- Fifty-four percent of consumers surveyed in May of this year report that the events of last summer made an impact on which brands they support, up 11% compared with results collected in June 2020, per a study by Engine Insights that was emailed to Marketing Dive.
- However, the results also show waning support from consumers for specific steps taken by brands to address racial inequality. A smaller percentage of people feel positive about a brand that engages in diversity hiring (50%, down 10%), require racial sensitivity training (49%, down 12%) and make donations to causes that address racial justice (46%, down 11%) compared to a year ago.
- A key takeaway from the report is that U.S. consumer attitudes about how brands respond to racial issues in the wake of protests that began last summer have changed over the past year. The results also show disparities in attitudes toward brands' actions around racial justice among people of different races, ages and political affiliations, suggesting that brands must continue to balance the needs of different consumer segments when tackling racial issues.
After more than a year since the police killing of George Floyd and the renewed fight for racial justice that followed, consumers' viewpoints on how brands should respond have evolved. The Engine Insights survey finds a U.S. consumer base that is more attuned to brands' actions around racial issues, but more skeptical about the actions that have been taken.
Perhaps unsurprisingly considering the national political mood, the survey results showed a stark level of polarization of opinion on these issues across age, race and political affiliation groups. The divides further complicate how brands can engage with consumers around issues.
"That balancing act for brands is far more important and difficult than we've seen in the past," Engine Insights CEO Don Simons told Marketing Dive.
The latest Engine Insights survey is in line with previous studies about the effects of brand actions around racial issues. A Piplsay survey found nearly half of consumers view the overall trend of brand activism positively, but that equal numbers of consumers say brands are giving in or cashing in on the culture war (31%) and that such actions can help bring real change (31%). In a larger study of the effects of corporate social responsibility, Havas Media Group's 2021 Meaningful Brands report found that while 73% of surveyed consumers say brands must act now for the good of society and the planet, 71% don't believe brands will deliver on their promises.
The results of these surveys were echoed by members of the ANA's Global CMO Growth Council, who discussed during a recent panel how brand purpose is increasingly conflated with cultural discussions and changing community priorities, and how these tactics can start to look gimmicky and lacking in authenticity if the message isn't core to a brand.
The Engine Insights survey comes as brands and agencies ramp up their commitments to addressing racial equality in the advertising and media ecosystem. Brands including McDonald's and Coca-Cola have pledged to increase their spend on minority-owned media, while brands including P&G and Frito-Lay's Doritos are working to boost Black creators in the ad, media and art worlds.
For this latest survey, Engine Insight polled a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,000 adults 18 years of age and older from May 24-26, 2021.