- A new survey found that 53% of adult consumers say brands have become more political in recent years, a higher share than those who say brands are more responsible, charitable or in touch with average Americans, according to a report from Morning Consult and Advertising Week New York shared with Marketing Dive. A year ago 64% responded positively to the same question about the politicization of brands.
- A key finding from the report, "The 2020 Survival Guide," is that Americans are two times more likely to boycott a brand because of a political stance as they are to buy from that brand because of its position — 29% versus 15% respectively. Answers about boycotting versus buying were about the same across age groups.
- The survey found an age difference on the question of whether corporations should "use their influence to impact political and cultural issues." Thirty-one percent of Gen Z and 27% of millennials say yes, but only 16% of Gen X and 13% of Boomers agree. The poll, conducted in mid-August, interviewed online 4,200 adults in the U.S., and Morning Consult said it had margin of error of plus or minus 2 points.
Brand involvement in political issues is a risk that can have dramatic rewards, per the report, which is positioned as a roadmap designed to help marketers navigate the next 12 months, when political messaging is likely to ramp up in advance of the 2020 election. One notable example pointed out in the report that reflects the potential rewards of taking a political stance is Nike's 2018 selection of quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a spokesperson. That decision led to shoe-burnings, boycotts and online blowback, but was also followed by all-time stock price highs after strong earnings reports.
However, Nike is more the exception than the rule, per the report. While it's safer for brands to stay out of politics most of the time, this position isn't always possible in the current political environment. As a result, sometime "silence is a response in its own right," according to the report.
The report points out that 47% of consumers say they have taken an action in response to a brand's position. This includes telling friends and family to stop buying a product, posting an opinion on social media, signing a petition or protesting in person. While a slim majority of 53% say they have never taken such action, the fact that nearly half of all consumers have done so means that a brand's political actions can stir a significant portion of the consumer population.
Although well-educated, liberal and wealthier Americans are most likely to boycott, the report also points out that the percentage of conservative consumers who have boycotted is also impressive: 35% of Boomers, 36% of Gen X, 23% of millennials and 28% of Gen Z.
Some issues, of course, are more popular across the board than others. The top three most popular issues for a brand to champion: the U.S. military (a position supported by 60% of all adults), reforming the criminal justice system (49%) and rights of racial minorities (46%).
The three least popular issues: stricter policies preventing abortion (-4% among all adults), the right of protestors to kneel during the national anthem (-4%) and the campaign of a Republican lawmaker (-7%).
Of course, brands need to know their fans, as Nike did. While the right of protestors to kneel during a national anthem has an overall popularity rate of -4%, for instance, it scores +44% among liberals.
But there’s one issue the report makes clear brands should generally try to avoid: Donald Trump. Issuing a statement about Trump, either positive or negative, will "draw more backlash than benefit," the report says.