advertising trade group 4A's underscore how consumers prefer brands stay away from politics altogether, as even messaging that could be deemed "positive" or progressive is met with indifference and rarely leads to sales. The results might come as surprising and clearly rub up against agency expectations in some ways, as consumers at the same time seem to be desiring more emotional resonance and authenticity in their marketing.
The election of President Donald Trump brought brands' tackling of political issues to the fore, and 57% of agency professionals surveyed said understanding the demographics and values of a brand's customers is more important than ever. While that may be the case, and while understanding target audiences should get a premium for marketing purposes, the safest bet for marketers might still be skirting touchy political and social issues.
Alison Fahey, chief marketing officer of the 4A's, noted that there's usually far more risk than benefit in companies taking a political or social stance, and that "only a small percentage of consumers are moved to buy from positive messaging."
Everyone from Uber to New Balance to Under Armour have experienced the potential pitfalls firsthand, weathering boycotts and harsh social media backlash for perceived support of Trump or his policies. Other cases, where brands have co-opted politicized or socially-charged imagery in their advertising, are frequently met with criticisms of tone-deafness, as exemplified by Pepsi's Kendall Jenner-starring protest ad.