The poll shows that brands without definitive vaccine mandates could see sales and positive consumer sentiment weaken against competition with stricter policies in place. Companies deciding to impose a vaccine mandate have to negotiate and reach an agreement with labor unions, and travel brands, such as airlines, remain split. Former CEO of Spirit Airlines Ben Baldanza told CNBC last week that a mandate “could put an airline at odds with their unions.”
While United, Hawaiian and Alaska airlines have announced that all U.S. employees are required to get vaccinated, others including Delta, American, Southwest and JetBlue are encouraging, but not mandating, that staff be vaccinated. Delta Airlines is requiring new hires to be vaccinated.
Over half (54%) of Americans say they’re more likely to fly with an airline that requires consumer-facing employees to be vaccinated against COVID, and around the same share (52%) say they’re more likely to fly with airlines that require vaccines of passengers.
In the fitness category, brands such as Equinox and SoulCycle are requiring proof of vaccination for employees and customers. Of people polled, 42% say they’re more likely to exercise at a fitness center with vaccine requirements of their employees, with 43% saying they’re more likely to exercise at a gym that requires its visitors and members to be vaccinated as well.
Noah Posnick, VP and head of production for brand advisory and advertising production consultancy Mbc services, says brands prioritizing the health and safety of employees and customers will benefit.
“Most people in this country would prefer a brand that cares. It would be smart if brands taking this stance made it known, but not in a way where they’re loudly patting themselves on the back,” says Posnick. “There’s an opportunity to build brand loyalty right now by simply doing the right thing. Not all brands will do that, and we’ll notice.”
On that note, the Ad Age-Harris Poll found that U.S. consumers want to know a brand’s stance on the matter, especially in their advertising. In fact, 76% of those polled say that companies that require employee vaccinations should put that fact in their advertising, with 69% saying that consumers have the right to know whether or not a brand requires employees to be vaccinated.
There’s no legal impediment to stop brands from putting these messages in their advertising, according to Linda Goldstein, partner and advertising, marketing and digital media chair at the law firm BakerHostetler. “Brand Activism has become an important component of every brand’s marketing efforts as a way to connect with consumers on important social and political issues,” she adds, but warns that brands still need to ensure that their efforts are genuine and align with their practices.
Overall, nearly half of Americans (47%) believe employers should require all employees to get vaccinated, according to the poll. The majority of Americans (64%) believe mandatory vaccination is the only way the U.S. can recover from the pandemic.
When it comes to customer policies, vaccination requirements are not optional in some cities. For instance, New York City announced at the beginning of August that it is requiring proof of vaccination to enter all restaurants, fitness centers and indoor entertainment venues.
More Americans believe that employees that work face-to-face with customers should be required to be vaccinated over corporate or office workers. Whereas 49% of those polled believe employees who work with the public should be required to be vaccinated, only 34% believe in-person office workers should have the same requirement. Different sectors of public work saw varying levels of agreement: 69% of people surveyed believe those who work in healthcare should be required to be vaccinated, while 58% say that those in the food industry such as servers and bartenders, should be required to be vaccinated. And 45% say those in customer service, like cashiers and bankers, should have the same mandate.