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BizReport : Social Marketing : January 12, 2018

Should brands keep shtum on social and political issues?

Should brands air their stance on social and political issues? It is a tough tightrope to walk in a world in which more and more consumers are putting their personal convictions first and buying based on belief.

by Helen Leggatt

More than half (58%) of those surveyed by Sprout Social said they think brands should make their stances on important issues known with more self-identified liberals (78%) believing so than conservatives (52%).

Today's consumer wants to feel connected to the brands they buy, not just emotionally but increasingly both socially and politically. Sixty-six percent believe brands should share their stances on such matters, specifically on social media (55%) where, if a brand's belief reflects consumers' they will happily share and publicly applaud that brand (28%) compared to just 20% who bother to publicly criticize a brand for airing a conflicting opinion.

While two-thirds of respondents to Social Sprout's survey said they would 'rarely' or 'never' be influenced by a brand's opinion on social or political matters, most agreed that the biggest impact can be made by a brand donating to specific causes or encouraging their audience to support specific causes.

However, previous research has found the opposite to be true. In May, 2017, research from the 4A's and SSRS found that 58% of consumers did not like brands to get political.

"Consumers are not looking to brands to take a position on political or social issues. In fact, there's typically more risk than benefit," said Alison Fahey, chief marketing officer of the 4A's. "Brands taking a negative approach risk backlash, and only a small percentage of consumers are moved to buy from positive messaging."

Ultimately it seems brands are damned if they do, and damned if they don't. The 2017 Edelman Earned Brand Report found that 57% of consumers say they buy or boycott brands based on their social or political stance yet 65% will not buy a brand if it remains silent about an issue consumers believe it is obligated to address. Half (51%) believe brands can do more to solve social ills than government.


And, just in case you have been left with a sense of not knowing which way to turn and thus doing nothing, those brands who are not seen by today's 'belief-driven' buyers as engaging in social and political issues are increasingly banished to 'No Brand's Land'.

Tags: brand marketing, politics, research, social issues, social media

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