The 2020 Politics Survival Guide from Morning Consult revealed a disconnect in the marketing landscape. The report found that 53% of consumers believe corporations have gotten more political. That data point in isolation doesn’t mean much. However, the report also shows that only 24% of consumers believe corporations are in touch with the American public, and 23% believe corporations are more ethical.
Brands have become more vocal, and for good reason. Two-thirds of consumers say they want brands to comment on political issues, and 76% of consumers believe “CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for the government to impose it.”
Clearly, businesses are meeting this challenge laid out by the majority of consumers, but more vocal does not mean more consumer connection. Brands are falling short in connecting their brand activism with consumers.
Take a Stand or Stand Aside?
Taking a stand has benefitted brands. Patagonia took a stand against what it called an “irresponsible tax cut” when it donated the $10 million it received from the cut to environmental charities. CEO Rose Marario says taking a stand has led to financial success by creating “new markets” and making them more money. Nike’s endorsement deal with Colin Kaepernick was tied to a sales bump of 31%.
These brands are examples of businesses making political statements but doing so in a way that aligns with their businesses. There’s a reason Patagonia took a stand for the environment—that’s what it’s always done. Nike stands with athletes on and off the field. That’s not a new development. These brands stepped into controversy, but their past brand actions gave them every right to do so.
Consumers are quick to point out words without action. Just this week Verizon’s CMO was speaking about brand purpose. Verizon chooses issues that “have a strong connection to what we do… or it will look like BS.” He sees what consumers are see.
Consumers are saying put up or shut up. They hear the pontifications but don’t see action behind them. Don’t talk, act. Otherwise, stand aside.