Halfway across the world, consumers demand brands take political action — but it looks different than in the US
- Almost two-thirds (63%) of surveyed consumers think it's important for brands that they like or follow to have a point-of-view on societal issues, according to findings from a YouGov Omnibus survey of people in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) shared with Marketing Dive. Of the 1,003 respondents, 65% of males in the region and two-thirds of millennials held this sentiment.
- About half of UAE consumers, or 47%, think brands should take a stance on issues that are relevant to the moment or to the brand, while 42% think brands shouldn't express their views on political or social issues. Among respondents, 51% think brands take advantage of social issues to promote themselves and exploit audiences, and 23% are more likely to trust a brand that promotes messaging on issues regardless of the overall impact on the brand.
- Education, health awareness and environmental issues were the most "acceptable" areas for brands to express opinions through marketing, while LGBTQ rights and political opinions were the least favored, though most of the "acceptable" categories clearly touch on politics. Women felt more strongly about brands promoting health issues than men, and millennials cared most about education and health. About half of consumers would publicly praise or promote brands that take a stance on certain issues and would be more likely to purchase from brands expressing views that they personally agree with. Forty-seven percent say that a brand's stance on an issue enhances brand loyalty.
Plenty of recent research illustrates the growing demand consumers are placing on brands to be bolder in how they talk about political and social issues. YouGov Omnibus' survey, however, shows that the issues that matter most to people vary by culture and geography.
Given this, multinational marketers working outside of the U.S. may need to adapt their cause-driven messaging to best reach and build loyalty with specific audiences. Something like LGBTQ-focused marketing is in-demand — and, according to some research, severely underserved — in the states, but it might not resonate with UAE consumers who view the subject as less "acceptable," per YouGov.
Tailoring localization efforts by region has been a pain point for marketers before, and might be particularly important when crafting campaigns that touch on sensitive topics. As more brands develop opinions on social and political issues, consumers in different countries have expressed varying degrees of how far they want those conversations to go as well.
UAE respondents to YouGov's survey said they want brands to take more concrete action and are sometimes suspicious of those who are all talk. YouGov also revealed that 36% of respondents want brands to launch marketing campaigns in support of the cause, 33% want brands to share examples of their support or action and 31% want brands to announce a donation in support of the cause.
Taking a direct action to support a cause is a vital step in appealing to younger consumers. Separate research from MediaCom found that 54% of teenagers in the U.K. have deliberately purchased or stopped purchasing from brands because of its ethics, and 63% are more likely to purchase from brands that support causes or charities that are important to them. However, 37% are sometimes skeptical of brands' claims of supporting causes and 69% think brands overstate their support.
A public stance on social and political issues is becoming an important marketing tactic, and a growing number of consumers see brands as more effective in tackling social problems than governments. According to predictions from Forrester, U.S. CMOs will next year look for ways to use societal controversy to spark consumer energy. Marketers will also capitalize on societal divisions to disrupt the market by exploiting weaknesses or unresolved problems within an ecosystem to create value.